On August 15, former President Bill Clinton addressed a world AIDS conference in Toronto. "In just a few days, I will be 60 years old. I hate it, but it's true," he stated. "For most of my working life, I was the youngest person doing what I was doing. Then one day I woke up and I was the oldest person in every room. Now that I have more days behind me than ahead of me, I try to wake up with a discipline of gratitude every day."
Turning 60 is certainly a bummer for a man as reliant on his prostate as Clinton is. Nonetheless, Clinton's speech was a stunning testament to his egocentricity. Who whines about a post-midlife crisis while discussing a disease that has pushed Angola's average life span to 39.9 years, Zambia's to 39.7, and Zimbabwe's to 37.9? Who tells a roomful of people worried about the devastation caused by a global plague that he is personally devastated by having another birthday?
Bill Clinton, that's who. And yet, somehow, Americans still miss Bill Clinton. In a May 2006 poll, Americans stated they favored Clinton over President Bush on the economy (63 percent to 26 percent), foreign affairs (56 percent to 32 percent) and even on truthfulness (46 percent to 41 percent) -- this last question regarding a man who was impeached by the House of Representatives for committing perjury, a man who openly lied to the American people.
Why do Americans miss Clinton? The results of one of the poll's questions are illuminating. Apparently, Americans feel that Clinton was superior at solving the problems of ordinary Americans by a margin of 62 percent to 25 percent. Why would they feel that way? President Bush signed the most comprehensive Medicare bill since Medicare's founding; he has signed a massive education-spending bill; he has been more liberal on social spending than his predecessor was.
No doubt the unpopular war in Iraq skews President Bush's numbers, but there is something more going on: Americans relate to President Clinton in a unique way. They relate to him because, despite his Ivy League education, he acts like just another guy at the bar, like the quirky but caring uncle everyone remembers from Thanksgiving dinner. He complains about aging. He lies about his sex life. He listens and pats hands. He tears up in front of the cameras on a regular basis.