WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON & RONALD WILSON REAGAN:
TWO DIFFERENT PRESIDENTS, REFLECTING
TWO DIFFERENT AMERICAS
By Christopher G. Adamo
Thus the remembrances of Ronald Reagan since he passed away on June 5, when compared with the circumstances surrounding the release of Bill Clinton’s memoirs, will stand as guideposts to highlight the “fork in the road” the nation is approaching, and give clear evidence as to the possibilities for its future. And it is a future from which there may be no turning back.
To begin with, it is important to note that as President, each had an entirely different set of goals. Ronald Reagan was, from the beginning, about the business of bettering the country and the world, ultimately for the sake of the people. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, was (and is) always and only about Bill Clinton.
Therefore, while Reagan's interests were served by the general betterment of America, whether or not he could claim any credit or garner any political advantage from it, Clinton needed tribulation to be visited upon the American people, from which he could grandstand as their savior.
The leadership of Ronald Reagan involved inspiring people to be the best they could be, and thus fortunes of the nation could only improve. Such a people would, over time, be less and less dependent on the snares of government’s “helping hand.” In this aspect, the Reagan approach to leadership was at complete odds with that of Bill Clinton.
Clinton saw the people, not as beneficiaries of a healthy nation, but as fuel for the engine of government. To be coerced into servitude required a scheme wherein society would be divided into factions. The members of each faction would naturally feel threatened by the others, and in response, would look to government as its salvation.
As prime examples, consider the response of each president to major crises occurring during their tenure. Within weeks after he was inaugurated in 1981, Ronald Reagan was the target of an assassination attempt by John Hinckley. Remaining conscious up until the moment of emergency surgery to remove a bullet from his lung, Reagan joked with doctors and expressed conciliatory sentiments towards his assailant. Not once did he, nor any of his staff, ever attempt to blame the words or sentiments of his political opposition as motivation for the attack.
On the other hand, when Oklahoma City’s Murrah Building was bombed on Clinton’s watch, in May of 1995, official White House reaction was much different. Before the fires had been extinguished, and well before any suspect or motive could be surmised, Clinton spokespersons were already pointing fingers of blame at his political enemies, in an effort to capitalize on the enormity of the event.
Reagan’s insistence, throughout his Presidency, that his staff be properly attired while in the White House (with his own dress setting the example), reflected not a pompous regard for himself as President, but a humble and respectful subservience to his office. Clinton’s, casual treatment of that office revealed not only his contempt for it, but ultimately for all Americans.
Reagan’s America was “on parade” throughout the weeklong memorial observances following his death. Despite the mourning, it was an America of hope and optimism, built on a foundation of decency and consideration for one’s fellow citizens. The America of Bill Clinton could be gleaned from the ugly belligerence of this past Spring’s pro-abortion rally in Washington, D.C., or in the partisan rancor and venom of Senator Paul Wellstone’s “memorial,” occurring late in the 2002 election season.
As the recollections of Ronald Reagan give way to the media frenzy surrounding the release of Bill Clinton’s “memoirs,” the triumph and patriotism recalled from the 1980’s will be overshadowed by the shallow cynicism and “spin” of the Clinton years. Americans should look long and hard at these contrasting visions of what their country may potentially become. Ronald Reagan has been laid to rest, and Bill Clinton’s Presidency will likewise fade into history. Nevertheless, the character of each of the two former presidents is evident in their party’s potential successors this election year.
American Politics & Political Competition
Political Culture, Patriotism, & American National Identity
Morality, Decency, & Traditional American Family Values
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
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American Government 1