Whatever one might say- positive or negative- about former President Bill Clinton, one cannot truly deny that he was one of the savviest- if not THE savviest- politicians to ever occupy the White House; perhaps only Lyndon Baines Johnson- among Presidents of the United States- was more versed than "Wild Bill" in the quiet, yet so often less than subtle, art of Politics. Those of you among my readers who are unabashed Clinton-bashers may not necessarily agree with what I have just written-- but I ask you to ask yourselves: how exactly did Clinton, say, evade Removal from Office upon Impeachment? Answer: The same way he managed to regularly thwart the Republicans controlling Congress post-November 1994 when he had the votes and then finesse them by co-opting large chunks of the GOP agenda (though always placing these within Democratic Party terms, of course) when he didn't-- all while the Republicans acted like so many fools and then had the chutzpah to label such clownish action (or- as in the case of when the Gingrichites stupidly attempted to shut down the Federal Government in November 1995 while Clinton statesmanly negotiated the Dayton Accords on Bosnia- inaction) as "Accomplishment".
Put simply, Bill Clinton could count heads-- while the Republicans of the mid-to-late 1990s all too often believed their own press clippings only to soon enough find out that the earliest notices were, in the end, based solely on the rushes but that the review was very much different once the entire picture had been screened: it was the bare essence of how a 25-seat GOP majority in the House after the 1994 elections (augmented to a 37-seat one when 6 Democratic Congressmen switched parties during the ensuing 104th Congress) dwindled to a 10-seat one come 2000 and how a 10-seat Republican majority in the Senate after November 1996 (the GOP actually gaining 2 seats in the Senate relative to 1994 even though Clinton was being handily re-elected) became a tie at the start of the 107th Congress.
So what did Bill Clinton- among the savviest of the savvy pols ever to reside in the White House- say to his fellow Democrats about his successor, George W. Bush? What admonition did the outgoing President deliver to Democrats who complained that the election of Bush # 43 was illegitimate, that 'Dub-ya' was a President without a mandate much as the Emperor who had no clothes walked about in public stark nekkid (even though no Democrat in the Senate then had the guts to join the few House members who bravely protested the counting of Florida's Electoral Vote during the 54th Tabulation Joint Session of Congress, showing that most Democrats didn't believe their own words and that their complaint, in reality, had little- if any- substance... think, Democrats, of what Al Gore's stature might now be had the houses of Congress been forced to meet separately on the Florida Electors, the Senate had voted 50-50 along Party lines and then, in a statesmanlike gesture, the then-still Vice President cast the tie-breaking vote for-- Bush... but, once Clinton was on the verge of leaving office, the Democrats had pretty much plumb run out of the savviest of the savvy pols, at least for the foreseeable duration!)? President Clinton very simply warned his fellow Democrats not to underestimate George W. Bush.
But the Democrats, of course, didn't at all listen: no, they said, 'Dub-ya' was simply much too dumb to be President (after all, didn't Dick Cheney really run the government now? hee hee hee [those so chuckling conveniently forgetting that openly saying this was just as stupid as the opinion by conservative radio talk show hosts and pundits during the Clinton Administration that Hillary was really President-by-Pillow-Talk (all while, at the same time, these same right-wing mouthpieces and quill pens were also convinced that "Wild Bill" was busily engaged in coming up with ways to share his pillow with someone else)]). What happened to the Democrats on this past Tuesday 5 November was largely due to such hubris, mixed with more than a little arrogance (itself perhaps fueled- at least a bit- by Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords' defection in May 2001 and, even after that particularly horrific September 11th, two Governorships switching to the Dems in November 2001).
Today, as I type this on Wednesday 20 November- 15 days after the Democrats' election debacle that caused that Party to lose their all too brief control of the Senate and which brought the Republican majority in the House pretty much back to the level this other of the two Major Parties had held immediately after the 1994 Midterm Elections, what does now-former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle now see as the principal reason for his Party having so well pulled Defeat from the jaws of Victory? As the result of his Party pretty much doing what the GOP had done while Bill Clinton was still in the White House?-- his Party believing their own press clippings/early notices?-- his Party themselves well confusing Action with Accomplishment?... NO!!!... To Senator Daschle's mind, the Democrats' defeat was largely due to the excesses of conservative talk show hosts and pundits: at one point, here was the Democrats' top man in the United States Senate blaming the likes of Rush Limbaugh for threats of violence and then going further by pretty much equating the social impact of Mr. Limbaugh's views to that of Al-Qa'eda!... Tomfoolery, indeed!!
Meanwhile, President Bush- two years late (but better late than never, right?)- finally has the Mandate he could not previously claim (not when his Major Party opponent for the Presidency had garnered some 540,000 votes more than he- Electoral College or no Electoral College!) Bush # 43 gained this mandate by cleverly taking the risk of going out on the hustings rather than merely playing the tried and true "Rose Garden Strategy" (something he probably could have gotten away with given September 11th and its after-events and effects): like Franklin Delano Roosevelt- another incumbent President during wartime- in 1944, Bush himself went out on the campaign trail (though FDR was, against his own better judgment, pretty much compelled to do so- given nagging [however whispered, given the social climate of the day] questions about his health: questions that came to be sadly answered with FDR's death less than 3 months after being re-inaugurated... George W. Bush, of course, had no such compulsion). Now, of course, the President has to govern- given his Party's clear control of both houses of Congress, as well as the White House: he simply doesn't have the Democrats to kick around anymore... and, if there is any silver lining inside the cloud that now hangs over the Democratic Party in the wake of Election 2002, this very fact might just be it.
There might also be yet another silver lining for the Democrats in the form of the new blood elected to many of the Governors' Chairs this past 5 November. Maybe- just maybe!- the next batch of savvy Democratic politicians might already be on their way...
only just not in time for 2004!!