It is about the way we skew history, the way we allow others to tell us what to think, and the way we tend to look at only small parts of a man instead of the whole.
I have many friends who were children when Clinton was president. Clinton is a very intelligent and charming man, and he played well on television. As such, the media made sure we always looked at his accomplishments, including but not limited to …
--Longest economic expansion in American history
--More than 22 million new jobs
--Lowest unemployment in 30 years
--Enacted most sweeping gun safety legislation in a generation
--Lowest poverty rate in 20 years
--Deactivated more than 1,700 nuclear warheads from the former Soviet Union
--Lowest federal income tax burden in 35 years
--Lowest government spending in three decades
Although his sexual appetites are a running joke, these are a footnote to the good that he actually did. If I asked my younger friends what they remember of Clinton, the accomplishments would be what first came to mind.
--ended the war in Vietnam ( this was later undone by Congress)
--brought the POWs home
--saved Israel in the Yom Kippur War
--set up a long-lasting peace in the Middle East
--enhanced diplomatic relations with China, which slowed the threat of Soviet domination, laying groundwork for the end of the Cold War
--negotiated and signed the first strategic arms limitation agreement with the USSR.
--created federal affirmative action for black workers
--was instrumental in ending the last remnants of school segregation in the South
--brought the EPA into existence
--presented and signed the first federal Clean Air Act
--presented a proposal for universal health care to Congress, which was simpler and more comprehensive than Obamacare
--proposed a comprehensive energy policy that has been pilfered in some way by every subsequent president
These accomplishments are either ignored or barely addressed on the CNN documentary Our Nixon. However, more than half of the program focuses on Watergate.
I grew up believing Nixon was utterly venal and evil, rejecting the rule of law for his own personal gain. I didn’t even know what Watergate was, but I assumed it was heinous.
I find it amazing that even today, this is how this man is presented to us, not for his accomplishments, but for this one defining failure.
I don’t think I have painted a complete picture of either president. I do believe, however, that the whole of any man or woman is greater than the sum of his parts; however, we live in a world of labels, a world of personalities before principles, and we have become so caught up in defending our own labels that we don’t see the whole picture.
As a recovering alcoholic, I would hope I be remembered for the positive things I did after I got sober, not the not the negative things I did while still drinking. However, I my life is the sum of all these parts, of the good and the bad. I do not shy away from my defects of character, but I try create balance with what little time I have left. I do not mind being remembered for both my peace and my chaos. I just hope you would not exclude one in favor of the other.
For more about the duality of man and how we are the sum of our parts, check out my novel Pitch, in which time travel forces a recovering alcoholic to confront the monster he used to be.