A Convergence of Errors
The day after Bill Clinton was first elected president in November
1992, I happened to be in Dartmouth, NH, to give a piano recital
and hold master classes at the venerable College. An old classmate
from elementary school in Budapest, Hungary - now teaching at Dartmouth
- offered the hospitality of his home.
My friend's life partner, also a member of the faculty, turned
out to be Austrian - emphatically with no intention to become American
- and a proud socialist. The elections dominated our first evening.
"We are now in the White House!" she proclaimed with euphoria
and a strong Germanic accent. Speaking with an accent myself, I
should be the last one to comment on someone else's, but it was
impossible not to react to the use of "we," and the manner
of her speech. Too many unwanted memories.
The conversation then turned to Mrs. Clinton. "There will
be none of that 'first lady' nonsense," our hostess announced,
wagging a finger. "She will be equal in the presidency, and
Even our hostess could not have suspected that Mrs. Clinton would
get to run the country all by herself in return for rescuing her
But all rescue attempts may be frustrated by the sheer weight of
high crimes and misdemeanors. And, while the media bought the whole
basketful of outright lies about the state of the union through
which the presidency was won in 1992, this time around some decided
early to stop buying. On January 21, 1998, when reports of the president's
unacceptable conduct were confirmed by his demeanor, Cokie Roberts
of ABC News, Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" and
Wolf Blitzer of CNN left no doubt in this viewer's mind that for
them Mr. Clinton had become unworthy of the presidency.
With many others it has taken very long to see the obvious and
that is unfortunate. For now is a time when the ghosts of past errors
are converging upon us, threatening our placid and self-indulgent
The first error occurred as the Soviet Union was collapsing. Scholars
proclaimed "the end of history," and similar products
of a fertile imagination. As always, realistic observation would
have offered wiser counsel. The collapse of the Soviet Union was
merely the end of a phase in the history of socialism, just like
the fall of the Third Reich. Socialism will always be with us because
it is the only doctrine that supports the acquisition of power with
a seemingly benign excuse it calls "social justice."
The second error was articulated by yet more distinguished scholars
in the assumption that "Europe was dead - the future belonged
to the Pacific Rim, Latin America, the emerging, fresh economies."
Eager as we are to do penance for "oppressing and exploiting
everyone in sight," reality beckons once again. So long as
creative thinking and the fountainhead of invention remain with
Western Civilization, other countries may supplement but will not
supplant the main arena of activity.
The third error has to do with the confusion caused by the Christian
command of "goodwill toward man." In the thoughts of many,
this became the equivalent of regarding all inhabitants of Planet
Earth as "Americans in different stages of development."
Such delusions were aggravated by the proliferation of persons around
the globe who could line up before American news cameras and recite
words like "human rights," "free markets," or
"the right to self-determination." As one who came here
as a young adult, needing a thorough reeducation to become truly
American, I know for a fact that most others cannot comprehend our
freedom, our independence, our common sense.
We now look upon a world which is collapsing economically outside
Western Civilization. We look upon a world in which Western Civilization
itself continues to be split between American principles and socialism.
We look upon a world in which America has become the sole reliable
protector of the ideas and ideals that have succeeded over time.
Dreams of a global village, and other expressions of the one-world
concept, are nothing more than dreams. Clearly, a world governed
against its will by Western powers is neither feasible nor desirable.
America voluntarily stepping onto the quicksand upon which the existence
of most other nations is built would be preposterous and help no
one. We have to preserve our ways for the benefit of our descendants,
and for the benefit of the world at large. Our Constitution is the
only game in town.
But the stability of our system is in serious jeopardy. We have
a president who has become untenable. We have a vice president who
- already during the 1992 campaign - chose to adopt Team Clinton's
methods of deception and who has now been rendered equally untenable
by his own camp. The nation would not countenance simply swapping
one special prosecutor for another pursuing the man in the White
House. Continuing the line of succession, the Speaker of the House
would never be accepted by Democrats who would claim the right to
retain the White House as did the Republicans in 1974. Further down
the line, the current Secretary of State has created an indelible
vision of leaping to the microphone as she proclaimed her unconditional
faith in Mr. Clinton's word.
A complex sequence of musical chairs, such as produced Gerald R.
Ford president upon Nixon's resignation, is not an option because
it requires the cooperation of all concerned. It seems likely that
Mrs. Clinton - were she and her husband ever willing to go quietly
- would want to name their successor but, hopefully, by then the
nation would have had enough of her nominees.
All the foregoing bring me to the purpose of these ruminations.
In the current turmoil, leaving the future of the nation in the
hands of pollsters and politicians with a short-term approach represents
clear and present danger. Perhaps the time has come for elder statesmen
to sit together and consider the road ahead. We still have some
in our midst: Henry Hyde, Jesse Helms, Sam Nunn, Daniel Patrick
Moynihan - to name just a couple from both parties.
"Adolescents of the world: Unite!" has been the motto
long enough. Let grown-ups chart the course now.