Jewish World Review April 12, 2000 / 7 Nissan, 5760
Yes, says Lewis, the Clintons do inspire "abiding hatred." The great question is why. Other passionately hated presidents were hated for obvious cause: "Franklin D. Roosevelt stirred great hatreds: regarded by his enemies as a traitor to his class, he served as a folk devil for a whole generation. Richard M. Nixon was intensely disliked by many, but again for reasons that may be readily discerned, starting with his early days as a Redbaiter." But why the Clintons--"Why has this couple evoked such strong feelings?"
To consider this question, let's first concede the truth of its premise. Clinton apologists such as Conason and Lyons are right to say that Clinton has long been pursued by people who hate him. These haters, to some degree, have worked together and indeed in some cases have conspired in their efforts to get Clinton.
This isn't a phenomenon remotely unique to Clinton. On the contrary, it is common in politics for the enemies of a public figure to work together--often secretly--against the object of their enmity. And it is common for them to exploit their enemy's weaknesses to destroy him. An important case in point is that of the president Clinton most characterologically resembles, Richard Nixon, brought to ruin by his own actions but also by the decades-long efforts of legions of proud Nixon-haters.
But as Lewis notes, hatred for Nixon rose from Nixon's role in the Red wars; the man who had destroyed Alger Hiss must in turn be destroyed. Where is the comparable reason in public action for so passionately hating Clinton?
There isn't one. Clinton's ability to inspire hatred--the precise emotion for many is, I think, a mixture of fear and contempt--is about something else. Bill Clinton entered Arkansas politics as a great golden boy, a Democratic star in a nearly wholly Democratic state. After a flubbed first term and defeat, he returned to office determined to stay on the right sides of both the state's business powers and the voters, and he did. He was a generally competent governor who bettered the state in some important ways, and he was immensely likable.
As Clinton's apologists do not like to mention, aspects of this considered opinion were held by many people who had professional dealings with Clinton, including many who shared his partisan and ideological leanings. As they also like to skip lightly over, many who have played roles in the efforts to bring Clinton down are people who have personal reason to sincerely think him unusually unfit for office--people such as Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Linda Tripp.
Based on what we now know, were the Clinton-haters right? Was there reason to regard Clinton as a dangerous person to trust with power? Is there a legitimate reason for Clinton-hating? Yes, and the reason is, as it happens, the other reason for Nixon-hating. Good liberals like my parents (who threw a party the night Nixon resigned) regarded Nixon as profoundly unfit for office because they believed that he was capable of abusing his powers, of abusing his office, of abusing the people, of abusing the truth, of abusing the law--of doing practically anything in the pursuit of power and personal desires. Watergate proved them right.
Yesterday The Post reported that Kenneth Starr's successor as independent counsel, Robert W. Ray, is actively considering seeking an indictment of Clinton after he leaves office. "There is a principle to be vindicated, and that principle is that no person is above the law, even the president of the United States," Ray said.
When Clinton's apologists read that simple truth, do they honestly think that this is only about
04/05/00: Census and nonesense