Why I Miss Bill Clinton

Here’s a snippet from one of the bonus extras included in the upcoming, first volume of The Conscience of Abe’s Turn, a retrospective essay entitled “Whatever Happened to Zorro?” about what inspired and motivated me to write Abe’s Turn.

Note that I’m going to be giving away a limited number of copies of the book. But if you want one, you need to pre-register now!


P.S. WARNING: The following snippet contains gratuitous profanity. Not much of it, but a little. I generally hate gratuitous profanity. But In the spirit of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, I use strong language and dirty-name-calling, because I want to say what I really think without being sued. Because if you call someone a liar or a philanderer, he can sue you, even if it’s true. But if you call him a d***head jerk, that’s just your opinion, and it’s protected free speech.

May I Feel Your Pain?

I tell people, I miss Bill Clinton. I mean, yeah, people accused him of being a liar and a philanderer and a cheat, and he certainly was a dickhead and a jerk and—worst of all—a politician. But despite all that, Bill Clinton was so much fun to laugh at:

I did not have sexual relations with that woman… I never told anybody to lie, not a single time, never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people.

Years later, that speech is still being posted to YouTube. And it still sets me rolling on the floor, laughing! I firmly believe that G.W. Bush would make a better president, if only he had one good intern.

And the laughs continue. Even James Bovard’s scathing treatise on Clinton-era government abuses, Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years, makes me guffaw. And not all the humor, I think, Bovard intended.

“Pet Pork Politics,” Linda Braucht
Prints available at Art.com

But Bovard ruins all the humor and starts talking about Waco, Ruby Ridge, Columbine, the Brady Act, Kosovo, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, the CDA (shot down by the Supreme Court), the Clipper Chip (and Clipper II, and Clipper III), Echelon, Waldemar and Loretta Watzlaff, Anna Ward, Ralph Garrison (may he rest in peace), Mario Paz (may he rest in peace), Willy Heard (may he rest in peace), Ismeal Mena (may he rest in peace)… and Bovard doesn’t even get to the COPA (a.k.a. the CDA II, recently ruled unconstitutional yet again, still being battled in the courts via “ACLU v. Reno II”—How’s that for a legacy?), the DMCA (which led to the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov, later acquitted), Steve Jackson Games v. the Secret Service (which began during the preceding Bush years), the Amateur Action BBS raids (also crossing administrations), the Pensacola BBS raids, the Wiretap Bill, Jake Baker, Randal Schwartz (not federal, but during Clinton-Gore), Daniel Bernstein, Peter McWilliams (who finally died in 2000)…

The Bridge to the 21st Century.

Of all these names, events, programs, and laws, you probably recognize only a portion. For every stupid and despicable thing our government does with our tax money that you’ve heard about, there are dozens that you probably haven’t.

Clinton was well out of office before I even made a first cut at The Conscience of Abe’s Turn, but I can’t help think that these events shaped the primordial inspiration for the story.

The bullshit continued after Clinton, of course. The federal government thugs’ no-knock, midnight raid against Elian Gonzalez. The USA PATRIOT Act. Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan. Iraq. Off-shore torture. Habeas corpus.

But Bush hasn’t provided the comedic folly of the Clinton years. Let’s face it: National paranoia and U.S. bombings and arrest and torture just aren’t funny. Even Hawkeye never joked about them, just about the incompetence that caused them. And I find myself unable to bring myself even to that. How does one put a funny face on pure evil? 

(It becomes Batman’s Joker, that’s how.) 

And then dissent became “unpatriotic” and even effectively illegal in some settings. 

And so I faded from politics. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. My problem is that I’m not a politician. I don’t have that psychopathy gene that allows one to stand passionately on a subject and not really mean it, to violently change millions of personal lives without regret because it’s just part of the job, to denigrate one’s opponents and then figure it’s just politics. My problem is that I actually care. 

My spirit prevented me from following Bush’s follies the same way I did Clinton’s, because I needed the light absurdity to distract me from the utter seriousness of it all, the fact that some innocent people do indeed get caught in the pitiless gears of the government machine. 

However, Abe’s Turn provides an outlet for my disapproval, my sadness, and my fears. It provides an outlet for my disapproval, because I get to say, in the voices of my characters, what I really think about the police state. It provides an outlet for my sadness, because these characters feel the same sadness. And it provides an outlet for my fears, because anyone who has been following police-loophole bullshit legislation over the past 20 years, the villain of Abe’s Turn, Sam Baedes, does and will commit the same abuses, if he deems it necessary to “maintain order.” Still I will resist employing Michael’s sardonic pun. I will not call him “Beady-eyes.”

Moreover—perhaps more importantly—Abe’s Turn provides hope. It says, maybe the good guys can win. True, the story of Abe’s Turn is implausible, impractical fiction. So what? I’m sick and tired of popular stories in which we the proletariat are forever doomed to a life of subservience to the political will. I need hope, even if a vain hope.

Abe’s Turn enables me to expose myself to politics again. In recent weeks, I’ve even found that I like it again, that I can even stand reading about Bush’s wars, and I am able to feel wretched sickness, hot anger, despondent sadness, and still not be driven to insanity by it.

During the Clinton years, I discovered Harry Browne, running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket. Harry Browne didn’t get to see liberty in his lifetime, even though he believed in it. But I don’t want that hope to die. Hence, The Conscience of Abe’s Turn.

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