Farewell, Bill, We'll Miss YaHey kids!
Skippy with you yet again, as I continue my battle to have Bea Arthur's birthday declared a national holiday. That didn't make much sense, did it? I've never even mentioned Bea Arthur before today and yet here I am, claiming to have some sort of sick fascination for her. That is no way to set up comedy, folks. That just leaves the audience scratching its collective noggin wondering what the hell I am talking about. Lord knows my audience does enough of that already.
Enough slamming of the mouth breathers though, let's move on to the wisdom. It's September of the year 2000 and that means one thing. It is presidential election time again. I know that they have actually been running for nigh on to two years now, but who really noticed before this month? Aside from the press and a few political junkies, the vast majority of Americans don't realize we have a president, let alone that we elect him once every five years (I know it's four, I just wanted see if anyone would notice). Be that as it may, we do have an election on our hands and that calls for punditry, and being the World Leader in Political Punditry it is up to yours truly to provide it.
I had the pleasure of watching Bill's farewell speech at the Democratic convention. It is always good to watch a master at his craft and regardless of what you think of Clinton as a president, you have to give him his props as a speaker. The litany of successes, the gentle gibes at his Republican rivals, the puffing up of Al, all leading to that beautiful emotional kick in the gut, really it was priceless. As Bill's voice cracked ever so slightly and he recalled how he had been waiting thirty years, not as a president, but as a citizen, for America to be in the position of power and affluence that it is today, well that even got to me and I am the most cynical bastard you'll ever meet.
That seems to be the missing factor in most observers' reports on the 2000 election. Clinton knows that his legacy is far from secure. He knows that if the republicans get in the White House in 2000 he will be remembered primarily for receiving oral sex from women not his wife while in the Oval Office (Oval Orifice?). He is fully aware that getting Al Gore elected is his ticket to becoming one of the most influential presidents in this country's history. Does anyone out there really believe for a moment that he is not going to do everything in his not inconsiderable power to get Gore elected? This is not going to be a replay of '88 where Reagan's less than stirring effort on Bush's behalf nearly cost him the election. No, Bill is going to be there for Al, for all those times that he has been the good soldier and looked the other way during the president's indiscretions, Bill will get Gore the presidency.
Now I know what you are thinking, Gore is going to have to do some of the heavy lifting and you are right. Al Gore is going to have to do the lions' share of the work himself. But for that extra little bit that means the difference between 45% and 49% (and that is how close it is going to be) Bill Clinton will be the difference maker. In case you haven't read my previous work on the subject, let me reiterate, William Jefferson Clinton is the single greatest political campaigner of the last hundred years. Some will say Reagan, but you put Ron in his prime against the Clinton of '92, Clinton wins by a nose. He is that damn good and you had better believe he is going to transfer some of that to Gore this fall.
Bill Clinton is about two things, having people like him and his place in history. The former is the reason he is such a masterful campaigner. You don't spend your entire life figuring out what makes people tick in order to get them on your side and not get real good at it. The latter is why he will do whatever he can to help Al Gore win the White House. There is no better way of insuring your legacy than to get your Vice President the top job - just ask Reagan.
You know I have said jokingly over the past few weeks that Al was going to name Bill as his running mate. Think how delicious that would have been - the Republicans would have been apoplectic about a Gore/Clinton ticket in 2000! Here they finally have a shot at the big house. They have Junior going up against Al "Wooden" Gore. They have the charisma, they have the charm, heck, they even have the financially irresponsible give-away plan to win over the proletariat. Suddenly Al steps to microphone and intones, "I would like to introduce the next Vice President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton!" Can't you just hear the Republicans' heads exploding?
Alas, it was not to be. Much as I would have loved to see Gore/Clinton 2000, Al made a good choice in Lieberman. Gutsy, but not too gutsy. A minority, but not too much of a minority. As an added bonus, he cut the moral high ground right out from under Dubya's feet. The Bush "huge lead" was hacked to bits before the Democratic Convention even started (as called by the ever lovin' Skipster). In the coming debates Gore will clean Junior's clock. That (and the ever present Bill C.) will give Al just the cushion he needs to win by 5 points in November.
It will be a fun couple of months, if you get the chance see Bill on the stump one last time. It's kind of like Gretsky's farewell tour, you know you should appreciate it while you can because you won't see his like again. At least until he runs for Congress from New York, but that's another column.