In a cartoon in the Wall Street Journal, a rather academic-looking sort complains to a colleague: “The only way to create a sensation as an essayist these days is to write something mean about cats.”
Oh, dear. As much as I’d like to create a sensation, I can’t do that. I’m not a cat-hater. I’m not even a cat-disliker. I enjoy cats as long as they belong to someone else. And, as many of my friends are avid cat-lovers, I don’t want to offend them. So for this post, I chose a slightly less sensational topic: Bill Clinton, Father of the Year.
This morning as I assembled my breakfast, my husband read aloud a few of the news items of the day. I listened with half my brain, using the other half to concentrate on my omelet.
“Bill Clinton Is Named Father of the Year,” he announced.
Now he had my full-brain attention.
Of all the names I would’ve expected to receive this honor, Bill Clinton’s was not among them. Anywhere. I’m not a Clinton-hater. Not even a Clinton-disliker. I consider him neither any better nor any worse than other politicians we’ve dealt with over the past twenty years. I think he has certain admirable traits. He’s smart and charismatic, and he makes excellent speeches. He was able to work with a Republican Congress to actually balance a budget. And I’m sure there’s a host of women across the country who can testify as to his charm and persuasive powers. Had he been named Communicator of the Year or Compromiser of the Year or Negotiator of the Year, I’d have had no problem. But Father of the Year?
Don’t think for a minute I hold one unfortunate incident against him. If his wife saw fit to forgive him, who am I to be less tolerant? Who among us hasn’t made a mistake of some kind? But if you believe that little romp with Monica was his one and only indiscretion, I’ve got some overnight wrinkle-remover cream I want to sell you.
You might suggest that as proof of his fathering capabilities, I look no further than his daughter. I’ll be the first to admit she appears to be a likeable, intelligent, responsible young woman. She has managed to marry well and, for the most part, stay out of the tabloids, preparing for the day she’ll run for president. But I wonder how much credit the former President can take for her successes. In my twenty-something years of teaching, I learned the best efforts of good parents can sometimes fail. And sometimes children turn out well despite their parents.
So in an effort to understand what I considered a dubious choice, I sought out the USA Today article which reported this news. I was curious to find out exactly what the selection criteria was. In my naiveté, I assumed the list would include the old standards. You know, those out-dated, boring attributes like honesty, integrity, loyalty, fidelity. Boy, was I wrong.
According to the National Father’s Day Council Chairman, Dan Orwig, nominees are recognized for their “...profound generosity, leadership, tireless dedication to public office and philanthropic organizations.” Oh, yeah. Organizations like the William J. Clinton Foundation. This award has a lot to do with money. The choice was beginning to make sense. Orwig went on to say this award goes to “contemporary lifestyle leaders of our culture.” And then it became crystal clear. In fact, based on that criterion, I agree with the selection. Because if anyone reflects the “contempary lifestyle” of our culture, it’s William Jefferson Clinton.