Man, I can't stand Bill Clinton. It drives me crazy to see him all over the place, hawking his new book and his excuses for his bad behavior in the Oval Office. His reasons for lying to the American people. His rationale for using his power to screw around with the lives of a parade of vulnerable women, some barely old enough to drink.
I don't talk about my disdain for Bill Clinton very often. My non-Republican counterparts are usually flabbergasted when I say, "I supported Clinton's impeachment." They look at me as if I am a traitor to the cause—I always want to ask, "Which cause? Sexual harassment? Lying to the American people? Boffing your interns?" Clinton's behavior—on the job, mind you, not tucked away in some villa somewhere on his own time—would have gotten most any CEO fired (or should have).
And—I tell my shocked comrades—I believe with every ounce of my being that, had Clinton been Republican and done the exact same thing, that progressives would have hung him out to dry. When folks all around me were defending the horny prez, I asked myself a simple question: What if he was a man whose ideals were the polar opposite of mine? Would I still defend him? Would I have made up excuses like, "Oh, what he does during his private time is his own business?" Well, if you count having an officer of the law posted outside your door to guard your shenanigans "private time," then maybe. I don't.
Call me a prude, but I cannot trust someone who would cheat on his wife with a young, confused intern in the same building where his teenage daughter is sleeping. How in hell can he be trusted to run the country? Mind you, though, I supported Clinton's impeachment because I agreed with arguments that Clinton's lies and obstruction of justice were impeachable offenses, no matter how they came about. Yes, I believe Ken Starr went on a witch hunt—but he found a witch, and that victory for the right wing was no one's fault but Clinton's. He created the mess.
The reason for the obstruction and lies—sophomoric sexual shenanigans—didn't matter; what mattered was that Clinton thumbed his nose at the office of the presidency and the trust we-the-people put into him, and that he put this country on such a treacherous, divisive path because he couldn't control his urges. It stung extra because he had to know that a lot of progressive-minded folk, such as myself, had kind of made a pact with him: we'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but don't you pull any of that crap while on our dime.
We should not have elected a man with his record on treatment of women, especially Paula Jones, whose claims I believe. As a feminist, I still feel like a hypocrite for voting for a man that evidence strongly indicated had sexually harassed women and used state employees to help him. No, Clarence Thomas should not be on the Supreme Court, and Bill Clinton should not have been president. We all shared the blame. I was glad when Clinton's term ended; I was furious at him for betraying us and just wanted him to go away to a villa somewhere (and I understood why Gore didn't use him to get votes).
But recently, thanks to the hoopla over his new book, I've started thinking about Slick Willy again. I'm still mad at him, although the distance allows me to look at the bigger picture now and examine just why his treachery was such a tragedy. I think it's because he held such promise: a down-to-earth Southerner who could walk into a room with anybody, anybody, and connect with them. A man who appealed to people of all races, who understood that, as Richard Wright wrote, you have to keep addressing race until it doesn't need to be addressed any longer. A man who wasn't afraid of showing compassion.
We need people like that in public office—but not people who will lie to us and cheat every chance he gets, whether on behalf of their sexual urges or their corporate donors. Lying is lying.
Clinton was willing to compromise with the right, often going too far to get things done (and get votes), as in welfare reform, NAFTA, Internet censorship, three-strikes criminal laws and federal school zero-tolerance policies. He went too far to appease so-called "conservatives"—indeed, I agree with true conservatives on these issues, except for welfare, perhaps—but at least he put partisanship aside.
But now we're living in a country that's being ripped apart by partisanship. I believe Clinton, and his apologists, helped set this scene. We are constantly told to choose sides, or we're stereotyped into one camp or another. If we criticize the radical right, we are flaming liberals. If we don't believe the lies being told to us by a new administration, we are traitors to freedom. If I say I supported Clinton's impeachment, Democrats look at me as if I am brandishing a knife that I plan to sink into the party's back. (The same party, I might add, that is so damned busy trying not to offend the radical right that they're alienating potential voters across the state and America.)
