My Quiet Life My Quiet Life

The Clinton Test

Last year in October, Josh Marshall invented a little personal feedback device that he called “The Clinton Test”:

When I come across something fishy from the Bush administration, I try to use what I call the Clinton Test to keep myself honest and steer me right. As I’ve noted before in these pages, the Clinton Test is quite simply, how would I react to situation X if it was Clinton -– someone I supported -– rather than Bush -– someone I oppose.

It’s a good rule of thumb because seeing a given action through the prism of someone whose motives you are inclined to view favorably is a good check on unwarranted suspicions.

These days, I have to wonder if he’s following his own advice. The George W Bush AWOL issue is surfacing again, despite the fact that this issue clearly was not that important to the voters in 2000, and it’s getting plenty of attention from people that I thought would normally not go for this sort of thing.

Full disclosure here: I myself have in the past fallen into this trap and argued about this, for instance, over at one or two of Bill Hobbs’ compendium of articles about this issue, where he makes the case that Bush was not AWOL, and was a great soldier. I disagree with his assessment. (For the record, I think Eric Alterman has it right, despite the fact that I wish he was ignoring this issue.)

Was Bush a deserter? I have a better question: who cares? Are we really at a loss for relevant, timely policy issues that serve as reasons to give GWB the boot? Who cares how he served in the National Guard, when he’s arguably one of our worst presidents ever?

You can make the argument that pointing out Bush’s poor military record is necessary in order to defend attacks on our candidate’s (particularly John Kerry’s) military record. This is ludicrous. How many elections do we have to lose by letting the Republicans set the terms of the debate before we learn our lesson? Character-assassination is what the Karl Rove powerhouse excels at. Stooping to their level, even if we succeed, is not the way to elevate political discourse in this nation to issues that really matter.

I’m sorry, but this does not pass the Clinton test. I wrote Josh Marshall to this effect, and I’m posting it here: let’s move on, people. To aid in this effect, here are a small list of better reasons why George W Bush should not be re-elected:

The list goes on. Angry yet? Good. George W Bush’s record in the National Guard doesn’t seem quite so important now, does it?