Christopher Hitchens has written a book going into great detail about what a no-good shit Bill Clinton is. One of the blurbs is from proud right-winger Florence King, who says, "If Christopher Hitchens is a Marxist, I want to be one, too." That comment may best summarize the paradoxical position of Slick Willie as a popular president who is hated across the political spectrum. Even some libertarians joined in the fun over Fellategate, which seems a bit surprising, given the usual libertarian belief that such is nobody else's business. Usually libertarians tend to be free from envy, but this may be an exception: Many seemed particularly intent on making sure that those who "do it to" the nation don't get to do it with unscheduled partners.
The impeachment was a farce. On one level, as we all know, Clinton was impeached for getting his cock sucked and getting away with it. Those, of course, are not high crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution, so there was the added charge of lying about it.
But consider how little that alleged untruth had to do with the national polity. Kenneth Starr, whose relationship to Inspector Javert may suggest that when life imitates art, it does so sloppily, set out to catch the Clintons in some sort of crimes connected with Whitewater (which of course took place before Clinton entered the White House, and which, after a high-eight-figure expenditure, turned out not to involve anything worth bringing charges over). While this was going on, Paula Jones filed her dubious sexual harassment suit (also for an occurrence in no way involved with the federal government). Richard Mellon Scaife, who appeared to be fisting Starr like a Muppet, financed the Jones suit, and Starr added that to his "Whitewater" investigation for no plausible reason. (A Scaife newspaper took the occasion of Kay Graham's death to present sleazy speculation about her role in her husband's suicide the very next day. One has rarely seen such a precipitous rush to take advantage of the unlibelability of the dead.) The Supreme Court said that a sitting president could face civil suit for matters that occurred before he took office, so the show went on. On the laughable assumption that consensual sex with an employee might have something to do with sexual harassment (besides demonstrating that the alleged malefactor possessed the requisite bodily parts), Monica Lewinsky was threatened and bullied into testifying, and when Clinton equivocated about their relationship, he was declared *flourish of strumpets* a Perjurer. (Monica Lewinsky was the victim of a privileged white male who used the power of his government office to force her to open her mouth and submit to him: I refer of course to Ken Starr.)
Still, there was a great deal of feeling amongst the Beltway elite, the NY Times, etc., that while Clinton had not done anything worthy of removal from office, he should be censured or chastised or at least made to stand in the corner for awhile.
What happened, however, was that the Republicans insisted on conviction or nothing, and got nothing, while the voters chastised the Republicans at the polls.
Perhaps the Republicans' all-or-nothing strategy was a mistake, and the voters would have been happy with a compromise censure. But it has been noted by many that the "Washington Establishment" was more opposed to Clinton than the electorate.
Maureen Dowd, for instance, was eloquently scathing about Clinton. (Of course, it could be argued that she is a free-floating scold who is so good at what she does and enjoys it so much that she just fires away at whatever gets in the cross hairs.) Discussing the Clintons and Gores, she said,
This quartet represents the most extraordinary collection of festering resentments and seething jealousies and codependent plotting that has ever darkened the White House—with the possible exception of when Richard Nixon dined aloneWilliam Safire is another partially sane political writer who is particularly enraged at the Clintons. The quick'n'nasty summary of Safire is "A libertarian is a conservative who has been wiretapped." Still, he's been hardcore on government snooping, no matter who's in power, and he was genuinely revolted in 1992 when it seemed that Pat & Pat were taking over the Republican Party. But he too is enraged by the Clintons, to the point of repeating things that were refuted the first time he said them. (Picky English note, which I trust Safire himself would agree with me on: refuted means proven false, not simply denied.)
Who is Clinton, what is he, that all of these despise him?
Toni Morrison made the intriguing suggestion that Clinton's combination of sexuality, Southern accent, and saxophone playing pushed Dangerous-Black-Male buttons, despite Clinton's own undeniable Caucasianity. (Interestingly enough, he is extremely popular among actual black males.)
Greil Marcus, riding his own hobbyhorse, said that this was another example of the Establishment's hatred of Southern white males (e.g., Elvis). Clinton does represent a familiar Southern white politician type. Long before this fuss took place, Clinton's fellow good ol' boy Roy Blount wrote an article, entitled "I Always Plead Guilty," in which he recalled a similar figure, the euphemistically nicknamed Kissin' Jim Folsom, whose exploits won him a place in The Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men ("She was poor, but she was honest, victim of a rich man's whim, when she met that Christian gentleman Big Jim Folsom, and she had a child by him." Bobby Bare recorded a version with the politician's name changed to Big Ben Colson.)
I have my own theory to add: I want to suggest that Bill Clinton is hated by those who are proud to consider politics a serious grownup business, and much less so by everyone else.
