Perhaps it is fitting the new 165 million dollar Clinton Presidential Library opened under cloudy skies and rain. President Clinton's entire presidency was ovecast with doubt about his character and questions about his leadership seemed to rain with floodlike abandon on his parade toward a respectable legacy.
Of course, you would hardly know about any of these questions concerning his leadership and character by listening to President Bush or any of the former presidents or by looking at any of the 30,000 plus that stood for hours in the rain to catch a glimpse of their hero.
It was Clinton's day and the feelings of bipartisanship and brotherly love were flowing as freely as a bunch of conservatives running out of a Linda Ronstadt concert. President Bush was very generous in his comments about his father's former rival but he did, at times, sound like a nervous preacher trying to find something good to say at a known scoundrel's funeral.
Bush said, "Over the years, Bill Clinton showed himself to be much more than a good politican...he was an inovator, a serious student of policy and a man of compassion." Calling someone an inovator without spelling out their inovations is kind of like telling your friend the blind date you set him up with is "nice."
Being a "serious student of policy" simply means Clinton knew the rules and being a "man of compassion" is merely a nice way of saying he had a lot of feelings (remember,"I feel your pain") but not much action.
Make no mistake; there was plenty of genuine admiration directed toward Clinton. I thought Geraldo Rivera was going to cry during his interview with Bill O'Riley. the normally hard hitting "investigative" reporter who made a name for himself by tenaciously pursuing people he doesn't like simply chose to ignore lingering questions about the Clinton presidency because he was was overwhelmed with the "magnitude of the moment."
I guess we shouldn't be surprised about Geraldo. Many otherwise reasonable men and women have come under the Clinton spell. Even Clinton's arch enemies seemed to sincerely like the guy when they found themselves in the same room with him.
But let's turn our attention to the actual content of the library. If a visitor from another planet stopped by Arkansas and toured the library, would they have a clue about a young intern named Monica Lewinsky? Would they guess that the library they were visiting was paid for in part by money raised through presidental pardons which were auctioned off like leftover trinkets at a yard sale? Would they even be exposed to the English word "perjury" or would they have a clue what answering questions before a grand jury was all about? The truth is, the Clinton Library will always be a monument to postmodernism.
It's "Fight for Power" exhibit, which glosses over all the former president's troubles turns the whole affair (pun intended) into nothing more than a "vast rightwing conspiracy" pushed on a totally innocent president. Clinton actually believes, in a classic demonstration of postmodern thinking, that he can simply speak a truth of his own making and it will somehow be true regardless of the facts.
In Clinton's postmodern world, Kenneth Starr, Newt Gingrich, and a host of right wing extremist Republicans, motivated by the "policies of personal destruction" simply railroaded him into a scandal. Clinton, who emphatically and publicly stated, "I never had sexual relations with that woman" later admitted he lied and was impeached for lying told Peter Jennings, "There's not any example of where I ever disgraced this country publicly." I guess dropping your pants in the oval office where former President Reagan, out of respect for the office refused even to remove his coat, doesn't count as a public disgrace.
Lying under oath and becoming the first president in history to be stripped of his license to practice law while still in office must, in Clinton's mind, be a badge of honor for America.
Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. describes our progression as a culture into postmodernism by using the illustration of three umpires. The pre-modern era umpire looks at a pitch and says, " I call'em like they are." In his world, the strike zone (which stands for truth) is the objective standard put forth in the rule book and it must be adhered to if the game is going to make any sense.
The modern unpire looks at the same pitch and says, "I call'em like I see'em." In other words, as we moved forward into modernity, objective truth was still recongnized but it was open to various interpretations with one umpire's interpretation of the stike zone being just as valid as another.
Finally, we get to the postmodern umpire who looks at a pitch and says, "It ain't nothing until I call it" meaning there is no truth until I speak it into existence. In a postmodern culture, truth if it exists at all as more than a philsophical construct, finds its validity in the mere act of speaking a personal belief.
President Clinton is a classic postmodern man. His entire presidency, with all its scandals, truth twisting, and political spin will endure as a glaring example of what happens when, as the book of Judges says, "Everyone does what is right in their own eyes." The library, which is modeled after a bridge thanks Clinton's 1996 "Building a Bridge to the 21st Century" campaign slogan will actually stand as monument to a postmodern world.