Monday, August 18, 1997

Week of 08/18/1997

21St Century Hype
The road to the 21st Century is paved in political hype
- by David Matthews 2

Well, you knew it was going to happen. Bill Clinton has been hyping the coming millennia for so long as part of his non-stop campaign administration that he’s now decided when that millennia will happen.

Clinton has announced a new program that would prepare for the "21st Century" with a series of television spots, lecture series, free concerts, photo-ops, and presentations by children. It would all kick off in time for the start of the 21st Century in the year 2000.

What a minute… 2000? Doesn’t the 21st Century start in 2001?

Well yes, according to scholars and historians that always say that the new century or the new millennia actually begin in the first year, not the zero year. And Clinton is no dummy, is he? After all, he went to college. He married a lawyer. And he’s got plenty of smart minds to advise him on when the millennia will start, doesn’t he?

Yes, he does. Which is precisely why Clinton has decided the millennia will start a year early.

Believe it or not, there is a method to this madness. In 1994, Clinton was toast. His popularity was next to nothing. His party (if you can still refer to him as a Democrat without getting an upset stomach or rolling on the floor laughing) lost control of both the House and the Senate, and those Democrats that kept power either resigned from office or switched sides to the GOP. The GOP set their sights on the White House, and it seemed that nothing would stop them from winning in 96. But Clinton managed to turn the momentum in a year’s time by running TV ads by the Democratic Party promoting everything Clinton. The Democrats didn’t have anyone running against Clinton, so they could afford to spend the campaign money normally reserved for primaries. By the end of 1995, Clinton was back to being a credible candidate for re-election, with thanks in no small part going to Dick Morris and the Democratic Party.

Think about it for a minute. Clinton’s 96 theme was "building a bridge to the 21st century." That was the message he was hyping at every speech. He was looking ahead, forging a legacy, making a "better" world. Perfect political message for the next campaign; for the president who will succeed him.

Let’s be brutally honest about this - President Clinton’s White House Millennium Project is nothing more than a jump-start at hype for the presidential elections. Because when the real millennium arrives in 2001, it will be past the presidential elections. Bill Clinton will have to start packing his bags for departure. He can’t market it by then to help out his chosen successor. And if a politician can’t wrap it up in a neat little package and mainline it into the increasingly slimmer number of active voters to digest in his or her favor, then it doesn’t matter squat to them.

Never forget that Bill Clinton is a career politician. He may not be able to run for re-election again, but that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to do what he does best for a possible successor. And who cares if the millennium really starts a year later? Besides, that kind of thinking can best be used for more productive things such as political spin.

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