Obviously, the Fundamentalists hate Clinton. That's the hard core of the opposition. The Capitalist Conservatives hate him because he offers some mild opposition to their running the world. (The tobacco industry hates him despite his efforts to find new uses for their products.) But he's hated on the Left, too, by the Greens and the Reds. Of course, part of that is the usual hatred of radicals for liberals, and there are some issues, like Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell and medical marijuana (surely someone suggested he could have doctors prescribing the stuff make their patients promise not to inhale), where I would describe him as having sold out, but in Clinton's case, there may be more to it than that.
I think that, all across the political spectrum, those who take politics seriously see Clinton as a paragon not only of liberalism, but of 60s hippie/anarchist sexndope. (Joe Eszterhas, in American Rhapsody, has also suggested as much, calling Clinton "our first rocknroll president." Of course, some say that Eszterhas's movies were so rank that impersonating a talking penis, as he does in this book, is a step up.) He said he didn't inhale--ha, ha, ha. And he got his cock sucked.
I actually believe that Clinton didn't inhale. Sucking marijuana smoke into one's lungs is not an easy thing to do, especially if one has not practiced on the more poisonous, but legal, drug that many are still addicted to. In fact the first person I heard of who claimed not to have been able to inhale was Paul Krassner. Does anyone think he was fibbing to improve his respectability and electability?
(I am sometimes tempted to describe myself with Stephen Gaskin's line: I experimented with drugs in the Sixties, and I didn't exhale.)
Having said that, let me add that I am quite prepared to believe that Clinton ate brownies or drank tea with cannabis in it, and then addressed the question with the evasiveness we have grown to know and love.
(It could be pointed out that the one president in recent years who appeared in public so obviously stoned as to be incoherent was not Clinton, but his opposite, Richard Nixon. After Nixon appeared late at night at the Lincoln Monument and babbled about football and surfing, many of the college kids who heard him suggested that he was on the then-popular combination of wine & reds or something similar. This was greeted by, "What do they know?" Well, drug-abuse symptoms are one of the things it is most reasonable to expect college kids to know, and I filed the story in my memory to await further evidence. Sure enough, years later Bob Haldeman's autobiography mentioned that Nixon would have a few drinks in the evening, then often take a sleeping pill, and if that didn't work, he'd drink more…and in fact this happened the night of the Lincoln visit. The censorious Hutchens maintains that Nixon was an alcoholic. The Anthony Summers bio adds that Nixon was given large quantities of Dilantin by a businessman friend who believed the stuff was good for what ails you—and thus pressed it upon friends and acquaintances—but offers no evidence that Nixon ever took any of the pills.)
Of course, one of the ironies of all this is that Clinton does take politics seriously and is remarkably good at it. He is, as they say, a wonk (not to be confused with a wanker, which the Starr Report says he also is). In fact, it has been theorized that Clinton has done a lot more quiet, serious, unobvious Good Things than almost anyone has given him credit or blame for. Far be it from me to suggest that this indicates that those who get their cocks sucked regularly have more time for their jobs because they spend less time on sex than those who worry about it or condemn others for it or just desperately wish someone would do it to them.
In any event, those who do not take politics seriously (who are probably a voting majority) didn't care about Presidential sexndope. They sanely noted that the economy (stupid) seemed to be going well, despite Oval Office fellatio and other abominations, and refused to join the witch hunt. And some actually identified with the Pres at his worst.
Late at night, I sometimes find myself thinking that the President of the United States is an immature, sex-crazed hippie who did weed & lied about it, and endangered his presidency to get his knob polished, and I make a punching motion and say, "Yeah! One of our guys made it!"
I should not have imagined that the great clown show would end when Clinton stepped down from the presidency. If nothing else, the Republicans finally had a new Mr. and Mrs. Satan to replace the long-deceased Roosevelts, whom they'd been beating on for over 60 years, to the point where even they might have gotten tired of it.
So it really was not too surprising when a major shitstorm followed Clinton's pardon of the unfortunately named Marc Rich. (As Will Durst pointed out, if he had been known as Murray Indigent, nobody would have given a rat's ass.) The usual suspects showed up. Camille Paglia even suggested that Clinton did it because he was having an affair with Rich's ex-wife (a supposition apparently based on her bra size). As in the impeachment case, the Establishment press eagerly joined in the dogpile.
There is a case to be made for the pardon. It was, in part, a favor to Israel, a factor that in calmer circumstances might be considered important. The original Rich case itself represented one of Rudy Giuliani's less inspired approaches, using RICO charges for business malfeasance, so that those accused of insider trading or tax evasion can be awarded the denial of rights usually accorded to cocaine wholesalers. (There was much indignation among Republicans when this approach was used on the more pernicious Michael Milken.) It also presented the most realistic possibility of getting back some of the millions Rich owes the government. In general, the Clinton pardons that inspired so much fervor remarkably resemble those of Bush ainé, except for the absence of someone like Casper Weinberger who could have gotten the president in trouble if left unpardoned.
And yet, after all the reasonable arguments are made, one also suspects that Clinton was once again listening to his Inner Binky, that still small voice within that greets any question with, "Aaah, toss it out the window!"