Bill Clinton implores historians to treat him fairly

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Speaking at a Hofstra University three-day conference devoted to his presidency, a feisty Bill Clinton tonight implored historians to treat him fairly when they assess his legacy. Earlier in the day historian Douglas Brinkley had told a reporter that Clinton would have been judged a great president but for his impeachment. Clinton, quoting Brinkley by name, said it was a mistake to let his presidency be defined by impeachment since impeachment was wrong. As he has in the past, he charged that his impeachment was an abuse of power. Therefore, fighting the charges in Congress was one of his proudest achievements, he argued.

He devoted most of his address to his successes, citing a familiar list: the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the balancing of the budget, multiple free trade agreements, the Children's Health Care Program (the largest expansion of health care since Medicare), and dozens of other domestic and foreign initiatives.

He admitted to less than half a dozen failures, chief among them, his failure to send a few thousand soldiers to Rwanda to prevent the massacres there, which he called "unconscionable." He took responsibility for the disaster at Waco, which he simultaneously blamed on bum advice from the FBI.

He counted among his failures the decision to approve the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate Whitewater, a land deal on which, he noted, he lost money. Alluding indirectly to his sexual indiscretions, he admitted that he had made mistakes, but insisted he had not obstructed justice and had not lied to the grand jury, the two charges that led to his impeachment in the House of Representatives. He said that if you want to "hold it against me that I did something bad then how many other presidents do you have to downgrade?"

He admitted that several initiatives should receive an A for effort even though they did not end in success: his 1993 health care program and his attempts to achieve peace in the Middle East with a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

He said he was tired of hearing people wonder how his presidency would have turned out if he hadn't been impeached. Thanks to his staff and cabinet, he said, the business of the people was attended to throughout the ordeal. He reeled off a list of accomplishments in his final year to demonstrate that he had remained a productive figure: Congress had repealed the Social Security earnings test, China gained entrance into the WTO, child care was expanded, the number of children in after school programs doubled, and free trade agreements were signed with Jordan and Vietnam.

How should historians judge presidents, Clinton asked? First, they should decide if he met head-on the great challenges facing the country. Second, did the president offer the country a vision. Third, did he properly execute his vision. Fourth, did he respond to unforeseen crises. And five, were people better off at the end of his administration than they were at the outset.

Judged by the reaction of the crowd of thousands listening to him at Hofstra's university arena, Clinton would have received a glowing report tonight if they had been polled. He had started his address by saying he planned to discuss policy and might be boring. But he was constantly interrupted by applause. Sitting in the audience among the students were scores of Clinton-era officials including Madelaine Albright, Robert Rubin, Sidney Blumenthal, and Michael Waldman.

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Steven R Alvarado - 11/14/2005

Why don't you write that again. In your haste you wrote gibberish.

Vernon Clayson - 11/13/2005

I can't imagine why serious scholars would invite him in the first place.
But I understand why these scholars did, it isn't abut him anymore, it's about his wife, and the liberal establishment has to keep that half of the Clintons in the limelight.
Bill Clinton himself is fading and will soon be Jimmy Carter, but Hillary is the hope of (liberal) mankind. Bill Clinton was never
presidential, he was a celebrity, he was having fun, he was Jerry Lewis to Al Gore's Dean Martin. Give him that, Hillary will make us wish he was back on the prowl for women, she will be on the prowl for $$$$$$$$.

Robert Harbison - 11/13/2005

And repeating the Lies that they ae lies is even worse

Steven R Alvarado - 11/13/2005

Ans continuing to repeat lies in the hope that you will convince someone that your lies are the truth are just as bad.

Mike Schoenberg - 11/13/2005

If a president lies about sex it's an impeachable ofense-if he lies about war he's treated like a hero. How many more Americans will hae to die in Iraq before the voters get it.

Jim Williams - 11/12/2005

Bill Clinton's considerable achievements are, indeed, counterbalanced by his sexual abuse of power. Sexual liaisons between superiors and subordinates are always wrong, and Bill knew it!
As a battalion commander in the Army Reserves at the time of the Lewinsky mess, I prosecuted a senior NCO (costing him his retirement pay) who had done less to a willing female subordinate than my Commander-in-Chief Clinton did to Lewinsky. Clinton's actions made me feel like a hypocrite.

James F Callahan - 11/12/2005

We, or presidents, are not measured by how we cook our eggs or blend our coffee. It is the great things, the major events that determine how we are judged. Not an income tax or a health program - for every president has a health program and some tax program. The big things. It was fitting that his 2nd Secty of State was in the audience - Rwanda. 'Had I known what was happening, I would have done something' Bill in 2001. Liar.

John H. Lederer - 11/11/2005

William Clinton will grow up and realize that not being convicted of lying is not the same thing as not lying.
"Alluding indirectly to his sexual indiscretions, he admitted that he had made mistakes, but insisted he had not obstructed justice and had not lied to the grand jury, the two charges that led to his impeachment in the House of Representatives."

Clinton's Grand Jury testimony:
QUESTION: Your -- that statement is a completely false statement. Whether or not Mr. Bennett knew of your relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, the statement that there was no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President Clinton was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?

CLINTON: It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means. If is means is, and never has been, that's one thing. If it means, there is none, that was a completely true statement.


QUESTION: The question is, if Monica Lewinsky says that while you were in the Oval Office area, you touched her breast, would she be lying?

CLINTON: That is not my recollection. My recollection is that I did not have sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky. And I'm staying on my former statement about that.