Nearly twelve years after the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency it has become easy to forget this central fact about the former president: he is a pathological liar. For better or for worse, Clinton’s active participation in this year’s presidential campaign reminds us of this sad reality.
Take, for example, this exchange between Clinton and Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: Is Mitt Romney right that the only thing you can do with the Israeli-Palestinian issue is kick the can down the road?
CLINTON: No, it is accurate that the United States cannot make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They have to do that. What we need to do is maximize the attractiveness of doing it and minimize the risks of doing it. We can do that.
And if you look at it, President Bush, when he took office, the second President Bush, I’ll never forget he said, “You know the names of every street in the old city and look what it got you. I’m not going to fool with this now.”
And immediately the death rate went up among Israelis and Palestinians because there was nothing going on.
However, as Seth Mandel explains, something was going on when Bush took office — the Second Intifada, which began under President Bill Clinton. The “death rate” went up because the Palestinians launched a terror war against Israeli civilians following the abject failure of Clinton’s Camp David peace talks. For this reason, Clinton’s attempt to blame the increased death rate of Bush’s inactivity is extremely deceptive.
It’s also fundamentally dishonest. The import of Clinton’s comment to Zakaria is that Bush rejected Clinton’s preferred course when he declined to engage in (or “fool with,” to use the perfect turn of phrase Clinton attributes to “W”) the “peace process.”
But, as Mandel shows, Clinton was dead set against trying to jump start peace talks following the failure of Camp David. Indeed, according to Martin Indyk, United States ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs during the Clinton Administration, Clinton told Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell and anyone else he could get an audience with that the new administration should not deal with Arafat, whom he called a liar who had destroyed the chance for peace. As Indyk put it in his memoir of the Clinton administration’s Middle East policy, in Clinton’s “final hours as president. . .there was one piece of unfinished business he was determined to take care of: it was payback time for Yasser Arafat.” For once, Clinton had it right on a major foreign policy issue.
It should be possible for Clinton to serve Team Obama in this election — and thus to improve the likelhood of his return to the White House in 2017 — without telling lies that place blame on George W. Bush (a non-participant in the election) for the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians during the Intifada. But Clinton can’t resist the temptation to engage in this slander — a hallmark of the pathological liar.