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At this pivotal, high-stakes point, Bill Clinton, through a remarkable set of pirouettes and verbal pyrotechnics, managed, through the press, to firmly attribute the fault to Gingrich and make it stick. Yet it was hard, even from close range, to figure out what his moves were. It was almost as if he was working on many levels at once, engaged in three-dimensional chess, simultaneously weighing and balancing the consequences of various moves, including quite risky and bold moves. He saw his opportunity and figured out how to grab it fast.
This was epigrammatic of Clinton's extraordinary rhetorical ability, his artfulness; also his tactical understanding of both politics and the press, his remarkable sense of timing. It is also emblematic of how the President has functioned when his back has been against the wall. When the times seem to be the worst, he functions the best. He comes up with brilliant ideas, very bold schemes, extraordinary insights. He summons forth from the depths of his very being these superhuman energies. Up until that point Gingrich had all the momentum. After that, Gingrich was on the run. It stopped the right-wing armada, which just a year before had looked unstoppable.
The Rev. Peter J. Gomes Preacher to Harvard University and professor
Apply one word to Bill Clinton, it would be perseverance, which in his case is both a great virtue and a minor vice. He persisted in the face of terrific obstacles to his own ideals, obstacles that in some cases were his own creation. Throughout all the stress and trauma of these eight years, he is as idealistic and optimistic, maybe even to a fault, as when he began. Usually, Presidents become sadder, wiser and far more cynical. And I think he didn't because he has been sustained by his core Christian values. A lot of my Christian brethren and sistren are very hardhearted toward him because he doesn't conform to a particular profile of contrition. But I think he has been guided, and probably saved from even worse disasters, by his passionate desire to do good. For most of us in this country, he has functioned as a religious figure, however flawed, someone who speaks out of the depths of his convictions, not simply as a manager or a leader. The biblical figure he reminds me of over and over again is David, who was God's beloved but also fatally flawed.
Lewis Lapham Editor, Harper's
At the televised gala, the night before he was inaugurated in 1993, Barbra Streisand sang Evergreen, and Clinton couldn't resist mouthing the lyrics. And the cameras--as he knew they would--started drifting away from Streisand and found the President, tears streaming out of his eyes, mouthing the words, devouring the words as if they were made of chocolate. And I then knew that what we had here was the story of a stomach. The man is defined--was then, is now and has been all through the eight years--as the Great American Consumer. He'll eat anything. Hugs, scandal, limelight, anything, as long as he gets to stay in the center of the stage. He's got this voracious appetite: more friends, more speeches, more food, more time onstage, more hands to shake.