A PLACE IN HISTORY

Washington's beltway pundits are speculating that President Clinton, at last beyond a quarter century-old need to fret over the next election, is concerned about cementing his eventual place in history. America's major presidents, the ones carved into stone faces of South Dakota's Black Hills, usually presided over the country during lengthy wars or periods of significant change. Clinton, with the nation at peace in a low-inflation, high employment, relatively prosperous economic climate, has none of those to elevate and distinguish him from merely mortal, pedestrian and prosaic presidential peers who served their time, then quietly departed Oz to return to Kansas.

There must be something in great men, or men who deem themselves great, that drives them to leave a legacy, a hushed, sanctimonious word that means a residue of debris behind. I hope Clinton, who in spite of his intelligence and unusually articulate speech, often seems pretty much the average Joe, avoids that trap. He has a bright, capable wife and pretty sixteen year old daughter to demand his attention and company, memoirs to write, good friends to golf with, and twenty thousand rock bands who will play gigs to his saxphone lead. Sweetening the pot is his retirement pay and a host of perks given to former presidents.

How might Clinton decide to cloak himself in an acceptable mantle of greatness? Are any avenues open? Faced with a smoothly running country whose serious problems are periodically papered over, and able to push both the head of the jack-in-the-box and Newt Gingrich back in the box whenever he emerges, Clinton might make some unwise choices. First, he could decide to take the country to war with Serbia, Syria, Iraq, or even China to further U.S. interests. Second, he could muscle fundamental changes in health care and welfare into and perhaps through the Republican Congress, much as FDR did social security and the New Deal. Finally, he could make an honest effort to balance the budget and reduce America's annual deficit to zero.

The first of these possible enterprises would work out badly, and Clinton is too astute to become embroiled in wars of his own making to enhance his popularity. Similarly, he has already tried and failed to effect fundamental changes in health care, and did successfully compromise with Republicans to modify long-standing welfare provisions. Finally, in my opinion, there is no political or popular will to balance America's budget: it simply would be too painful. From what can Clinton sculpt his metaphorical niche of immortality?

What history will over time reveal is that Bill Clinton already has irrevocably preserved a place in history, though it may not be exactly the spot he had in mind. Clinton has the devil in Miss Jones to thank for that. At the risk of being irreverent, Paula Jones will some day get her day in court. That spectacle is not likely to occur during the twentieth century, but the twentyfirst will be all too soon for just plain Bill. Whether anything ever took place between Paula Jones and Bill Clinton is unknown, but what she has claimed is almost too preposterous to conjure up. If it were not politics, which has become nasty beyond imagination, I couldn't believe a woman who had not been personally wronged could so mercilessly attack any man. Alternatively, I cannot believe a man could be crass or insensitive enough to do what she claims he did. It is Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas with the gloves off.

Looking at the picture television reveals of Clinton, which often shows a compassionate, sensitive, caring man, it is hard to believe he could invite a young woman to his room and proposition her in the crudest way. There are women who, for reasons of their own, will accuse men of actions they did not commit. Messrs. Erik Williams and Michael Irvin will attest to that. On the other hand, the Army's top enlisted man, the Sargent Major of the Army, has just been accused by a retired female sargent major of sexual assault. Among the duties of this Sargent Major of the Army was serving on a panel whose function was to investigate our Army's sexual harassment problems. Where is the truth, if indeed there is any, in all these claims? Can a judge, jury, and interested attorneys ever find it? Homo sapiens is an interesting and puzzling kaleidoscope of rationality, emotion, and ever raging hormones.

Bill Clinton might as well work on Campaign Reform!

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Sam Orr

World Traveler

and Philanthrope

(Location Unknown)