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Jewish World ReviewOct. 2, 1998 /12 Tishrei, 5759

Clarence Page

Clarence Page Why men are angrier at Clinton

WASHINGTON -- After President Clinton confessed to having an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky, I told my wife that I thought he should resign.

She was so upset that she almost made me sleep on the couch.

She bought every word Clinton had said, hook, line and sinker. Surely, she charged, I had defected to the venomous Clinton haters who have been using sex to bring down a duly-elected president after all other attacks had failed.

But she cooled off a bit after talking to a few of her woman-friends. While most of them agreed with her, most of their husbands agreed with me.

That surprised me, considering the way women reacted to other cases of alleged sexual exploitation.

"Given the nature of the allegations, you would have thought women would have been angrier, despite their record of support for Clinton," pollster Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, told me in a telephone interview. "But the whole history of public response to the Lewinsky controversy is filled with surprises, like the way the public rallied to Clinton after the initial Lewinsky reports."

For example, when asked in a recent Pew poll whether Clinton should resign, 31 percent of men said "yes," compared to only 28 percent of women, Kohut said. While that difference is statistically small, it reflects a consistent trend. Polls show more support for Clinton from women than from men however the questions are phrased.

Why? Partisanship, says Kohut. "If you control for the partisanship differences, the gender differences disappear," he said. "Women are more inclined to be Democrats, who have been more supportive all along. Still, I've been surprised how partisan all this is."

For example, Pew asked "how wrong" was it for a president to have sex with a young intern. More than 70 percent overall said "very wrong," but only 55 percent of Democrats said it was "very wrong" for president to have sex with an intern.

I wonder how the Democrats' reaction would have been if it was Newt Gingrich, not Bill Clinton, who was the accused.

But partisanship doesn't explain all of the gender gap, since the mostly-male anger I heard came mostly from liberals. Clinton won overwhelmingly where I live. Both times. Yet, when Clinton supporters jump ship in reaction to Monicagate, it appears to be the men who are bailing out first.

So I have a few additional theories.

1. Enlightened Self-Interest. Women tend to be more vulnerable to changes in economy and government safety net. For people who need help, generally speaking, Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus.

2. Expect the worst and you won't be disappointed. Women have lower expectations of men in matters of the heart than men have of each other. "Women are used to forgiving men," said one woman friend.

3. The "Oprah" factor. Women, more than men, watch daytime television talk shows and listen to "Dr. Laura." They are more accustomed to watching real people work through family dysfunction far more shocking than anything of which Clinton is accused.

4. Manly pride: "It was bad enough that he lied to the prosecutor. Worse that he lied to the American people -- and me!"

5. Manly resentment. This view goes something like, "I have to keep myself zipped up around other women, why can't he?" Bad as it was that he had an affair, I have heard men say, it was worse that, depending on who's talking, he was so "reckless," "immature" or "trashy." about it.

6. Manly contempt: "Kennedy had Marilyn Monroe. Why did Clinton have to mess with a young intern?" Or, at least, as another friend said, "Never have an affair with anyone who has less to lose than you do" if it is exposed.

7. The Effectiveness Gap. Even those who support Clinton's agenda fear his effectiveness has been compromised by his loss of credibility. We have already seen Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) bill to raise the minimum wage by a dollar fail last week for lack of a strong push from the White House. We have yet to see what else may be lost in coming battles over the budget, HMO reform, campaign reform and other issues. So, as much as women are called the "emotional" and "relationship-oriented" sex, I think men and women are reacting to Monicagate along gender lines. Each of us has reasons, practical and emotional, for feeling the way we do.

No question in my mind which of us is right. I'm just trying to figure out how to break the news to my wife.


9/28/98: 'Whole truth?' Not in Washington
9/14/98: Coffee? Tea? or Peanut-free?
9/09/98: When love life is affair game
9/02/98: Whose history?
8/31/98: Taking the prize for selfishness
8/24/98: Wag the Dog novelist: Clinton could have looked 'presidential,' but muffed it up!
8/19/98: Resign, Mr. President ... and do it quickly!
8/17/98: Doing kids' time for adult crimes
8/13/98: When blacks are taken for granted....they become Republicans
8/10/98: A place for 'pro-choice' and 'anti-abortion' to agree?
8/06/98: Finding those who fell off the welfare rolls
8/03/98: A list about lists
7/23/98: Teen pregnancy has declined --- but it's not enough
7/21/98: Calling Rev. Al's bluff
7/16/98: Child porn vs. Internet rights; drawing fine lines
7/13/98: Still partners after all these years
7/8/98: A future without 'unknown' soldiers
7/6/98: Suddenly Drudge doesn't look so bad
7/1/98: Get off your, uh, couch, America!
6/29/98: Have conservatives won the media game?

©1998, Tribune Media Services.