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June 12, 2005

More on Clinton Hating

In response to yesterday's post on Clinton hatred, Tim Lee writes in with a possible explanation:

Clinton hatred started during the campaign. By the end of 1992, it was clear that Clinton was a draft dodging, pot smoking, womanizing, shameless liar. To conservatives, this a big deal, and Clinton made no particular attempt to hide or apologize for it. Now, liberals rightly point out that Bush is a draft dodging, coke-consuming liar as well. And they're right.

However, that misunderstands the basis of conservative hatred. Conservatives aren't so much reacting to Clinton's specific actions as to the picture they believe it paints about his character. Bush has sold himself as a born-again Christian and a devout family man. Most of his indiscretions took place before he found Jesus and stopped drinking. Clinton's frequent bimbo eruptions and his smug non-denials of past misbehavior, in contrast, painted him as a self-indulgent, unrepentant child of the sixties.

The rest of Lee's post is a good example of the Clinton years seen through the eyes of a Clinton-hater.  Interesting.  Moreover, I think Lee gets at something important: Bush repented for the 60's, Clinton did not.  Put another way, Bush sold out Boomer ethics in his 40's, Clinton never did.  I guess the next logical question is why, exactly, conservatives hate Boomers so much, particularly when so many among them philander, divorce, and booze it up, but this strikes me as a good start.

June 12, 2005 | Permalink

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There's another aspect to it, and it's one of Bush's perception of his place in the world. There's one thing Bush never "repented" for, and it was his sense of entitlement and awareness that he didn't have to work for anything. One of the 60s "boomer" phenomena was a large number of young people from the "great unwashed" of the newly-minted middle classes who were attending top universities, becoming knowledgeable, working hard becoming professionals, and "making it" on their own terms (while also boozing it up and partying). One of the differences between, say, Howard Dean and George W. Bush was that Dean realized that the age of entitlement was over, so he worked hard, went to med school, and became a doctor. Ditto for kerry who went into the military, became a lawyer, and worked his way up the ranks of his state's political machine. Bush, on the other hand, seemed to have resented this plebian "striving," and the bulk of Bush's opposition comes from a class of liberals who spent their younger years striving to break into schools or professions that weren't easily available to them, and the mere existence of Bush's "amiable laziness" in which he gets rewarded simply for showing up is rather offensive.

I'm not making this statement about things like family wealth or social class-- more of a professional outlook on life. If Jonah Goldberg had decided to break into the world of medicine or science, rather than getting a writing gig via his mother, I'm sure his take on Bush would be much different than it is now.

Posted by: Constantine | Jun 12, 2005 4:57:26 PM

In line with Constantine, I'd say it too: Bush never repented for the sins of the sixties; rather, he represents the mirror image to the left of what Clinton does to the right. That is, he is the boomer who thinks that by finding Jesus, or giving up booze (or pills or coke or what have you), that he has a free pass to go on being exactly what he was to begin with. Clinton actually has this too, it's just that the Right is so convinced he's a liar, they miss the nuance. I think Clinton is genuninely sorry and trying tgo be a better man; does nothing for the fact that he was probably pretty inappropraite with a number of women. And however nice it is that Bush stopped being a drunken bore with a coke habit, he's still sanctimonious and judgemental and not especially inclined to deeply consider thoughts and ideas outside of his worldview.

I think the dirty secret is almost everyone BUT a Boomer hates boomers, and within the boomer generation there's plenty of self-loathing for one group or another. They are too much, too many, and too inclined to see their history (their own, their generation's) as the solely relevant historical artifact to judge the rest. I don't think Jonah, a Gen-Xer, comes at it in quite the same way; rather, he has the snarky, sardonic take of the kids who saw too much and grew up to soon. Whatever his sense of entitlement, and however mistaken his views, he's just less likely to see himself as more than himself - that is, not the symbol of his generation or history or what have you (the best example of this fatuousness, I think, is Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone). That special gift seems to be reserved for the me generation, who still, even in recovery (or coming out, both of which they also think they invented), remind you that it's them, them, them. And don't forget, that will include Hillary as well.

Posted by: weboy | Jun 12, 2005 5:29:50 PM

The idea that people who are 'boomers' are somehow all similar to each other is bullshit. It's like believing in astrology. What birth years qualify a person to be a boomer? How large a time period is encompassed?

People born at or near the same time do not all have the same experiences, and those that have the same experiences don't all react the same way. This seemingly obvious statement is thrown aside every time idiotic terms like 'boomer' or 'Gen-X' are used to describe people, politics or culture. The people using these terms are not describing or revealing anything, they are bundling ideas, not people. And they are bundling them in order to manipulate, dismiss or tell a lie.

Posted by: James E. Powell | Jun 12, 2005 6:34:53 PM

Demography is a perfectly valid approach to grouping individuals into similar subsets. People born within a certain period of time to one another do share a set of similar social and cultural experiences. One shouldn't necessarily overgeneralize, but the notion that children born during the post World War II Baby Boom (1946-1962, I believe, there's a point where the number of births starts to drop) are an identifiable group distinct from both the groups before them (the "Silent" generation, or the Depression babies; as well as their parents, the generation that generally fought in World War II) and the group after them (named Generation X, certainly not with my assent), is pretty solidly established. Take that up with demographers if you disagree. I know I find more in common with people in my age cohort (35, maybe even a little younger, to their early forties), then I do with those 10 or so years older than me. And I know it too, from my profession (Marketing), which is all about identifying groups with shared common interests and points of identification.

