Amazingly, the fortnight of Bill Clinton’s post-presidency has been filled with as much controversy as his time in office. Currently in dispute are the massive amounts of gifts the Clintons received and took from the White House as they departed. Some have called “GiftGate” a healthy savoring of memorabilia; others have characterized it as downright stealing. All would call it Clinton-esque.
The lavishing of gifts on departing presidents is certainly not unprecedented. Ronald Reagan was given a house. The total of former President Bush’s gifts actually exceeds that of the Clintons.
But, as always, the Clintons are a unique situation, and their behavior is unexplainable. Why, after being shadowed by constant controversy their entire public lives, would they act in a way that brings such scrutiny?
Sadly, and perhaps not coincidentally, one of the greatest men to ever occupy the White House was also one of the worst presidents. When Jimmy Carter left the office, he didn’t consume himself with the quest for personal wealth. He never spoke for money; he established Habitat for Humanity, and continues his struggle to end third-world debt. Carter is the role model for former presidents, but none seem to want to follow his lead.
In the space of this column I have repeatedly defended Bill Clinton. I have felt sorry for him, as his considerable genius and sense of altruism have fallen victim to his seemingly uncontrollable personal urges.
I have referred to him as the embodiment of the “American Dream,” coming from a modest background with an abusive father and going on to attend the finest schools and lead our nation.
I now come to the realization that he is simply obnoxious. He just doesn’t understand human nature. The system has certainly given him a lot and people expect him to be contributing back into it, not sucking it dry.
Or maybe he does understand. Maybe he understands that people are going to hate him anyway and that there is no point of trying to appease anyone. Either way – I still feel sorry for him.