Imagining Politics: Alternate Clintons


Bill Clinton's effusively warm farewell to himself at the Democrats' convention has inspired a new and extremely promising literary genre. E.J. Dionne Jr., political columnist for The Washington Post (and a friend and former colleague), was sufficiently impressed by the president's performance to lament that the man had made so much trouble for himself. Writing from Los Angeles on August 15, Dionne said that the speech "made you want to imagine a Clinton presidency in which he lets Monica Lewinsky just drop off the pizza and invites big donors to sleep at the Hay-Adams instead of the Lincoln bedroom."

Thus is born the genre of "Alternate Clintons." Similar genres already exist: There are plenty of what-if speculations involving Lincoln, for example. Indeed, an entire anthology of 25 Alternate Kennedys was published in 1992; it featured an inevitable vision of The Kennedys as the world's hottest Top-40 rock group. (The editor of that anthology, Mike Resnick, also released a collection called Alternate Presidents the same year.) Given Clinton's elastic public persona, and his administration's rich legacy of scandalous irresolution, his presidency is brimming with what-if possibilities, many of them in marked contrast to Dionne's sympathetic speculations.

Indeed, one could argue that the nation has been trapped in an implausible alternate universe since 1994, when the "incompetent" Clinton transformed himself into the "presidential" Clinton by using Newt Gingrich as a stage prop. What if Gingrich hadn't led the Republicans to control of the House? Would an un-triangulated Clinton have continued his series of foreign-policy disasters and domestic policy failures until 1996, and been replaced by President Dole? For that matter, Would Clinton have been elected in the first place without the barely imaginable presidential run of Ross Perot? After all, Clinton never attracted a majority of votes.

Or suppose that the Clintons had succeeded in nationalizing one-seventh of the economy under their health-care plan, and in passing their "stimulus" package involving tens of billions of dollars in urban pork. Clinton once insisted that his stimulus plan was the linchpin of economic revival. How would such actions have effected growth?

Clinton has spent his professional life in elective office. Suppose he had tried to get a job. What kind of career opportunities awaited him in Hot Springs? Are music critics in another timestream dismissing his latest saxophone CD as "too derivative of Eisenhower-era sax playing"?

Or how about an Alternate Sudan, in which people can get medicine produced in their still-standing pharmaceuticals factory? Or an Alternate Iraq, featuring hundreds of thousands of still-living children? Or an Alternate Kosovo, where there is an ongoing exchange of terrorism and retribution, but no massive destruction, no massive ethnic cleansing by any side, and no massive military presence tied down for the foreseeable future?


We asked our visitors to submit their own scenarios (under 100 words) for a chance to win Reason stuff. We received an impressive assortment of strong entries. Our thanks to everyone who sent in a suggestion. Selecting the best ones wasn't easy, but here are the winners:


Imagining Politics: Alternate Clintons

Last week, after being inspired by the Washington Post's post-convention creation of the literary genre of "Alternate Clintons" –that is, imagining a world in which Bill Clinton behaved differently than he has–we asked our readers to submit short scenarios along those lines.

Reason Online received dozens of scenarios describing alternate worlds that are de-Clintoned, un-Clintoned, even anti-Clintoned. In those worlds, we are all winners.

But in the timestream that we share with this Bill Clinton, there can be only a handful of lucky winners who will receive coveted Reason Magazine prizes. We thanks all our readers for their creative–and doubtless purgative–efforts of imagination. The three winners take home a Reason Magazine cap and pen.

The Winners:

From: THolmer6@aol.com

First Lady's ex caught in Underground Drug and Sex Ring

Little Rock (AP)—First Lady Hillary Rodham Leibowitz claimed no knowledge to the extent of her first husband's legal problems. Billy Jeff Blythe was arrested Thursday for narcotics possession and intent to procure sexual favors for money.

According to Little Rock police, Blythe was leaving his job as a saxophone player at the Super 8 hotel lounge and began speaking to a female undercover police officer in the hotel parking lot. The officer, Lt. Paula Jones, was working an undercover sting to catch "Johns" trying to pay for sexual favors. According to Lt. Jones, Blythe attempted to lure her back to his trailer and introduce her to some friends. He then opened the front of his pants and asked her to "kiss it." Police surrounded Blythe and arrested him immediately. Upon court order, the police then searched Mr. Blythe's trailer and found over a kilogram of cocaine and some marijuana. Mr. Blythe was released on bail Friday morning. The bond was posted by longtime friend, Web Hubbell.

