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It’s The Clinton Thing to Do; Abortive Rhetoric; If You Can’t Give Yourself a Plug. . .


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Jonah Goldberg

IT’S THE CLINTON THING TO DO
The President has already declared the agreement a personal triumph. It is a politician’s privilege to declare victory long before the game is over — and Bill Clinton has invoked this privilege even more than the attorney — client variety. In today’s New York Times, Bill Safire rightly scolds President Clinton for telling a group of black ministers that reaching peace in the Middle East was part of his “personal journey of atonement.” Safire calls Clinton “smarmy and solipsistic” for making the peace agreement a self-centered achievement. But this is Bill Clinton’s way.

There’s a larger point to be made here, too. Clinton’s spinners consistently and constantly say that the President has not been distracted by the scandal. But now the President says he’s going for peace in the Middle East to make amends for Monica. You can’t have it both ways. He can’t say he’s not been distracted from doing his duty and then say he’s done his duty well because of the “distraction.” Sure, peace in the Midddle East is important, and I hope we get it. But once you start claiming that your political achievements are milestones on your PJA (Personal Journey of Atonement), when does it stop? If this agreement turns out to be a tragic disaster, will it be inappropriate to ask whether or not the scandal hastened Clinton’s hand in the negotiations? Brokering peace agreements is what statesmen do, and most people support it. Is everything popular that the President does from now on part of his PJA? He said the August bombing of the terrorist camps in Afghanistan and the Sudan weren’t related to the Lewinsky scandal. So: making war is just his job, but making peace is all Bill?

ABORTIVE RHETORIC
The assassination of Dr. Barnett Slepian in New York state must be condemned. It was murder, pure and simple. But as the media gets on another bandwagon of denouncing the “violent rhetoric” out there, let’s take a pause. Television producers are in a mad rush to put the pro-murder pro-lifers on TV. In the same breath, these people want to denounce their rhetoric. The best way to denounce them is to avoid putting them on TV in the first place.

At the same time, pro-choice liberals would do well not to demean and dismiss honest, reasonable people who are pro-life. The rhetoric is inflated on both sides. Pro-choicers have declared that there is no room for debate. Pro-lifers — people who really do believe lives are at stake — are regularly mocked in the mainstream media. This is a sure-fire way to build a dangerous level of resentment. Liberals recognized this in the 1960s with the rise in radical-black violence — and they apologized for it.

And speaking of rhetoric, where is the outcry against environmental alarmists? Last week eco-arsonists caused millions of dollars of damage in Colorado in the name of the planet. Where is the causal relation that Frank Rich, Richard Cohen, and the rest believe goes straight from a politician’s mouth to the criminal’s hand? Indeed, I’m still waiting for someone to blame Al Gore for Ted Kaczynski’s crimes. If the death of Matthew Shepard can be laid at Trent Lott’s feet, why can’t Al take some heat for the Unabomber? There’s a lot more resemblance between Gore’s book and the Unabomber’s treatise than between anything that Lott has ever done and what those murderers in Wyoming did.

IF YOU CAN’T GIVE YOURSELF A PLUG. . .
Today’s Washington Post runs the second installment in its series on the global culture industry. Written by Sharon Waxman, the piece explores a remarkable and somewhat new phenomenon — the globalization of American culture. If you’ve been reading National Review, you could have read it here months ago (“Bayzilla”, July 6, 1998).



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