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Words from the comeback kid

January 22, 2001

My fellow Americans, this is my last opportunity to speak to you from the Oval Office as your president.I am profoundly grateful to you for twice electing me as your president, and I know you are just as grateful for all I did. My only regret is your regret too, I am sure: that the 22nd Amendment barred me from a third term.First, I would like to box in my successor by saying right now that he better not go for a big tax cut or reverse my policy in the Balkans. 

Second, I want you note how many great things I did here. If you do not yet know how much my administration accomplished, you might want to pick up a recent issue of any American magazine. It doesn’t matter which one — they all have exclusive interviews in which I talk about myself, my feelings and my many achievements.

For those of you without magazines, let me explain.

I have given you peace.

I have given you a booming economy.

I have given you a collection of wonderfully diverse Cabinet members, only five of whom have come under criminal investigation.

I have brought fresh and rewarding attention to the White House, particularly to the Lincoln bedroom.

I have brought the Republic of China into the world’s family of free nations, and as a result they have taken a keen interest in our politics and my own career, and given impressively of their time and money.

Because I have kept a tight rein on government spending, you no longer hear any jokes about $600 toilet seats or $900 wrenches. This is all to the good, though I must admit we still get some good-natured joshing about the $500,000 cups of coffee served at our White House “coffees.” I understand, by the way, that these beverages will be marked down for clearance tomorrow, our last day here. Look for a real bargain.

Most of all, perhaps, is that we have swept away the narrow moralism that inhibited many presidents from the full expression of natural functioning in the privacy of the Oval Office. You know what I’m saying here. I’m referring in a vague way to the Republican persecution of me over that Monica Lewinsky thing.

If you read the farewell magazine interviews with me, you know what a terrible trial this was for me and how strong I was standing up to the impeachment mess foisted on me by the Republicans for purely partisan reasons.

You may have heard that I had to pay a $25,000 fine, lost my law license for five years, and had to admit that I did not fully accomplish my goals in testifying about Ms. Lewinsky. But that’s a small price to pay for standing up to injustice.

But I prevailed — not that it was victory for me. It was a victory for you. In defeating the Republicans and getting such great approval ratings, I think you and I established a couple of points. One is that in a rising economy, nobody cares about a president’s perjury and obstruction of justice if the thing he was trying to cover up was just having sex in the Oval Office. That’s a good point, and it had to be made.

The other point is that if you drag out a scandal long enough, the people who are bored will begin to outnumber the people who are angry. Who knew before we hit on this strategy?


Still, some people refuse to give up. They still want you to believe that I am somehow tainted. Progressive Review, for example, has been trying to create the impression of widespread corruption by listing so-called “crime stats” among people who worked for me. It’s a shoddy effort that ought to be exposed. Here’s what the magazine says:

“Number of individuals and businesses associated with the Clinton machine who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes: 47.

“Number of these convictions during Clinton’s presidency: 33.

“Number of indictments/misdemeanor charges: 61.

“Number of congressional witnesses who have pleaded the Fifth Amendment, fled the country to avoid testifying, or in the case of foreign witneses, refused to be interviewed: 122.”

Who can believe this stuff? It’s probably been spoon-fed to the Progressive Review by their many Republican cronies. Look, government is difficult, and everybody knows that if you want to get anything done, you sometimes have to go outside the lines. We don’t need judgmentalism here. A great many people who worked for me have never been indicted, taken the Fifth Amendment, or even tried to get Monica a job. Do they get counted?

In conclusion let me say that I have always spoken to you from my heart. To those who point out that the ideas and phrases in my speeches have all been run past focus groups and pollsters, I would say this: No ideas of mine are more heartfelt than those already dear to you, the voters.

In this connection, I would say it is unfair to suggest that the future Bill Clinton memorial should feature me with one hand in the air, putting a wet finger to the wind. I also don’t think much of the proposed statue of me based on the Esquire cover photo I posed for: me with my legs spread, grinning and looking down at someone on the floor. Frankly, I think these ideas detract from the dignity of the presidency. That is the last thing any of us should do.

Thank you and God bless America.

From → Politics

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