Living in Society

Holiday Reading — Bill Clinton’s Memoir

End of the Holidays
End of the Holidays

LAKE MACBRIDE— A long standing tradition is the holidays are over on the Feast of the Epiphany. So it is this year. Today the Christmas tree lights will turn off for the last time, and the decorations will be repacked until December. It hasn’t been a noteworthy season, nor a bad one.

I made cherry crisp for dessert last night. The last of a string of holiday desserts coming to an end. During winter, the pantry and freezer replace the freshness of garden and farm, and only so many cherries were kept when they were in season. It was enough to provide the flavor for a while. It won’t last for long.

I tried to finish reading President Bill Clinton’s memoir “My Life” during the holidays. At almost 1,000 pages, it was a bit long for the time allotment, and at times it plodded along with the endless, somewhat desultory recitation of his administration’s accomplishments. He did a lot and I’m up to the point where the Clintons dropped Chelsea off at Stanford.

To hear him tell it, Bill Clinton wasn’t always the sharpest knife in the drawer. Especially when he approved the Independent Counsel Reauthorization Act of 1994 that enabled a conservative judiciary to appoint Kenneth Starr as an independent counsel to investigate Vince Foster’s suicide and the Clintons’ Whitewater real estate investments. One thing led to another, and that’s the problem. Starr’s office became an open investigation of anything that might cast aspersions on the Clintons, their friends and supporters, whether it was grounded in fact or fantasy. I thought Bill Clinton was pretty smart until I read his story of why he signed the law, something he said he didn’t have to do and his predecessor encouraged him not to do. What was he thinking?

I’m not sure I believe all of Clinton’s memoir, but who can blame him for putting the best face on everything? What I do know is what he experienced from the independent counsel’s office and the conservative money spent to tear him down has become derigueur for the president regardless of political party. My beef with Clinton was the way he raised money, letting high level donors stay overnight in the Lincoln bedroom. Having read his explanation of the Lincoln bedroom story, and knowing now it was a conservative talking point, I’m over it. He made a lot of mistakes during his administration, but he admitted them, and did more good than bad by any measure.

I am not over my former congressman Jim Leach’s participation in the Whitewater investigations. He should have known better than to get involved with that, and I have no regrets of working hard over two cycles to remove him from office. I still cringe a little when I see him around the county. Clinton devoted about three paragraphs to Leach, and that was enough to induce nausea.

With the temperatures hovering between ten and 17 below zero today, it’s a good time to curl up with a book. Which I will do after finishing a few other tasks around the still holiday decorated house.