I want to scream: It is not courageous, it is not bold to blindly follow the pack! Clinton was WRONG to do that to his wife and his daughter, and he was wrong to lie to the country! Admit it! And to Republicans, I would yell: It is WRONG that men and women and children—ours and theirs—are dying because of the lies of the Bush administration!
Unless you're blinded by partisan relativism, you know by now that (a) Clinton was a lying cheat and schemer, even if he believed in some progressive ideals and (b) Bush cajoled and misled this country into a poorly planned and executed war that has cost us dearly, even if you want prayer in the public schools. Both men are wrong.
We must start to think for ourselves and fix this mess that has been hoisted upon us by liars of whatever party. We must begin demanding better from them and ourselves. Please be bold and stand up for what is good and right ... party be damned.
"Party be damned." Indeed!
The whole Clinton thing always saddened me more than angered me. He had a whole bundle of good qualities and good ideas, and all of that got lost in the scandal. Which was stupid and utterly avoidable on his part. The whole discussion of what 'could have been' had he kept his pants zipped is just tragic. But he never lied to get us to spend $180 billion on a war.
Bush embarasses me more than Clinton ever did, and his lies are deeper and more damaging.
You go, girl! Bless you for standing up and just SAYING IT. Bill Clinton is a weasel. I voted for the man once, but second time around I voted for Bob Dole.
I admit that Clinton did some good things (but he did some lousy things, too). For all the screaming by the radical right that Clinton was a far leftie, he was anything but. He gutted the welfare system in a way that Republicans could only dream of - until he paved the way for them (and here are the fruits in Mississippi).
What started out to be an effort to cut fraud ended up forcing mothers on welfare to take low-paying jobs and leave their children without supervision part of the time. Kosovo was another mistake Clinton made, IMO.
No, his lies didn't kill as many Americans and innocents abroad, but he was no hero to me. The only way I could have voted for him last time would have been if Bush had been running against him - that would have done it.
Why put up with bad politicians just because you "belong" to the same party - if the apple is rotten, get it out of the barrel before it spoils the whole bunch. I know that's easy for me to say (owing no allegiance to either party) but, then, that's why I don't pledge to one or the other, even though I may vote for one more often than the other.
I'd like to have a viable choice other than either of these two sad leftover parties.
Kate, I think it was sad, too. But I also know that I would have been hopping mad had it been a Republican who did the same thing.
I also believe that we're at a place in history where we need to get past the "our" guy is right, "your" guy is wrong thing if we're going to solve some of the messes we have on our hands and protect our freedoms from those who would rob it from us out of greed or stupidity. I truly believe we'll get further if we try to transcend the us-them politics.
I should also add that I also believe that what the Bush administration is doing now is much worse than Clinton's actions. However, I also don't think any off this should be about comparing presidents. Everyone should be judged on his own merits. Two wrongs don't make a right, or an excuse. I remember when Nixon was being exposed for what it was, people all around me were saying, "It's what they all did." My response: Yeah, so it's OK?
One of the most horrible actions I can imagine from a presidential administration is turning aside the right to counsel and a thumbing of their noses at the Geneva Conventions. I truly believe, regardless of who authorized the various abuses of prisoners and the accused (many of whom, it turns out, were innovent), that the disrespect for very foundation of freedoms that this administration showed led us down the path that we're on now and has done international harm that will take a very long time to repair. Actions don't happen in a vacuum, and this president never should have ever read a memo from counsel that was telling him he had the right to authorize torture. The fact that they had that conversation to me indicates such a wound in the fiber of our nation that it's hard for me even to think about. But that's another editor's note.
Meantime, though, I am perfectly capable of being angry at both Clinton and at Bush for issues that have no need for comparison. I think partisan relativism, as I called it, simply clouds our judgment.
I also don't want to to recover from the horrors of the Bush administration (I pray that we do), and then later somehow apply the relativism to actions that aren't as bad. "Well, he shouldn't have lied about the reasons to invade Canada, but it's not as bad as the torture authorized during the Bush administration." See what I mean? Let's judge all of our elected representatives on their own merits, or lack thereof, without comparing to others we like better or worse.