Ms. Leibowitz divorced Blythe in 1988 stating that "He didn't quite have the drive."

From: fatray@home.com

Bill Clinton is my favorite golf partner. He can't play a lick, but does absolutely anything to win and when he gets caught he can talk himself out of any tight spot. After golf, I can just hang around with Bill and maybe pick up one of his groupies–I don't know how the man does it, but he has an incredible way with women. He's unbelievably crude and forward, but it seems to work. He gets his face slapped every now and then, but he doesn't mind.

Bill moved to Baton Rouge 15 or twenty years ago from Arkansas, where he had some success as a politician. Apparently, there was some sort of ugliness in one of his elections that involved accusations of rape of a campaign volunteer, maybe it was a contributor. His first job in Louisiana was with one of the Democrats running for Governor–I don't remember which one. He rose pretty quickly in the ranks of

Louisiana political consultants. The joke used to be that if you hired Bill and James Carville as consultants, you could elect a damnyankee Governor of Louisiana, and that was before James got Jim Guy Tucker elected President back in '92.

Bill rarely talks about his "ex," and then, only to blame her for ruining his political career. The best part is the ex is now married to Gingrich of Georgia and has pushed him into running for President–supposedly, she's brains behind his conservative ideas. They've hired Carville. Bill is working for Joe Leiberman, the Democrat front-runner, for free. Nader's got a chance.

NICE (Reuters) August 14, 1987—The French police have arrested William Blythe, 41, an itinerant saxophonist and alleged confidence artist, in the bizarre kidnap saga of Princess Stephanie of Monaco.

A police spokesperson described Blythe as the Princess' right-hand man in the scheme, which also involved the indiscreet manipulation of the Bourse in addition to the previously-exposed faked kidnappings and charity scams.

Blythe, also known as Bill Clinton, Will Durant, and Willie B. is apparently an American Rhodes Scholar who has remained in Europe for nearly two decades.

Blythe has apparently retained the well-known celebrity lawyer, Hillary Rodham Giuliani of New York, who released a statement claiming that Blythe "is just a pawn who got himself mixed up the princess' Moriartyesque schemes. He's never been able to stand up to strong women."

Spokespeople for the Principality again refused to comment.

Congratulations to all our winners!

Here are a few of the best runner ups:

Honorable Mentions:

From: jdhays@castle.net

Dear Kevin,

Hope you are enjoying Hong Kong, gajin dog! 🙂 I'm settling into my two to five year "assignment" nicely, having found a clique of like-minded geeks. We spend our days discussing anime and watching each others backs. Luckily, the old veteran sex offenders are avoiding us weirdoes, so it's almost like high school. I guess it all went to hell when Clinton copped to adultery during the Paula Jones trial. He went all ultra-pious with CDA, COPA, CALEA, ECHELON, key escrow, etc. How was I to know those Japanese cartoon characters weren't over eighteen. : Shouldn't a man's hard drive be his castle?

From: tectonic_3@juno.com

Feeling uneasy on this, his first date with "Hillary", till now a law school pal, Bill decides to make a fast break while excusing himself for the men's room. "Something quirky about a militant, socialist, feminist…" he chuckles as he covertly leaves the restaurant. Months later he goes on to graduate, then fullfills a boyhood dream of starting the perfect french-fry establishment in the rural south: now a bustling joint employing perky high-school vixens. Oh, and "Hillary"? Canada's finest academic.

From: asgupta@attglobal.net

Bill Clinton, in the heat of passion, promises his new flame he will go to Vietnam to "become a man for her." Once there, though, he discovers the wonders of Saigon brothels and, like Al Gore, becomes a journalist with an eye towards going into politics. However, his stories catch the eye of a Hollywood studio executive. In 1980 Bill Clinton accepts his first Oscar, for his portrayal of a carefree single father in the romantic comedy "Cigar Man." In 1998, despite divorce rumors surrounding his stormy marriage to fourth wife Barbra Streisand, the two-time Oscar-winning actor and producer announces his intention to run for governor of California in 2000…