Monday, August 11, 2003

Time off?: There's golf to play, man. Finally getting something important accomplished, I say. As for Gitlin's article, I have only a few things to say. I haven't read, and don't plan on reading, Living History by HRC. Blumenthal's Clinton Years holds slightly more interest, but I haven't gotten to it, either. I think, therefore, that I'll leave the heavy lifting to someone else (I bet someone else out there is already working up a good retort). I don't pretend to be an expert on the issue, mainly because I was in college for most of those years trying to remember why I voted for Clinton in '92. But I do have a few picky points to make.

I'm always put off when people complain about "Clinton Hating" Republicans. Our political class has, as far as I know, always viewed their business as a zero-sum game. For me to win, you must lose. This leads to some nasty politics, but it's far from one-sided. To Gitlin and those who speak like him, Clinton-hating was the worst of demagoguery, fueled by Rush and his minions taking their cues from Gingrich & co. while Bush haters (I meet them every day and they're more bitter and cruel than any dittohead I know) are always principled and wise, taking great risk by speaking out against the Hitler of our time. The Democrats, to me, have approached Bush's entire term with a "now let's see how you like it" childishness which, while not surprising, sets Gitlins's examination of "...Clinton-hatred, its motives, sources and channels." in an unflattering light.

Gitlin also wonders why the American public was so obsessed with the petty Clinton scandals, including "filegate" and "travelagate." The reason was that, though they may have been small issues in one sense, the Clinton administration always made them bigger with their over the top denials. The public loves a showdown and that's what Bill and Hillary always gave them. Instead of letting the matter sift itself out, they kept it front page news by accusing Republicans of a witch hunt. Just the way to get the public's attention.

Now Gitlin is also upset that Hillary's book has been hammered by critics, right wing media types all of them. The only people impressed with this book were Barbara Walters and, apparently, Gitlin. And the worst criticism I heard was "boring," hardly the language of right wing vengefullness. Mostly, the public was disappointed that she revealed no juicy details, no thrown frying pans in her husband's direction. This is probably because there were no scenes like that, since Hillary couldn't have been naive enough (though Gitlin describes her just so) to think Bill wasn't getting seviced by someone. She dealt with it as whe always has, by seeing the political fault lines and getting ahead of the curve. She couldn't leave him, but couldn't defend his conduct. So she attacked his attackers and sold the controversy as more obsessive behavior by the right. But this kind of poltical manuevering doesn't make for good copy, not when she's still playing the, if not devoted wife, at least, loyal partner. The public said, "Pfffft, we already heard this one."

Gitlin goes on to complain about a Republican party that was, and still is, in the control of law firms, conservative foundations, and the religious right, not to mention a mainstream media that has been thoroughly cowed by the Bush administration. Come on, they were scared of Ari? Afraid W.'s quick tongue was going to strike them down if they asked a tough question? If the media has been soft, it's because they, and the public, were willing to forgive and ignore a lot in the wake of 9/11. In the aftermath of the attack, Bush was at his best; commanding presence, voice of authority and comfort. The shine wore off pretty quickly, for sure, and there was plenty of media criticism during the year long "rush to war." And there's been more since, some of it justified, some silly (sixteen words that noone remembered or used to sell the war).

The right took advantage of some major presidential foibles and rode them into control of Congress and The White House. Gitlin has good reason to be pissed; nobody like to lose, after all. But he sounds mostly bitter that nobody's picking on W. Well Todd, as soon as George takes up cigar smoking in the Oval Office, you can hire your own independent counsel and get to work.

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