A Democrat's lament

Those of us moderate Democrats who fret over the current state of the party might well take a moment and look back in time to lament what might have been, had the party heavyweights possessed the moral fiber to make a few hard decisions when it mattered most.

Where might the party be now if, after President Clinton's speech of August 17, 1998 in which he admitted that he had been lying for well over 8 months regarding his inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, someone actually acted in the party's best interest?

What if someone with some Democratic Party stature said:

'Hey wait a minute Bill! This admission of yours comes after you addressed the nation on January 22 and denied the relationship, and then on January 23 you assured your cabinet of your innocence. Don't you think you might have compromised everyone around you Bill? Do you think perhaps the party is at risk now unless you do something chivalrous — like fall on your sword? Now it gets a little stickier because we find that Bill has even less morals than we thought and prefers hubris as a character trait.'
 
When the press finally had the decency to ask Clinton if he would resign, says Bill on February 6, 1998 'I would never walk away from the people of this country and the trust they placed in me.'

What should have happened is that a good Democrat should have convened a smoke—filled room meeting of other good Democrats and said this:

'The guy is damaged goods, who is bringing the party down, and we need to jettison him now before he can do us any more damage.'
 
Of course that wasn't done and the scandal was allowed to go the full route to the ultimate impeachment and trial of the President of the United States. Mrs. Clinton referred to it as a vast right wing conspiracy, but we all know the number of convictions, fines, pardons or disbarments that came during the administration. In the end it was a matter of law enforcement not conspiring, but doing its job. Clinton served out his term, but the smell of his presidency lingered.

Much is being said now about the coalition of conservatives and evangelical Christians who banded together to support George Bush and defeat both Vice President Al Gore and Senator John Kerry in the last two elections. However, given the razor thin margin or lack of margin that George Bush defeated Al Gore by in the 2000, many groups can claim credit. It is just as true that a disaffected group of moderate Democrats and Independents banded together to give the Democrats a nice hard slap in the face by crossing over to the Republicans.

That slap was not limited to the presidential race, since the Republicans have benefited substantially from gains in the Senate, House, gubernatorial mansions and state legislatures through out the country. That slap came as punishment for Clinton exposing the country to four years of discussions of oral sex, groping in the oval office, sexual harassment suits and perjury.

One can only speculate what might have been, had Clinton been forced to resign by his own party. A nice clean Al Gore would have had two years to solidify his image as a strong leader. Sandy Berger and the rest of the Clinton crowd might have been unemployed much earlier and wreaked less damage on the country. Perhaps instead of everyone in the government being pre—occupied with presidential sex scandals, they might have been focusing on such things as terrorism and African genocide.

Perhaps a President Gore might have avoided an adventurous pre—emptive invasion of Iraq or perhaps not.

One could say that it doesn't matter because it is all water over the dam. That is not the case, however, if Hillary Clinton becomes the 2008 nominee. The very man who should have been forced from power in disgrace by his own party will likely attempt to return to the scene to do even more damage to the Democratic faithful. Hillary may have solid numbers in the core of the part leadership, but on the fringes and with the independents, it will be a stampede to get away from her as fast as possible.

As time goes by it would be interesting to see some inquisitive historian begin to explore the actions of Democratic power brokers to determine who was in the behind the scenes coalition that saved the Clinton presidency from pragmatic elements of the party. One can only speculate how long it may be before the party recovers from their mistake.

Phil Gallagher is an unhappy Democrat in Massachusetts.

Those of us moderate Democrats who fret over the current state of the party might well take a moment and look back in time to lament what might have been, had the party heavyweights possessed the moral fiber to make a few hard decisions when it mattered most.

Where might the party be now if, after President Clinton's speech of August 17, 1998 in which he admitted that he had been lying for well over 8 months regarding his inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, someone actually acted in the party's best interest?

What if someone with some Democratic Party stature said:

'Hey wait a minute Bill! This admission of yours comes after you addressed the nation on January 22 and denied the relationship, and then on January 23 you assured your cabinet of your innocence. Don't you think you might have compromised everyone around you Bill? Do you think perhaps the party is at risk now unless you do something chivalrous — like fall on your sword? Now it gets a little stickier because we find that Bill has even less morals than we thought and prefers hubris as a character trait.'
 
When the press finally had the decency to ask Clinton if he would resign, says Bill on February 6, 1998 'I would never walk away from the people of this country and the trust they placed in me.'

What should have happened is that a good Democrat should have convened a smoke—filled room meeting of other good Democrats and said this:

'The guy is damaged goods, who is bringing the party down, and we need to jettison him now before he can do us any more damage.'
 
Of course that wasn't done and the scandal was allowed to go the full route to the ultimate impeachment and trial of the President of the United States. Mrs. Clinton referred to it as a vast right wing conspiracy, but we all know the number of convictions, fines, pardons or disbarments that came during the administration. In the end it was a matter of law enforcement not conspiring, but doing its job. Clinton served out his term, but the smell of his presidency lingered.

Much is being said now about the coalition of conservatives and evangelical Christians who banded together to support George Bush and defeat both Vice President Al Gore and Senator John Kerry in the last two elections. However, given the razor thin margin or lack of margin that George Bush defeated Al Gore by in the 2000, many groups can claim credit. It is just as true that a disaffected group of moderate Democrats and Independents banded together to give the Democrats a nice hard slap in the face by crossing over to the Republicans.

That slap was not limited to the presidential race, since the Republicans have benefited substantially from gains in the Senate, House, gubernatorial mansions and state legislatures through out the country. That slap came as punishment for Clinton exposing the country to four years of discussions of oral sex, groping in the oval office, sexual harassment suits and perjury.

One can only speculate what might have been, had Clinton been forced to resign by his own party. A nice clean Al Gore would have had two years to solidify his image as a strong leader. Sandy Berger and the rest of the Clinton crowd might have been unemployed much earlier and wreaked less damage on the country. Perhaps instead of everyone in the government being pre—occupied with presidential sex scandals, they might have been focusing on such things as terrorism and African genocide.

Perhaps a President Gore might have avoided an adventurous pre—emptive invasion of Iraq or perhaps not.

One could say that it doesn't matter because it is all water over the dam. That is not the case, however, if Hillary Clinton becomes the 2008 nominee. The very man who should have been forced from power in disgrace by his own party will likely attempt to return to the scene to do even more damage to the Democratic faithful. Hillary may have solid numbers in the core of the part leadership, but on the fringes and with the independents, it will be a stampede to get away from her as fast as possible.

As time goes by it would be interesting to see some inquisitive historian begin to explore the actions of Democratic power brokers to determine who was in the behind the scenes coalition that saved the Clinton presidency from pragmatic elements of the party. One can only speculate how long it may be before the party recovers from their mistake.

Phil Gallagher is an unhappy Democrat in Massachusetts.