So I found myself thinking about Bill Clinton again Tuesday night, because once again, he has ridden into the spotlight on his steed. Apparently he convinced Kim Jong Il, our little friend in North Korea, to release the two American journalists who were captured back in March for allegedly entering the country illegally.
Clinton flies into Pyongyang, schmoozes for many hours with possibly the craziest world leader going right now (Hugh Chavez and Robert Mugabe, my apologies), and then he and Euna Lee and Laura Ling get on a plane and suddenly, POOF!, the Americans have been pardoned and all is right with the world and there’s the big guy smiling and will someone please get this man a cigar?
Now, a couple of things before I get to my main point: One, a decent argument could be made that since Ling and Lee allegedly admitted to illegally entering the country, they were indeed guilty and American power should not have been used to free them. To quote a person I know, “They knew what they were doing was wrong, did it anyway, got caught, and now, because America is America, they get to come home.” I’m not saying it would be a popular argument, but you could make it.
And before we all excoriate Mr. Clinton for hogging the spotlight, apparently many other negotiators were involved in the freeing of the “North Korea Two”, and many other statesmen were considered before the North Koreans expressly asked that Bubba be involved at the end (This made me laugh for some reason, like the North Koreans are some TV talk show show director and an agent is pitching guests: “No, we don’t want Jimmy Carter or Al Gore, give us someone bigger”).
Still, this episode is No. 4,545 in the Bill Clinton file in my mind as I try to figure out how I feel about the 42nd President of the United States. Seriously, I go back and forth on him like a kid choosing between the hot fudge sundae or the seven layer cake. Rarely do I feel the same way about him twice in a row, if you know what I mean.
Sometimes I hate him and get so angry that he wasted so much of his time as the most powerful man on Earth shtupping interns and getting bogged down in scandal after scandal. Other times I marvel at his brilliant mind, tremendous fund-raising prowess, and skillful powers of pursuasion.
I hated him when he played sewer-water dirty in the presidential campaign of 2008, showing how incredibly desperate he was to get back into the White House. I admired him when he helped Barack Obama win.
Why, I sometimes raged during the 1990s, does a man with so many extraordinary gifts have to have so many extraordinary flaws? And why now, as he does so many great things world-wide, with the Clinton Foundation raising billions to help so many outstanding causes, does he still say and so many stupid things?
One memory often shoots to the front of my mind when I think about Clinton: When I volunteered for the John Edwards for President campaign in New Hampshire in the winter of 2003-04, I stayed with a couple who had worked for Clinton in 1992 and ’96. I will always remember the sheer wonder and thrill in their eyes when they talked about meeting him, and how he made them feel important, and how I felt like for a few minutes like they were 9 years old and talking about meeting a rock star. The guy just has that effect on people.
I hate him. I love him. I hate him. I love him. I hate him. I love him. I honestly don’t know how he’ll be treated by history, nor do I know how I’ll feel about him tomorrow.
I just know he’s endlessly fascinating, because he’s so damn human.
P.S. So for those people who think Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, who has turned into an amazing voice for liberals in this country, only calls out Republicans, here’s some proof he hates all political scumbags, Democrats included. This health care thing is making me madder and madder, as we drift further away from a solution: