That wasn’t exactly riveting either, but the comparison between the two shows was instructive: What people are willing to say while grasping for the presidency, and what they’re willing to abandon after they get it. All the tough, high-flown promises to “reclaim this country” sound even more hollow when juxtaposed with recent history. Clinton made the same claims, just as Obama did, and the country always seems to stumble along pretty much as before. One of these days I’m going to get cynical about this.No, I don’t think Clinton was a terrible president. As the documentary makes clear, he was a brilliant politician who had quite a few impressive accomplishments. As the documentary also makes clear, he occasionally displayed the judgment of a drunken frat boy. So did his successor, now that I think of it — and at a far higher cost to the country.
But that’s the past. At the CNN debate last night, John King tried gamely to keep the Republicans focused on the future. According to the master debaters, the future looks something like this:
Immediate repeal of “Obamacare.” Immediate repeal of all entitlement spending, except that which various lobbyists demand. Immediate ban on earmarks, except those deemed important to particular congressmen. Immediate end to foreign aid, except to countries who do us favors. Immediate oil exploration and drilling to immediately bring the price of gasoline to precisely $2.50 a gallon (unless there’s a war or something). Finally, immediately getting government out of business oversight and more deeply involved in whether women should have babies.
Ah, those utopian dreams. Men seeking office always seem to chew more than they bite off. Rick Santorum, drunk on the strong cocktail of righteousness and short-term fame, is starting to sound a bit like the Islamists he purports to despise. Romney, watching his campaign sag like a day-old birthday balloon, spends all his allotted time talking about the Olympics. Gingrich, finally aware that he will never be president, is finally back to just being caustic. And Paul, increasingly querulous, seems to be going all-in on that perennial favorite of not spending a penny on anything.