Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review April 12, 2000 / 7 Nissan, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports



Why they hate Bubba -- IN A RECENT REVIEW of a newly published book by two come-what-may Clinton apologists, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, about the prosecution of Bill Clinton, New York Times reporter Neil Lewis raises a question that is, in the end, the question about Clinton. Conason and Lyons argue, as Lewis notes, that the essential story of Clinton's impeachment is of a "ten-year campaign to destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton." In this construct, Clinton is not so much a powerful and bad man brought low by his low acts as a relative innocent set upon by powerful enemies--enemies not only of himself but of the republic. This is Clinton's own argument, and it is the critical line of defense for those determined to write the story of his disgrace as one of relative triumph.

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.
Yet it soon became a widely held opinion in Arkansas that he was, in a fundamental sense, both contemptible and destructive: a Slick Willie, a man whose word was flatly no good on matters both personal and public, an abuser of power and of persons (female persons) and, in terms of the disjunction between his public character and his true self, a fraud. His wife, it was widely considered, was his partner in character.

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 hatred?

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/05/00: Census and nonesense
03/29/00: The Stiffs and Their Statuettes
03/15/00: Anarchy in Kosovo
03/08/00: Reform joke
03/01/00:The Pinhead Factor
03/01/00: The Christian Right: Past Its Prime . . .
02/24/00: McCain's Majority
02/16/00: Sharpton's Supplicants
02/09/00: The GOP Pilgrims' Sad Tale
02/02/00: Fodder For the GOP
01/26/00: Million-Dollar Mediocrity
01/19/00: Campaign Reform: Let's Pretend
01/12/00: Never Again? Oh, Never Mind
01/05/00: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
12/22/99: Gore's TV Gambit
12/15/99: Campaigns Do Clarify
12/08/99: Kosovo's Killers
12/01/99: Not Ready for Prime Time?
11/24/99: The Company He Keeps
11/17/99: Republican Illusion
11/10/99: The Know-Nothing Media
11/03/99: Necessary Partisanship
10/27/99: Buchanan's Gift to George W. Bush
10/21/99: Who are the real friends of the poor?
10/14/99: Gore's 'courage'!?
10/08/99: Republican Stunts
09/23/99: Buchanan's folly
09/16/99: Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment!
09/09/99: Puerto Rico Surprise (Cont'd)
09/02/99: Puerto Rico Surprise
08/12/99:The Age of No Class
08/05/99: Assessing Welfare Reform
07/29/99: On the Wrong Side
07/21/99: Mass Sentimentality
07/15/99: Blame Hillary
07/08/99: Guide to the Arts: For Your Summer Reading . . .
06/30/99: A Perfectly Clintonian Doctrine
06/25/99:Smorgasbord by the Sea
06/16/99: A National Calamity
06/09/99: Stumbling Forward
06/02/99: Commencement '90s-Style
05/26/99: Will we ever learn? Clintochio is a lying ...
05/19/99: Comforting Milosevic
05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

©1999, Washington Post Co.