I admit I do tend to rip boomers solely out of generational animus, but the worst offenders in that boomer subset make demography into destiny far more than I ever could; even then I wouldn't necessarily ascribe every insight as manipulative or false. The fact remains, Clinton and Bush will be, in some measure, the representatives of the Postwar Baby Boom, and their lives viewed through that prism (among others) as to how they represent their cohort - or don't. Much, for instance, has been made of the Silent Generation's never having produced one of their own to be President we skipped from the Worl War II ("Greatest") Generation right to the Boomers. It is something to consider (although, interestingly, from Jackie Kennedy to Nancy Reagan, the First Ladies do come from the Depression era, the effect of women often marrying older men). And I think it does offer insights with some value.

Posted by: weboy | Jun 12, 2005 10:34:57 PM

Clinton and Bush represent the split of the Boomer generation, a generation of idealists. The idealists want the society to follow their values. We're split down the middle between those whose values are conservative and those whose values are liberal.

The problem is the people who try to take that values split and manipulate it to line their own pockets. They don't really care about values at all, just use those idealistic values as cover for getting away with as much cash as possible while we boomers fight it out. One day we'll notice that the money all disaapeared while we were busy arguing with each other....

Posted by: donna | Jun 12, 2005 11:58:20 PM

That the distinctions between 'boomers' and other arbitrary groupings of people are widely used and commonly referred to doesn't mean that the validity or usefulness of such distinctions are 'pretty solidly established.'

Posted by: James E. Powell | Jun 13, 2005 2:23:17 AM

As a "boomer" who lived in the '60s, I can tell you that my HS graduating class ('66) consisted of progressive anti-war anti-segregation types (moi), capitalists who became conservative doctors and lawyers, dunces who became, well, adult dunces, in short, a cross section of types.

Clinton is of my group, who while having human flaws, felt a sense of destiny, that we were witnessing a profound change in the world, and that it was our duty to carry the change forward, in other words, not just grow into the world, but make it a better place. For younger types like weboy, who feel annoyed by boomers like me, tough shit, spanky. My generation, along with Mark Felt, brought down Nixon, stopped Viet Nam, marched on Washington, and worked for MLK day.

Bush and his lovers are of a type. They are those of my generation who were CONSERVATIVE, who thought status quo was fine, especially if it didn;t inconvenience them, and felt that, as children of wealth or just status quo, that entitled them to everything. And people like me who marched, went to love-ins at Griffith Park and smoked reefer while listening to groovy music, were hated by our conservative contemporaries.

They were unconcerned by doings at Selma, Memphis, and My Lai. They were unconcerned by Reagan's treatment of Chavez here in California. They were unconcerned with black and poor kids dying in Southeast Asia.

The only thing that concerned them was: "How does this affect me?" Rich, poor, or middle class, the conservatives of the time, including the delusional youth who supported Goldwater, cared about their own chances, their own college entrance exams, their own asses. And little else.

Clinton has no need to repent of his '60s sins, and neither do I or anyone who found their way to progressive ideals. Bush supporters who are angry about the '60s are much like Jesse Helms in his latest written revealing as the prototypical Dixiecrat. They yearn for a past that was hateful, toxic, and disgusting. Black folks were mistreated, women were kept "in their place," and capitalists could move unfettered through the American landscape.

What kills me about conservatives is that even those who are relatively poor or middle class still don't get it. Their ideoligical masters (Strauss, et al) don't give a crap about you. The only people who give a crap about you and your position in society are progressives. How's that health care working for you? What are you going to do for income when your retirement plan fails and Soc. Sec. is dismantled? Don't you get it? You are cannon fodder, soylent green, fertilizer for the Wall Street reading elite.

Clinton has apologized for putting his dick where it didn't belong. Bush should apologize for breathing my air. But he's "saved" so it's all OK. Well, save this.

Posted by: Stephen Anderson | Jun 13, 2005 4:19:59 AM

Ezra,

You give them WAY too much credit. The right hates Clinton because they're hateful people. The right
wing doesn't even really care much about conservative/libeterian political thinking as much as
they use it occasionally as an excuse for their emotional dispositions.

Pick up a copy of David Brock's "Blinded by the Right" or Greg Palast's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy".
Brock demonstrates the extent of their hatred for liberals and just how out of the mainstream these people are.

Palast will show you that the people don't believe in capitalism as much as they do cronyism and giveaways for their buddies. They're motivated by greed & their
only real ideology is aristocracy.

It's like trying to find out the root cause of racism, basically - some people just aren't raised properly and they end up being real assholes.

Bill & Hillary have always had their conservative roots. Remember, Hillary was a Goldwater Girl. None of this matters. Not one bit to them.

Posted by: Joe Loserman | Jun 13, 2005 8:46:23 AM

Weboy, you wrote, "I think the dirty secret is almost everyone BUT a Boomer hates boomers, and within the boomer generation there's plenty of self-loathing for one group or another."

That is off topic and mean. Besides, we lowered the drinking age to 18 for us boomers but when we all became 21, we raised it back up to 21. So boomers do have some political clout.

I hope Hillary gets the nomination. Hannity says it will make for great radio and I agree. She did say that people in my profession (it is improper to mention here), "..will be able to find another line of work." She didn't win that one but she has other good ideas. I mean look at the important legislation she is known for in the Senate.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Jun 13, 2005 9:33:40 AM

'Smug'? Actually, that word gives away the pompous snobbery of so many Clinton-haters. They just can't cope with the idea of President Bubba Boomer, as much as they claim to appeal to the bubbas.

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