A reader writes:
Now don't get me wrong; I don't like Hillary Clinton for a lot of reasons. But, to characterize her as a "paranoid, polarizing co-president" is going too far. Perhaps it is you who are suffering from amnesia.
When Bill Clinton was elected, I remember discussing the election with members of a Texas branch of my family closely tied to James Baker and 41. They, and their exalted friends, were all genuinely outraged and incensed that this counter jumper, this political charlatan had flim-flammed the presidency away from George H. W. Bush who had EARNED the right to second term. I heard repeatedly words to the effect of "we wish him joy of his presidency, but we will do everything possible to make him regret his victory." The Clintons were under attack even before the inauguration. And they remained under attack for eight years. The conservative press served as cheerleaders, reported rumor as fact and inflamed against the Clintons rhetoric of a violence and viciousness that I thought America had foresworn a century earlier. It isn't paranoia when someone really is out to get you.
As for polarization, I don't want to play "who started it", but let's face it, the Republican strategy of divide and conquer was not invented in 2000. Grover Norquist, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell, Phyllis Shafley and many other Republican apparachiks had been poisoning the well for years before Clinton ever launched a national campaign.
Yes, I remember. I was an unillusioned Clinton supporter in 1991 and 1992. As editor of
The New Republic, I helped guide the magazine toward an
endorsement of the guy. Heck, I edited Sid Blumenthal's coverage of the campaign and wrote the editorial that endorsed him. And I absolutely
understand that the hard right was out to get them regardless. That
remains the greater failing, I'd say. And I gave the hard right hell in the Clinton years, and opposed convicting Clinton in the impeachment. But to argue that the Clintons
were innocents - or didn't give their enemies enormous and needless ammunition - is
far from the truth. Read Bernstein's book. Or "Primary Colors" again.
I witnessed the following eight years close-up. I was lied to repeatedly, as all of us were. (For a brief reprise, Hitch's book, "No One Left To Lie To" is helpful.) The lies were not as bad as Bush's - WMDs and torture. But the stakes were much lower. The arrogance and condescension of the healthcare debacle were revealing of a classically bad left-liberal mindset on Senator Clinton's part. She knows best; she always has; everyone else is part of the VRWC. (You just saw a flash of that in Iowa - but her main lesson of the last eight years has been not to change but to better disguise who she is. MoDo, who also endured those eight years, has her number today.) Watching the Clintons pivot off homophobia - while pretending to be civil rights pioneers - really sickened me (although not as much as the gay establishment symps who rolled over and begged for more. They're still at it, of course). Then the wagon-circling over the sexual harassment suits; the firing of the Travel Office staff; the dissembling over legal records; the smearing of enemies; the enabling of preventable genocide in Bosnia ... maybe being forced to cover them day after day made me swear off the Clintons for good. Or maybe watching them close-up gave me a false perspective and we should just chill and let them take over the government again. But I would be remiss if I didn't write that the idea of restoring the two of them for two more terms on top of the two they have already had fills me with dread.