Home > posts > Did Bill Clinton Eulogize Himself?
July 3rd, 2010 8:51 pm
Did Bill Clinton Eulogize Himself?

That’s the contention of Slate’s Steve Kornacki, who heard more than an aw-shucks defense of the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) from the former president.  Byrd was a former Klansman who Clinton seems to think rode the changing tides of racial (in)tolerance to an unbroken 51 year Senate career.

But to hear Clinton tell it, Byrd’s Klan membership — and, more broadly, the ghastly record on racial issues that marked his first three decades in Congress — was more the product of a cynical career calculation. He knew it was wrong but figured it would help him get ahead, and then, when he finally did establish himself in Washington, he tried to make up for it by using his power for good. (A similar portrait of LBJ emerges in Robert Caro’s exhaustive biographical series.)

Watching Clinton today, I couldn’t help thinking that the former president, intentionally or not, was also talking about himself and his own approach to politics. Like LBJ, Clinton never really saw the point in making principled-but-unpopular stands in election years. The important thing, he seemed to believe, was to be in office and to make as many right decisions then as politics would allow.

Ah, the courage to be conniving.  Thanks to Kornacki’s insight, Americans can relearn a lesson they’d probably prefer to forget: When it comes to rationalizing bad behavior by politicians, Bill Clinton is the undisputed master.

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