Lessons In Modern Politics

Forget Monica and all that.

As I watched Bill Clinton's news conference Friday, it struck me how much he has come to exemplify the modern politician. But, as the epitome of the modern politician, he's also an example of what has happened to politics.

In his new memoir, and it's his best book yet, Henry Kissinger suggests the relentless pressure to raise money so they can campaign on television has left politicians no choice but to present themselves as all things to all people.

It is a condition, he says, that leads to compulsive personal insecurity and causes politicians to become more interested in becoming superstars than heroes.

And as he rightly points out, there is a difference. Heroes walk alone, stars seek public approval. Heroes are driven by inner values, stars by consensus.

In Kissinger's view, the drive to maintain constant public approval has left our leaders unable to fill their most crucial role: to provide emotional balance when experience is being challenged by change.

This has led to a curious paradox. Never have political leaders been more abject in trying to have public preferences. But respect for the middle class has never been lower.

I think the old professor may be on to something.