After watching Bill Clinton’s jovial joint appearance with Bush 41 on Larry King last night, I found myself wondering what planet this guy is living on. He seemed utterly disconnected from reality.
The two former presidents were on the show to discuss “the big announcement” of the first major grants from the Bush/Clinton Katrina Fund, but King started the questioning by asking both men about Iraq.
Bush, Sr. begged off, saying: “I don’t get into these things, Larry, anymore, you know that.”
Maybe Clinton should have tried the same dodge, because his response was utterly incoherent -- starting with his claim, “I’m here to do this tsunami work” (hurricane work, Mr. President. The tsunami work was in the spring).
Then he offered up this pearl of wisdom on the war in Iraq: “Whether you were for it or against it or whatever your opinions of it are to date, every American ought to be pulling for this mission to succeed.” What the hell is that supposed to mean?
This is a catalytic moment in the Democratic Party, with its members struggling to define their position on the war (my advice: follow Jack Murtha), and the best Clinton can come up with is an empty bromide about every American pulling for the mission to succeed?
He then backed up his argument by saying: “All you have to do is remember this terrible terrorist attack in Jordan that was launched from the Sunni section of Iraq to know that”. Huh? You lost me there, Bill. Are you suggesting that we need to fight them over there so that they won’t blow up weddings in Jordan?
Just a couple of weeks ago, Clinton told a gathering of students in Dubai that the invasion of Iraq was “a big mistake”. So why didn’t he say that last night? Didn’t want to hurt Poppy’s feelings? Or is he taking a page out of Hillary’s Iraq playbook and calibrating his position depending on who he’s talking to?
Clinton was just as lost in space when the discussion turned to Katrina, the ostensible reason for the ex-presidents’ appearance. There was lots of talk about the $110 million the pair had raised -- including donations from the governments of Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and Trinidad and Tobago -- for Katrina relief, but not one word on the current uproar over the failure of President Bush and Congress to follow through on the promise to rebuild the Gulf Coast.
On the very same day that Mississippi Gov. -- and GOP stalwart -- Haley Barbour was lamenting that “inaction in Washington” was having “very negative effects on our recovery and rebuilding”, Bill Clinton was acting as if everything was going great: “The president has appointed a very good man -- Don Powell -- to head up the reconstruction effort. He’s a really good man and I think he’ll do fine.” Tell that to Katrina’s victims who are still waiting for the White House to deliver a comprehensive recovery plan and for Congress to authorize the money to pay for it. As Robert Byrd put it: “It’s December. The hurricane struck in August, and yet the victims seem forgotten by the White House.”
And, at least on Larry King, Clinton completely ignored the emotional Congressional testimony the day before of a group of black survivors of the storm. Didn’t the first black president feel their pain enough to even mention them?
The weirdest part of the interview was the discussion of Clinton’s summer visit to the Bush compound in Kennebunkport. The two former rivals sounded positively besotted with each other:
Bush: “We gave him a good time -- and went out and lost to him in golf and did a lot of fun things… It’s very easy and compatible. Guy fit right in, right into the family.”
Clinton: “I had a wonderful time… He took me out in his speedboat and nearly killed me, he was driving so fast -- I just loved it.”
Could Clinton sound any more like a giddy schoolgirl? His speedboat? Really? Ohmygod!
It all reminded me of “Vows,” the breathless New York Times feature where newly married couples describe their courtship. I can just imagine it:
“At first it was a love-hate thing, what with us running against each other in ‘92. Then came the tsunami and, as we were raising the $1 billion, the sparks started to fly. Just like it happened with Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney -- only without the sudden divorce, charges of “fraud”, and insinuations of homosexuality. I think our relationship was really cemented that time we were flying to Asia, and I let George have the only bed on the plane while I slept on the floor. He always said that “meant a great deal” to him. Then came that fateful summer trip to Kennebunkport: I won at golf, he drove too fast in his speedboat. After that it was just a matter of deciding which one of us would pop the question….”
This cover of this month’s Esquire calls Clinton “The Most Influential Man in the World”. Last night he seemed like “The Most Clueless Man in the World”. And the giddiest.