Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm hesitant, too, hesitant to call Bill Clinton a great man. In fact, I'd go one step further and say that he is not a great man. That's just not a status I give automatically to Presidents. I don't even think Clinton was a great President, just a good one.

Look at the men who have held that office during my lifetime, and there's really only one great man - Eisenhower, and I wasn't yet three when his Presidency ended. Besides that, Ike's greatness was made in the ETO, not in Washington. JFK might have been great, too, but we have to dream of Camelot instead of remembering it.

This means I superficially agree with Bill that Obama is not a great man. Not yet. I think he could be, though I think he more likely will be successful President without attaining greatness.

I think Obama is a good man, and I've seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears that he's a smart man. I suspect that he has far more self-possession and self-control than Clinton, despite some similarities in their backgrounds (single mother, absent father, life on the margins of poverty), and maybe that's part of what galls Clinton. If Clinton had had what Obama has, maybe he could have been a great man.

McCain is not a great man, either. He was heroic thirty-five years ago, though I'm always wary when a pall of myth is cast over human frailty. After all, he did break under torture, too (as all eventually do). He is a human, not some demigod of resistance. For another, people who are willing to torture you are clearly willing to lie to you. There's no reason to credit the North Vietnamese offer of early release to McCain. More likely, they were trying a softer psy-op to divide him from his fellow POWs. He and his buddies would have seen this before, they would have been trained about it, and they would have been obliged to resist it.

But really, it's transparently obvious that Clinton would rather be passive-aggressive like this to try to get Hillary another shot in 2012 before she ages out of eligibility. He's back to triangulation, and it's pretty ugly.

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