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Bill Clinton -- Has He Changed?

06/24/2004

Former President Clinton and I have a few things in common. Both of our fathers were alcoholics. Both of us had difficult childhoods. Both of us have had serious battles with potentially damaging influences -- what Mr. Clinton calls his "personal demons."

While I believe I have effectively dealt with many negative influences in my past, enabling me to move on with my life, I see in Bill Clinton a man who seemingly cycles through the pain, causing himself and those around him to suffer repeatedly.

In his new autobiography, My Life, he confesses to an internal, seething anger. "It's not good for a person to be as mad underneath as I was. I think if people have unresolved anger it makes them do nonrational, destructive things," he writes. Yet instead of dealing with that anger and its continual interference with his ability to make wise choices in his life and leadership, he devotes a disproportionate amount of ink to express his anger.

Although Clinton acknowledges many of his shortcomings and confesses to have learned from his mistakes, I cannot help but wonder if he has truly recognized and turned from the very emotions and inclinations that led him to stumble in the first place. Identifying a problem is the first step to correction, but without an actual change, the self-diagnosis is merely academic. A gardener can spot a weed in his garden, but unless he pulls it out from the root, the destructive weed will continue to choke out the beautiful flowers.

Even those who typically defend Clinton's party and presidency recognize his faults. The New York Times, in reviewing My Life, pointed out his "lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration."

At the encouragement of some friends of the President, I attempted on numerous occasions to establish what I hoped would be meaningful dialogue with Mr. Clinton but did not receive even the slightest response from anyone in his administration. Perhaps my relationship with President Reagan and President Bush made them wary of my motives; however, I truly sought, and would still welcome, the opportunity to offer some insight and direction for a man with whom I believe I can closely relate.

The proper role of Christian leaders is not to tear down Clinton or his legacy. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day who stoned others for their perceived sins. Instead, we must offer assistance to those who fail and help them overcome their weaknesses. Bill Clinton is not a man who needs to be ridiculed. He needs unconditional love -- just as we all do when we fail -- which leads to restoration and freedom from recurring entanglement.

My past difficulties and weaknesses have forced me to deal with some very real issues and seek to find victory in all areas. I am far from perfect, but I do believe that I am moving in the right direction...and I know I must not blame others for my failures. May the same hold true for Mr. Clinton -- not for the sake of the country or his legacy, but for himself and his family.

To his credit, the former president stated that we should discuss differences, share beliefs and stop trying to point out who is "good" and who is "bad." We all have sinned. We all have failed. There is not a qualified "stone thrower" reading this article. 

One reason people find it difficult to seek meaningful help is they fear the potential repercussions coming from the hands of critic. Although I agree with the majority opinions of many outspoken conservatives, I do not agree with the caricatures in which they so zealously portray their targets. I've often wondered if a very talented president could have been redirected, if only many principled individuals had not made him the primary focus of their wrath and indignation. To me, it is obvious that Bill Clinton still needs wise counsel and guidance, and I am convinced he will never receive it from harsh critics who make it clear that they not only do not love him, but continue to despise him.

Granted, his new book serves as a platform for him to write history as he sees it, but dwelling on past offenses of others serves no productive purpose. Instead, we need to learn from the past and then move on, free from our "personal demons."

Bill Clinton's life story is still being written. But without real change, he will never be remembered for more than a lifetime of squandered opportunities. Failure is a part of every person's life and true success comes to those who learn life's most valuable lessons through their failures. The proof is then revealed in obvious and very visible changes in actions and attitude.


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 800

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes. For more information, log on to www.lifetoday.org.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.