Monday, June 21, 2004

Michiko Kakutani ends her New York Times pan of Bill Clinton's book this way:

...the former president's account of his life, read in this post-9/11 day, feels strangely like an artifact from a distant, more innocent era.

Lies about sex and real estate, partisan rancor over "character issues" (not over weapons of mass destruction or pre-emptive war), psychobabble mea culpas, and tabloid wrangles over stained dresses all seem like pressing matters from another galaxy, far, far away.

The patronizing tone of this is odd, because a week or so ago we were told in the media that it was a good thing to wallow in the recent past. At that time, of course, the focus was on Ronald Reagan.

I don't know about you, but to me the accomplishments Reagan has been credited with -- fighting the communist threat, conveying the sense that America stands tall -- seem a lot more like artifacts of a lost era than the concerns of Clinton; we seem to be in a hell of a lot more danger now than in the Cold War era, and we certainly don't seem to be standing tall.

But we're told that Reagan nostalgia is good -- and oh, by the way, only a liberal throwback emphasizes the failures and shortcomings when remembering the Reagan presidency. Listing just the failures and shortcomings is a perfectly acceptable way to remember Clinton, however -- pay no attention to that economic boom or balanced budget or plummeting crime rate.

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