Why do some people despise Bill Clinton? Interesting question, actually. I speak as a far right-winger who considers Bill Clinton a slimy, lying sack of manure… but who also finds him a charming, witty, likeable guy, and who would probably find Clinton a lot of fun as a dinner guest.
As I’ve said on these boards many times, when we like or dislike a politician, we usually have very good, rational reasons. But when we LOVE or LOATHE a politician, our reasons are usually ridiculous and irrational. They have less to do with what a politician has DONE than they do with what he “stands for” and for the way he makes us feel.
Examples abound! John F. Kennedy did absolutely NOTHING to further the cause of civil rights for black Americans (we now know that he used the “N” word regularly, and gladly signed agreements that he’d never sell his house to blacks or Jews). Lyndon Johnson did EVERYTHING imaginable to improve civil rights for black Americans. But which President do black Americans love and venerate? (Hint: His initials aren’t LBJ.)
Ronald Reagan promised the moon to the Religious Right, but delivered NOTHING! He never made any serious attempt to abolish abortion (indeed, two of his three Supreme Court appointments are solidly pro-abortion), to restore school prayer, to cut federal spending, to abolish the Department of Education, etc. On the whole, George Bush’s record in office was at least as conservative as that of Reagan. But which President did the Religious Right worship, and which one did they scorn?
If people LOVE Presidents for silly, irrational reasons, they HATE them for silly reasons, too. Richard Nixon was an extremely liberal President! Price controls, the EPA, the largest peacetime expansion of the federal government in history, the legalization of abortion (by Harry Blackmun, a Nixon appointee)… all in all, liberals should LOVE Nixon, and conservatives should revile him. In fact, liberals were always disgusted by Nixon. COnservatives embraced him ONLY because they figured anyone the liberals hated THAT much couldn’t be all bad. (They were wrong!)
Now… Bill Clinton is an utterly immoral, unprincipled individual. But that’s not why so many conservatives LOATHE him! They LOATHE him for the same reason that the wacko left-wingers of Hollywood LOVE him: because of what he “stands for.” Bill Clinton “stands for” the Baby Boomers! Bill Clinton “stands for” the Sixties!
So, to millions of people, it doesn’t matter that Bill Clinton has been, in many ways, a fairly conservative President. He’s a Baby Boomer, he used to have long hair, he used to smoke pot! To hard-line conservatives AND left-wing loonies alike, that makes Bill Clinton the perfect symbol of the counterculture.
So, people who idealize the Sixties, who thought the Age of Aquarius was an idyllic time that could have ushered in peace, free love, and racial brotherhood… Bill Clinton is a god! (Never mind that he’s only shown half-hearted commitment to the left-wing agenda, and has chickened out whenever his more “progressive” prposals met the slightest resistance.)
And to people who HATED the Sixties, who think the Sixties were an evil hedonistic era that saw Christian values and traditional values denigrated… Bill Clinton (the pot smoking draft dodger) represents pure evil! (Never mind that, as President, he’s continued to wage the war on drugs, and has been something of a hawk on foreign policy).
All in all, CLinton’s admirers and haters BOTH miss the point, and BOTH take him too seriously.