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Jewish World ReviewDec. 7, 2000 / 11 Kislev, 5761

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
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Consumer Reports

Clinton's tacky legacy -- Unless a judge in Seminole County, Fla., decides to overturn an election, the Clinton-Gore years are now on a glide path into the history books. Bill and Al surely will be missed by many Americans, but not by me. Bill Clinton was the most divisive president since Richard Nixon, with one side of the divide believing he was a heroic martyr and the other side considering him a tacky Hong Kong knockoff of a real president.

The administration's apologists, like the president himself, have long argued that its enemies were determined to stop Clinton from implementing progressive policies. This is understandable. It's so much more comforting to believe that Al Gore's "powerful forces" or Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" is determined to thwart your efforts. It must sting to contemplate the idea that millions of people just don't like you.

While Gore is a slightly different story because he actually ran on some legitimately left-wing ideas, Clinton's policies have, more often than not, pleased - or at least failed to offend - his most rabid enemies.

Clinton championed deficit reduction, school uniforms and the V-chip. He signed welfare reform and the Defense of Marriage Act. He certainly made his share of mistakes, but there's much in his record for policy-oriented conservatives to commend.

And yet, his apologists believe Clinton was dedicated to make America safe for Swedish economics, Parisian culture and enlightened Harvard pointy-heads, and we angry, hate-filled conservatives - most of whom look like the little bald dude from Monopoly - were determined to stop him at any cost.

The truth is we just don't like the guy. The comparison with Richard Nixon is instructive. Nixon, too, had his haters. (Indeed, even today among the liberal elite it is perfectly fine to say Richard Nixon was an evil, venal man who ate live kittens and told children Santa Claus was a fat drunk. But to reveal that you might be a "Clinton hater" in these circles is to be forever illegitimate in your opinions.)

But Nixon-haters had more concrete reasons to dislike him. As a senator, Nixon was an accomplished anti-communist and the left never forgave him for his success in exposing - and baiting - real Reds in the government, Hollywood and elsewhere.

But Clinton? He was a mildly successful, somewhat conservative Democrat - an entirely unknown governor from a small state when he first ran for president. And yet, millions of Americans took an instant dislike to him. Why? Bill Clinton and the White House he ran was, and is, metaphysically tacky.

This fact was always underrated. Americans generally consider the presidency a classy job. And while Clinton may be a stunningly good politician, capable of feeling our pain, remembering a million names and a trillion policy details, he's still tackier than a wedding at Liberace's house.

As governor of Arkansas, he and Hillary donated his underwear to Goodwill and then took the write-off on their taxes. Later, on MTV, he talked to teen-age girls about his - presumably new - underwear. He rented out the Lincoln bedroom and explained it was necessary because he and his wife had each recently lost a parent. He held up an entire airport so he could get a Hollywood-style haircut. He cheats at golf, taking mulligans as often as he takes French fries from other people's trays. He took a hat originally given to his daughter and gave it to his intern-mistress. He explained that he couldn't have fooled around with another employee because he prefers women with larger breasts. He took credit for millions of things he never did and assigned blame for things he did do.

Clinton's transgressions weren't all "personal," as he likes to say, but his personality did infect policy. His relentless lying and smash-mouth politics derived from his own sense of entitlement and shamelessness. Whenever he did anything wrong, he blamed others, saying he was being attacked unfairly by evil-intentioned people. This is a tactic Al Gore learned only too well.

Of course, the benefit to being shameless is that nothing embarrasses you. The downside is that you don't understand why people think you did anything wrong.

According to Joe Klein in a recent issue of the New Yorker, Clinton has been telling a story for years that shows even he understands the phenomenon. A man is chased off the side of a cliff by a tiger. He grabs a vine. The vine starts to come out of the cliff. The man calls out, "Why me, L-rd?" A booming voice from heaven responds, "Son, there's just something about you I don't like."

Of course, from Clinton's perspective not even G-d can give a good reason for not liking him. Fortunately, those of us closer to the facts on the ground have an easier time of it.

To comment on JWR contributor Jonah Goldberg's column click here.


12/05/00: Marriage civilizes the manly beast
11/30/00: Gore's speech more pompous posturing
11/28/00: Rabble-rousing Dems act irresponsibly
11/27/00: Duking it out with democracy
11/16/00: Issues irrelevant to most voters
11/14/00: Gore's us-vs.-them campaign
11/10/00: Dot-com disasters missing brand-name success
11/06/00: Conventional wisdom turns with the polls
11/03/00: Clinton photo, appropriately, hits below the belt
11/01/00: Electoral college ensures democracy
10/30/00: New Yorkers, media letting Hillary off the hook
10/23/00: Gore needs to put first things first
10/20/00: Treatment of Farrakhan glosses over odd issues
10/16/00: Secrets of election can be found in 'Star Trek'
10/12/00: Arafat hardly 'provoked' into violence
10/10/00: Undecided voters may be ignorant, not discriminating
10/06/00: The importance of character isn't debatable
10/03/00: Conservatives are the true friends of science You know why?
09/29/00: Symbolic 'born alive' vote makes sense
09/25/00: Conservatives adopt abandoned liberalism
09/21/00: Ventura's media backpedaling makes fiction of his new book
09/18/00: Tough questions target Hillary Clinton's elitism
09/14/00: Hollywood morality to blame
09/11/00: Specifically, AlGore's detailed plan is meaningless
09/07/00: Time-honored tradition: Insult the press
09/05/00: Scouting out justice
08/30/00: The ADL's historical revisionism
08/28/00: Sitcoms will survive, post-"Survivor"
08/24/00: Candidates' choice of movies shows refreshing honesty
08/21/00: An AlGore victory? Only if dead birds fly
08/17/00: AlGore is doomed, but Dems ignore warning signs
08/15/00: Proud and true: He's a Jew
08/10/00: Exploiting religion would be tragic mistake
08/08/00: Cheney serves up tempting appetizer
08/03/00: Republicans now 'nice,' media still nasty
08/01/00: Presidential campaign could use some anti-metric mania
07/27/00: Government shouldn't subsidize Reform Party
07/25/00: Campaign finance 'reform' gives too much power to liberal media
07/20/00: Hillary slur speaks volumes
07/18/00: AlGore's McCarthyism
07/11/00: 'Survivor' shows hypocrisy of animal rights groups
07/05/00: McDonald's deserves a break today
07/03/00: On July Fourth, time to reflect on America's founding
06/28/00: America bashing becomes international pastime
06/23/00: If Fonda is sorry, let her say so
06/06/00: NAPSTER exposes artists' hypocrisy
04/18/00: Not much difference between TV journalists, TV actors

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