Once a friend of Bill Clinton’s, but better-known and more convincing as an enemy, Hot Springs lawyer Cliff Jackson has no objections to the Clinton library.
Asked if it were appropriate to build a library for a president with Clinton’s record, which includes impeachment, Jackson said, “Oh, absolutely. It’s not only appropriate, but it’ll be a great benefit for the people of Arkansas, perhaps. Maybe even probably.” There are “multiple aspects” to the Clinton record, Jackson said, “and I think the library has promised to be even-handed about it.”
Jackson is 58, the same age as Clinton, and while Clinton was growing up in Hot Springs, Jackson was growing up 20 miles away at Antioch in Hot Spring County. But they didn’t meet until both were students at Oxford University in Britain, a long way from their Arkansas homes. Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar, Jackson a Fulbright Scholar.
“He came around and knocked on my door,” Jackson said. “We were the only Arkies there.”
Back in Arkansas, Clinton, a Democrat, began the phenomenally successful political career that eventually led to the White House. Jackson, a Republican, practiced law in Little Rock and kept a hand in politics, though losing his only race for elective office. When Clinton ran for president in 1992, Jackson went to the media with letters he said he’d written in 1967 concerning Clinton’s efforts to avoid going to Vietnam. During the New Hampshire presidential primary, an organization formed by Jackson took out advertisements in New Hampshire newspapers accusing Clinton of being a draft dodger. (Jackson didn’t go to Vietnam either, receiving a medical deferment.) Later, Jackson would work as an attorney for Arkansas state troopers who told scurrilous tales about Bill and Hillary Clinton to the news media. He is a fairly prominent character in the book “The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton,” by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons.
Jackson said he moved to Hot Springs in 1993 and was semi-retired for awhile. He opened a law office around 1997 and has been working pretty much full time since, he said.
Jackson noted that Vietnam became an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign too. “It’s interesting to me as an observer of this election to see stories about Vietnam and [National] Guard duty,” Jackson said. “It’s amusing that the two campaigns are hung up on something that happened 40 years ago. Kerry volunteered, he served, he won medals. The only problem is with taking a videocamera to Vietnam.
“But politicians have to be calculating. That basically was always my problem with Bill. His New Covenant speech was wonderful. It echoed my sentiments entirely. But I didn’t know whether he believed it, or whether he’d believe it tomorrow, or whether he’d implement it if he did believe it.” Libraries are simpler.
Gov. Mike Huckabee, the titular head of the Republican Party in Arkansas, never ran against Clinton himself but supported people who did. Huckabee has said in the past that he’s “very supportive” of the Clinton library. He may still be, though he declined an opportunity to tell the Arkansas Times.
Huckabee has reason to be grateful to Clinton. It was Clinton’s election to the presidency in 1992 that moved Jim Guy Tucker up to the governor’s office. Huckabee won an election to choose Tucker’s replacement as lieutenant governor. When Tucker was convicted of fraud and resigned from office, Huckabee became governor. He has since been elected twice.
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