Last week I overheard two conversations. Technically, both of the quotes below were part of the same long conversation, but there was enough of a pause between them that I’ll label them separately.

The first phrase that perked my ears was in conjunction to the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, the one that prohibits President Clinton (or any other twice-elected President) from serving a third term. One person was lamenting that President Clinton couldn’t run again unless that Amendment were overturned by another, the way the 18th was overturned by the 21st. And then came the phrase that really got my attention:

“The Republicans don’t want to repeal the 22nd Amendment so Bush could be elected a third time, because they know that President Clinton would be elected with a majority of the vote if he ever ran again.”

I could have responded, but I was talking with a customer about a fairly complicated technical issue, and I decided to concentrate on the issue at hand. But if I’d been free to say it, I would have replied:

Reelected with a majority? What makes you think President Clinton could be reelected with a majority when he never got a majority in his two times at bat?

The conversation drifted away from politics and into the realm of work for the next little while, but it veered back onto the subject of President Clinton when one of the guys asked why people would vote for President Clinton if the choice were available. Here is the response from the same guy quoted above:

Clinton was a great president because he didn’t take us into war. Instead, he was a perfect caretaker for the nation as he kicked the ball of problems down the road. It was Bush who couldn’t keep the peace and wrecked the economy. The economy was great under Clinton, and people would vote for Clinton again to bring back that prosperity.

Ah. Where to start with this? Since I was still on the phone with a customer (that call lasted for over three hours), I couldn’t bring up the bubble economy of the dot-com craze, nor could I bring up Haiti, Kosovo, or Somalia to show that President Clinton had no problem with taking the nation to war, ignoring the U.N. as he did so. Remember the huge peace protests in all our major cities when our forces bombed from 30,000 feet? It’s funny that protesters only seem to wind up the anti-war machine when a Republican is in office.

But if there is any definitive reason why President Clinton should never be reelected, it is precisely because he failed to act when it really mattered. This inaction allowed Osama bin Laden to become progressively more bold as he viewed the U.S. as a paper tiger. After all, the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Khobar Towers in 1996, two embassies in Africa in 1998, and the USS Cole attacked in 2000. The response was measured at best, and so ineffectually wimpy at worst as to let Osama believe that the U.S. would never respond to an escalated attack. That’s the sort of problem that occurs when a leader kicks the ball of problems down the road, rather than dealing with it himself. If you don’t agree, I have a phrase from history for you to ponder:

My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.