Column: A maligned presidency

There has been a lot of griping lately from supporters of President George W. Bush about the alleged hatred that his political opponents have for him. This has come up in The Hatchet, in the public press and on CNN’s “Crossfire.” The president’s sympathizers have even used the term “pathological” to describe what they see as unprecedented and vitriolic hatred of Bush. Some of the president’s strongest critics have been proclaiming loudly and proudly that they “hate” him, thus seeming to confirm his supporters’ claims.

These self-proclaimed “Bush-haters” and those who purport to call them on it all seem to have very short memories. President Bush has been criticized, often in very harsh terms, for his conduct of the war on terror, for his policy in Iraq and for his stewardship, or rather lack thereof, of the economy. None of this, however, comes anywhere close to the real hatred to which former President Bill Clinton was subjected during his eight years in the White House.

President Clinton was not only accused of seemingly every criminal and civil offence imaginable, but his enemies actually tried to make some of those charges stick through the judicial process. Nasty allegations have been with us since the election of 1796, but no president was ever subject to the amount and intensity of congressional and court proceedings as was Bill Clinton. President Clinton was accused of drug smuggling, sexual assault, rape, drug using and yes, even conspiracy to commit murder, in the case of Vince Foster. No opponent of President Bush has ever gone that far with such obviously baseless allegations. Mrs. Clinton was absolutely correct about the “vast right-wing conspiracy” determined to bring her and her husband down. Rep. Dan Burton (R – Ind.) once condoned the use of the term “scumbag” to describe Clinton, underscoring the lack of respect shown to the office. Larry Clayman’s Judicial Watch found an excuse a month, it seemed, to sue the president for one thing or another. Much of the resources for these activities came from the moneybags of the Clinton-hating cottage industry, Richard Mellon Scaife, who has absolutely no Bush-hating counterpart. I highly recommend “The Hunting of the President” by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons to anyone interested in learning more about this absolutely shameful effort.

Of course, the culmination of years of Clinton-hating was his ill-conceived impeachment and trial, which some people were salivating to see through to removal. While some may have believed the charges themselves were accurate and warranted impeachment, for many it was simply a matter of finally having an excuse. The American people, to their great credit, supported the president against this politically motivated charade, but even afterward, new allegations surfaced, proving that these people would not quit.

The current president ran for office vowing to restore honor and dignity to the White House, assuming incorrectly that dignity had been sullied by his predecessor. President Clinton was not the least bit responsible for his infidelities becoming public. The blame for that lies squarely with his enemies, who insisted on asking questions about his private life that never should have been asked. They are the ones who brought down the office of the presidency because they could not stand the fact that Clinton won twice.

We Democrats have our grievances, to be sure. We are critical of President Bush’s policies and resent that he is a president who won without the popular vote because of the Florida debacle. We tend, however, to reserve our griping for partisan gatherings, whereas I suspect if Al Gore had been awarded Florida, and thus the presidency, not a day would go by without the conservatives ranting loudly and publicly about his “illegitimacy.” Conservatives, in my experience, seem less tolerant of opposing views and less tolerant of losing. Given these grievances, Democrats have proposals for anyone willing to listen. President Bush’s supporters claim that Democrats have no plans of their own, but they clearly are not listening. There are policy outlines within those critiques that provide a clear, positive agenda for America. We will continue to fight for our agenda and vigorously campaign, but we will not level baseless charges. We will also accept, as loyal citizens, the outcome of the 2004 election, even if Bush actually wins the election this time.

-The writer is a graduate student in the School of Political Management.

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