Al Gore Is a Serious Person. Is Bill Clinton?

I like this Al Gore moment, I hope it lasts a long time. (Heck, I was for him becoming President back in ’99, but my former party failed me on that). Al Gore is doing a truly great thing. Wired is crazy for him. So is New York Magazine, where John Heilemann writes that the party might just be turning against Hillary ahead of time.

Al Gore is committed on global warming. As he was committed to the Internet (all joking aside; ask Wired’s Chris Anderson). He is using his power and brain to serve humanity.

Which raises the question for me: How serious is/was Bill Clinton? What has he done with all his great powers? How much political capital did he ever expend on something important? How much political capital did he piss away? I’m not much on policy, but how much does Bill “Policy-Wonk” Clinton have to say for himself? Welfare reform, NAFTA. Health care! Yes he created a gazillion jobs, but wasn’t that Bob Rubin and the other meritocrats he had the wisdom to select? He was a fine president on racial issues, I think; yes, he had that, still does. He oversaw the arrival of Jews into the Establishment, to his credit.

Whenever I see Clinton I miss him. He is so charming and such a good speaker. His command of political history—spectacular. But what does it add up to? What’s he doing now. O.K., he is helping Harlem, and doing good work on Africa and AIDs, and he was good on the tsunami. It feels a bit obligatory. Maybe it will make up for the Sudan pharmaceutical plant he bombed (I believe to turn attention from impeachment). A year ago he praised the invasion of Iraq and called for the toppling of Syrian President Assad. Was he doing that for Hillary? There is no gathering up of political capital and spending it, except on personal ambition. I wonder what Clinton could be serious about. Teaching political history, maybe.

But compare him to Gore or Jimmy Carter. Zilch.

Al Gore Is a Serious Person. Is Bill Clinton?