Bubba behaving badly
THE STANDARD LIBERAL EXPLANATION for men behaving badly -- from career criminals in the streets to the career criminal in the Oval Office -- is grounded in root causes.
In his recent article, "Clinton on the Couch," Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter enlists Freud and Jung to explain the Monica Lewinsky affair.
If tales of oral sex in the White House are true, Alter asks, why would Clinton risk it all? "Why would he betray his loyal wife and daughter, his indulgent supporters and the dignity of the office he has sought since childhood?"
The answer, it is suggested, lies in the dark recesses of a presidential psyche shaped by a dysfunctional family, an unhappy childhood and a wretched adolescence. As a teen-ager, Clinton was teased for being fat. Now, he's "remedying an early deficit in female attention."
"Everyone in Clinton's immediate family suffered from some kind of compulsive disorder or addiction." His biological father was a chronic womanizer; his step-dad was an alcoholic; brother Roger had a cocaine habit and mother, Virginia, played the ponies. "The Hot Springs (i.e., naughty) Clinton apparently is in the grip of some kind of compulsion," the columnist-cum-analyst clinically observes.
This conveniently absolves Clinton of shocking conduct. The president is in denial. The president should be in recovery. The president needs a 12-step program. Let the healing begin!
If neglect by the opposite sex doesn't explain the president's escapades, it might just be the opposite. Alter quotes Freud, "There are good-looking fellows whose egos have been stroked all their lives who feel they don't belong to the ordinary race of men."
So, men who were hurt as children and men who managed to get through childhood unscathed both have a sexual-power thing. Ditto the emotionally strong and the psychologically weak, the good-looking ("whose egos have been stroked all their lives") and the unattractive. In other words, we're all nutcases waiting to unzip.
Did the president (poor dear) have an early deficit of female attention? Didn't we all. Other than the captain of the football team, every American male yearned for the notice of females during his formative years.
The majority of adults who managed to survive adolescence were, at some point, tormented for being too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, too slow, too smart, too nerdy -- the list is infinite.
You want to talk about a president with a serious problems and unresolved issues? How about a man who came from grinding poverty, whose mother died when he was very young and whose father was cold and taciturn.
He was awkward and homely. His first love died. He was frequently depressed and may have been suicidal on at least two occasions. The foregoing did not turn Abraham Lincoln into a serial adulterer.
Those of us who believe in the quaint concept of personal responsibility understand that we all have urges, many ugly and not a few of them quite strong. Controlling ourselves is the most difficult challenge we will ever confront.
Some of us have values -- especially religious teachings -- to guide us. Others do not.
A large part of the president's problem is that he has no measure higher than himself. He may attend church on Sundays and mouth platitudes, but -- in the end -- Bill Clinton is (in the words attributed to Monica Lewinsky) the Big He, a man of colossal vanity whose appetites dominate his existence.
And he's been getting away with it for an eternity (not just the affairs, but the lawyerly lies, shirking responsibility and financial improprieties). This tends to feed the ego and lead to progressive recklessness in the ceaseless pursuit of gratification.
Still, Alter may have scripted this administration's ultimate fallback position.
When the stonewalling finally fails, as special prosecutor Kenneth Starr amasses more and more damning evidence, as Clinton's approval ratings sink like a stone, the president will appear on Oprah. There, he'll confess his sexual addiction, beg forgiveness and ask Americans for a group hug.
If that doesn't work, he can sing a few lines from the "Sgt. Krupke Song" from West Side Story: "Dear kindly Sgt. Krupke, you gotta understand, It's just our bringing-upke that gets us out of hand. Our mothers all are junkies. Our fathers all are drunks. Golly, Moses, naturally we're punks."
The again, Starr and his investigative staff could respond with a chorus of: "This boy
don't need a shrink, he needs a year in the
2/9/98: A conservative dissent on the flag-burning amendment
2/5/98: We get the leaders we deserve
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy