As people go, Americans are incredibly uptight. We’re puritans and naive. We don’t want to hear bad words on TV or, God forbid, see a stray nipple. We want our politicians to be moral leaders, good Christians, good family men, and corruption free. Before the presidency became a reality show, Americans (and the press) simply ignored their presidents’ personal lives and pecadillos. Call it willful blindness if you like, but nobody was looking. Then came Nixon and Gary Hart and then . . . Bill Clinton.
Bill Clinton seemed to have been born for scandal and scandal mongers — what the Clintons called the “vast right wing conspiracy” and “politics of personal destruction”. Although the Clintons bred the 90s culture war and Clinton-hate was probably a central factor in the development of the Christian right (aka the “Moral Majority”), Bill Clinton did play an incredibly important role in positively changing American innocence and how the country viewed its president on a “human” level.
Clinton’s legacy was giving Americans a long needed “chill pill”. Clinton’s spin team turned a serious allegation of legal and presidential misconduct and turned it into a Republican witch hunt. Americans foregave their president’s pecadillos and personal life. You could make mistakes, have a past, be bit of a Bubba, as long as you got the job done. With Bill Clinton, we learned to be a little less uptight. Heck, we ended up voting for George W. Bush.
The press overlooked George W. Bush’s past drug use, and no one claimed that he couldn’t become a president for being an alcoholic. Unlike Bill Clinton’s “I smoked but never inhaled”, politicians can now admit to having pasts and having grown up without resorting hairsplitting justifications. Obama admitted it flat out — “I inhaled; that was the point”.
Americans have learned to move beyond the politics of personal destruction on so many different levels. After Bill Clinton, we now look at the professional history of the candidate and not the adolecent past. What always disturbed me the most about the entire Lewinsky scandal was that, like the “I didn’t inhale”, Bill was unable to just speak the truth. It was as if he were ashamed of himself. He complained about the “personal destruction” but played by the rules of hiding from “personal destruction”.
It’s ironic that after all of that the Clintons lived through and learned in the 90s, they now tried to play “politics of personal destruction” with Obama’s past drug use. Of course, they failed, and they failed for two reasons: (i) the Clinton legacy meant that past drug use wasn’t dispositive anymore, and (ii) Obama had already come forward and directly admitted to his past. That sounds like Clinton’s second legacy — Americans want straight talkers, not “depends on what your definition of is is” half-talkers.
Americans don’t want to be talked down to. They don’t want Bill Clinton to say “I didn’t say anything factually inaccurate” when everyone knows he was talking trash. We may be dumb, Bill, but we ain’t George W. Bush stupid!
And the tragic irony of it all is that almost a decade later, the Clintons are completely incapable of enjoying their own legacy. Hillary has an incredibly cautious voting record and is obsessed with controlling each and every word that comes out of her mouth. They continue to focus group and measure everything, and as a result are boring, artificial, and cold. Just as Bill tried to be a bold president but was too afraid to say “yes, I inhaled”, Hillary continues to lack the audacity to simply be herself. Instead they are “unreal”.
The tragic irony here is that the only one on her campaign trail that is out there being himself is Bill. The word on the street is that he is rusty and has lost his political savvy. Now that is truly ironic. Bill is talking and talking and talking, and has finally forgotten his manners and focus groups. The result is that the more he talks, the more Hillary loses. The more Bill is himself, the more we dislike him.
The lesson that Hillary should have learned from S.C. was to drop the loser. Although it is not brought up in the press or in the popular media (and I don’t believe that it is any secret), the Clintons really do not have a marriage in any sense other than the political one. Since the end of his presidency, Bill has often appeared in social settings with his girlfriend of the moment. His girlfriend at the time was even present together with Hillary at the inauguration of his presidential library.
(I know this because I know people who are on personal terms with the Clintons).
So while the press may have learned from Clinton’s legacy to ignore his personal life as it has no bearning on his politics, why hasn’t Hillary dumped the fool? Why hasn’t she decided to stand on her own feet? I wrote two posts on this last year. In the first one, I explained how the Clintons had sold out the feminist cause (also one of their legacies). In the second one, I discusss an interesting Washington Post article by Pamela Druckerman called “Our Ready Embrace of those Cheating Pols“,
The most interesting argument in her article about why Americans have become more demanding of their spouses and presidents’ sex lives is due to the fact that women are more economically independent from their husbands. Thus, women are simply no longer willing to stay in cheating relationships, especially because they no longer have to. Thus, what appears to be prudish and uptight to Europeans is actually a sign of a more egalitarian society, at least in terms of women’s issues.
Divorse isn’t a political disqualifier anymore. I belive that almost every Republican in the primaries, save Romney, had been married at least seven times, so what is she so afraid of? Americans would even appreciate and respect her more if she did in fact leave him. Women definitely would.
Whenever I hear them out there on their warpath, I wonder whether anyone has told them that the 90s are over and that we’re living in a totally new decade. Furthermore, why don’t the two of them, after having paved the way towards a new politican era, start speaking more freely, honestly, and directly? As it stands, Billary seems like someone who has discovered the absolute cure for a highly addictive narcotic but continues to use the drug anyways.