Bill Clinton, our most rascally of presidents, may have been out of office for ten years. But the guy can still bring the gravitas when he wants to—as he did today at the unfinished memorial to the victims of United 93, with a speech that's perfect in almost every way.
(Almost every way. At the risk of trampling on what is a very moving speech, we're not sure that the central metaphor—the comparison between the famous 300 Spartan soldiers at the Battle of Thermopylae, and the passengers on United 93, who overthrew the hijackers and prevented the plane from reaching its intended target in Washington D.C.—is entirely appropriate. For one thing, invoking a battle in which the literal fathers of western civilization held back a teeming "eastern" horde has certain unfortunate cultural resonances [as many others have noted]; for another, we're uncomfortable with the implication that all of us—civilian flight passengers included—are literal soldiers in the fight against a common enemy. [To be even more nit-picky we might note that the common, romantic view of Thermopylae ignores that it was a victory for the Persians in basically every way, even if the Spartans achieved their limited goal of securing a retreat for the Greek army.]
But! Maybe we're just being party-poopers. It is a very good speech.)