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Billy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Commentary by Greg Lewis / TheRant.US
November 30, 2004

As I was struggling with my latest musical composition, "Variations on a Phrase From Joe Walsh's Guitar Solo in 'Hotel California,'" it occurred to me that, just as they don't make guitar players like Joe Walsh any more, they don't make politicians like Bill Clinton any more.

Joe Walsh is perhaps as famous to those in the know for his cocaine-fueled antics and for his desperate attempts to curtail his seriously over-the-top ingestion of Bolivian Marching Powder — he once hired a bodyguard whose sole responsibility was to make sure that Joe didn't get his hands on the White Lady — as he is for the soaring, slow-motion guitar solos that he constructed over the then-recently expanded rhythmic lines that had entered rock music through the influence of reggae and funk and which The Eagles (among any number of other bands, including some good ones) parlayed into a series of songs that were characterized in no small measure by the absolute buoyancy of their rhythms.

Bill Clinton, whose Presidential Library and Sex Shop recently opened in Little Rock, Arkansas, is, of course, known for being, not only our first Black President, but also our first truly rock and roll President, the first President whose personal morality, having been made public and become the very stuff that helped define high tabloid television in the 1990s, certainly rivaled that of so many rock stars in its flouting of convention. I'll say this much for Joe Walsh: he was never impeached.

At any rate, I'm wondering if anyone else out there kind of misses Bill Clinton. It's really pretty boring having to watch him shill for his wife while the Democratic Party, which admittedly started its precipitous decline from power during Clinton's Presidency, splinters into factions as various as the Grammy Awards Music Categories. Just as Rap/Hip-Hop is impossible to reconcile with Crossover Country, the left wing of the Democratic Party is seemingly at odds, and permanently, with its moderates, who might have a fighting chance to pull the party together and move it toward the center enough to attract the voters necessary to compete in the 2006 elections. That, in part, is what Clinton did in winning the 1992 election and what he did throughout his two terms as President to cling to power, notwithstanding his letting so much of it slip through his fingers.

To this point, the coming fight to select a new Democratic National Committee chairperson promises to be a real circus. Donna Brazile has turned down an offer to throw her hat in the ring, saying, in effect, that the DNC needs a complete overhaul and she doesn't think she's the person to engineer it. Likewise, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, John Kerry's choice for the position (don't think for a minute that Kerry is not planning a second run at the Presidency in 2008), has also declined. The only person who seems to have the stomach for taking on the daunting task of rebuilding an organization that foundered under Terry McAuliffe's questionable strategic leadership — no one has ever doubted McAuliffe's abilities as a fundraiser — seems to be Howard Dean, who, according to reports, is actively campaigning for the job.

Which brings us back to the point of how much of a presence Bill Clinton will have on the national political scene. While there is no doubt that his wife is trying to position herself as something of a moderate in the mold of her husband, and while there is no doubt that Bill Clinton's personal popularity and appeal to a broad segment of the Democratic base will be valuable capital in his wife's campaign, the fact is that Clinton's people, including Joe Lockhart and James Carville, among several others, managed to highjack the Kerry campaign in its latter stages, and the results were disastrous. There is no question in my mind, for instance, that their cavalier and dismissive statements about the conflict in Iraq and about interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Alawi rubbed many Americans, including Democrats who favor our involvement in Iraq, the wrong way, to the point where they nudged voter sentiment away from Kerry.

And with Terry McAuliffe relinquishing the DNC reins, who of the Clinton team is left? You can sure as hell bet that if Howard Dean somehow manages to claim the chairmanship of the DNC, he will be less amenable than was John Kerry to having his turf confiscated by the Clinton hooligans. That public fight would be just what the Democrat Party needed to insure that it would be further marginalized as a player in American politics. But even without that, Dean himself is almost too easy a target.

Ah, well, we can still dream, can't we? We can still imagine the team of Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe and James Carville front and center, giving Republicans the perfect target for our derision and disgust, even as they, in their arrogance, lead Democrats to yet another disastrous national political defeat.

Bill Clinton, we're going to miss you. Perhaps you and Joe Walsh . . . uh, no, on second thought probably not. I suspect that Joe Walsh has other fish to fry.


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