Balkan Bill

January 01, 2003

THERE'S A certain kind of Democrat who wants to have nothing whatsoever to do with Bill Clinton. Al Gore and a few more recent candidates come to mind - but just look where it got them. It only goes to show that ingratitude is its own reward, or something like that.

Here's a different take on the former president:

In the heart of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, there is a 40-foot-tall portrait of Bill Clinton, and it overlooks Bill Clinton Boulevard. In Kosovo, they haven't forgotten the man who drove out the Serbs, and they're not ashamed to say so. Theirs is a country - let's face it - where the heroically named avenues were once dominated by huge portraits of steely-eyed Yugoslav Communists or an idealized and granite-jawed Vladimir Lenin, so they know something about gigantic art in the public service, but now they've got Bill, as twinkly-eyed and as round-jawed and, yes, as unideal as they come. Is that progress or what?

Where else in Europe can you find cafes with names like the B-52, or the Pentagon? In Kosovo they like America so much they spent $100,000 to build a 20-foot-high replica of the Statue of Liberty. A reporter for Kosovo Radio and Television found a little girl named Madeleine, after the one-time secretary of state. Then she found another little girl named Albright.

It was in 1999 that NATO went to war on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians (a baby boy there was recently named Tony Blair). Today the province is a ward of the international community, and hardly a paradise. But hey, at least they're not afraid to say who their friends are.

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