Courtesy National Catholic Register

The custom of trying to guess what a president's legacy will be is a good one: It forces us to think about how history will judge our times. But what will Clinton really be remembered for? Conventional wisdom says it will be summed up in one word: "Monica." But this misses the point.

Monica will appear in history books, but decent people probably won't want to dwell on her in the future, just as many wanted to ignore her in the past.

A counter-intuitive strain of thought says he'll be remembered as a conservative president who balanced the budget, reformed welcome and established NAFTA. Not likely. This is the Gingrich legacy after all (excepting NAFTA, which belongs to Reagan and Bush) -- and what past budgets and spending slowdowns do we remember previous administrators for?

Unfortunately, these stabs at Clinton's legacy have missed what will surely emerge as the lasting effect of the last eight years.

What Clinton will be remembered for is violence.

For one thing, the most ubiquitous domestic news stories of the Clinton years -- the Oklahoma City bombing, the O.J. Simpson trial and the Columbine massacre -- were all about violence, though these had nothing to do with Clinton.

Other violence in the Clinton years will not, perhaps, be held against him: In Somalia, U.S. soldiers' bodies being dragged through the streets. In Kosovo, U.S. troops ousting one violent regime ... only to see another take its place. In China, a new level of U.S. friendship followed by a new level of anti- religious violence. In Northern Ireland, a celebration of Clinton, and then back to the killing. In the Middle East, a protracted (and noble) effort at peace, followed by new death, pain and hatred.

No, the violence that will become part of the Clinton legacy is violence against children. And that's not counting the strange mixture of big guns and little kids early in the administration at Waco and at its end in Elian's closet hideaway.

The Clinton legacy that will rank right up there with slavery and war is infanticide.

In 1993 came President Clinton's executive order legalizing fetal tissue research. One of his first actions as president, it was hailed as a great liberation for science: The sad reality of abortion could have some salutary use.

What was underreported (or ignored) at the time was that first-trimester fetuses are of limited use for fetal experimentation. Older, more developed babies were much more useful. The "problem" for pharmaceutical firms and medical research industries is that such babies were in short supply. Not surprisingly, a new class of entrepreneurs soon found ways to meet the demand.

In 1996, a growing late-term-abortion industry must have seemed in jeopardy when the U.S. House and Senate overwhelmingly supported a ban on partial-birth abortions. The bill banned the abortion procedure in which a baby is removed feet first from the mother's womb, its skull broken by a doctor's scissors and its brains removed.

But Clinton vetoed the ban in 1996. He vetoed similar legislation a year later.

He wouldn't sign last year's partial-birth abortion act either, even though new information about the trade in body parts shed light on the money motive behind the barbaric procedure. Partial-brith abortion keeps a baby's body intact so that it fetches a higher price from researchers -- $500 for an "intact trunk (with/without limbs)," according to one report.

Clinton's executive order made partial-birth abortion possible, his vetos kept it legal and his administration's inaction has see it grow profitable. And, as pro-abortion former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan has said, partial-birth abortion is infanticide.

This is what history will remember about the Clinton years: the legalization and fostering of infanticide. "And where were the decent people in America?" history will ask.

Let's hope that each of us can answer that question guiltlessly.


(Courtesy: National Catholic Register.)