Hillary Clinton is coming on strong. Behind her are the political winds. (The establishment: Democrats in the Senate, Congress, state houses, even the White House — if rumors are to be believed.) These are folks who loved the 1990s so much that they want to return. And why not? What wasn’t to love about the first Clinton presidency with its soaring economy and that smart vibrant twosome in the White House? And its pretty blue dress.
Life was great when I was a kid. I spent summers in the lake and on my Schwinn Stingray. But I got sick when I was nine. Soon I couldn’t balance my bike beneath me. I was in a wheelchair by the time I was ten.
The illness I had was rare. Wasn’t under control. Multiple times, I almost died. I spent the next four years in and out of hospitals.
By the time middle school rolled around, my hospital stays were done, but I was unable to attend school (pre-ADA). So I stayed home. Days were long, boring, spent with an aged couple who “babysat” me while Mother and Daddy were at work. There was lots of TV.
At the age of sixteen, my parents bought a van with a lift. I could go places without them and started attending a youth group. Soon I was in college, had friends, enjoyed parties. I got to live. I had a life.
It’s been twenty-five years since college. And when I look back, I realize what a good life I’ve had. Swimming, biking, parents who loved me. Then came a world class university, incredible friends, experiences in the bigger world. Because of that, I rarely think about those long years I sat home alone. Or the four years in hospitals that preceded them. I recall very little of that. Like it never even happened.
It’s easy to remember the good to the exclusion of the bad. I think that’s how we survive, our species, because life is hard, often painful. And so I doubt we could make it without selective retention — nature’s benzodiazepine. But selective retention is a double-edged sword. Take, for example, the Clinton years.
It began with rumors of infidelity. Then came Ginnifer Flowers. Yet more rumors. Then Monica. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” Bill said. Kenneth Starr. A blue dress with the president’s semen on it. What the meaning of “is” is. And then impeachment.
In the end, William Jefferson Clinton won. His favorables remained high for years after. They’re still high. But we — you and I — we paid a price for that.
For those of you not old enough to appreciate the battles of the 1990s, I can tell you that they possessed every ounce of vitriol you’ve witnessed between the GOP Congress and President Obama. The fire was just as hot. But unlike Obama, Bill Clinton brought those battles on himself. His recklessness, his insatiable desire for pussy, his hubris, his manipulation of the facts and his threading of the needle of legality fueled division that costs us all. Yet he showed zero regret. The definition of narcissism.
Hillary was the facilitator of Bill’s conceit. From the start. On 60 Minutes, two days before the New Hampshire primary, she stared into the camera and lied for him. He hadn’t cheated, she said.
Someone once said that anyone who has the arrogance to think they can run the world will believe they can get away with anything. That stayed with me. Because it’s true. Bill Clinton was the poster child for that arrogance.
Most of us who witnessed Hillary handle her husband’s cheating with Monica respected her skill and her grace. Some women condemned her for not brushing him aside, for not standing up for young women by showing them they had more value than to be cheated on by a man, repeatedly, in public, with no remorse. But Hillary implied through secondary channels (if she didn’t out right say it) that her faith got her through. And while she had said before Bill’s election that she wasn’t a “stand by her man” woman, mocking an old country song that was well-worth mocking, that was exactly who she was. For better or worse. From devotion or ambition.
Hillary ran for Senate in 2000. It was suspected at the time that the Clintons bought their house in New York for the sole purpose of her running, that their move was arranged to coincide with the Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Moynihan. Few disputed that, even among her supporters, as Hillary was young and had goals of her own. Some even speculated that her devotion to Bill had been political expediency directed toward those goals. That it wasn’t love at all. Or not only love. With her run for the Senate came talk of her return to the White House. As president. And we all wondered if she would take philandering Bill with her or leave him in a ditch along the way. Heated speculation: Would his above par political skills make up for his subpar character?
Hillary was described during her time in the Senate as a team player. Her Republican colleagues liked her. Respected her. Worked beside her. Yet she accomplished little: Renamed a US Post Office and renamed a highway. No legislation otherwise bears her name. But she did place one high profile vote. For the Iraq War.
To this day, no one knows if Hillary’s Iraq War vote reflected her true sentiment, or if it was merely to frame her with the necessary toughness a woman would need if she ran for president. Either way, the Iraq War was in part hers. She gave Bush that permission. And she was wise enough to have known that he would use it to invade; if we knew, and we did, then it by no means got past her. So that war is on her shoulders. It was her move.
Hillary Clinton is now running for the nation’s top job. Odds are, she will get the Democratic nomination. She stands a decent shot of becoming the next President of the United States.
From the start, I have been leery of Hillary. I’m male, and have been told online — where I tweet often — that I’m a misogynist, afraid of powerful women, don’t see the need for a woman to break through the glass ceiling. Untrue. I was raised by a strong woman, an independent woman, a woman who believes women can do anything a man can do. It’s a belief she passed on to me. (And if Hillary’s disapproval was based merely on misogyny, then college-aged women would have risen up first for Hillary not Bernie Sanders.) Still, like I said, I’m leery of Hillary. I was in 2008, as well. So this go round I’ve been for Bernie.
I differentiate Hillary and Bernie this way: Listen to Bernie, you hear conviction; listen to Hillary, you hear ambition. Ambition concerns me. It has always concerned me. Ambition is about “me” while conviction is about things greater than “me.” That’s why I enthusiastically support Bernie Sanders. And that’s why I will continue to support him despite what appears to be an inevitable loss.
As my candidate struggles against his opponent’s powerful political machine, I will conclude with this:
What we remember of the 1990s is not what happened in the 1990s. It is a memory. Nothing more. And memory, for our very survival, glosses over some very bad things. In this case, for many who support Hillary, it has whitewashed scandals that ate at us for almost eight years and the laws that were slipped by us with Bill Clinton’s calm cool reassurance (the same smooth demeanor he used on Ginnifer, Monica and the others before and since, no doubt) when he told us that what we were doing was right and good, while it was neither. Those laws instead:
- Incarcerated hundreds of thousands of non-violent men;
- Threw the poor, the weakest of the weak, onto the streets;
- Redirected the Democratic Party’s focus from working men and women toward Wall Street and major financial contributors, the same powers that bankroll the GOP;
- Through NAFTA closed tens of thousands of American factories and left millions of hard working blue collar men and women unemployed;
- Gave bankers the power they needed to consolidate despite warnings from history and much wiser people that it could bring down the economy, which it did in 2008.
Hillary Clinton comes from a dark spot in American history, one she helped create. No matter how much she denies the bad from that time, or embraces the good, from that forgotten place has returned a deeply flawed couple whom together — “you get two for the price of one,” Bill told us — enacted laws that destroyed the lives of millions of Americans in order to advance one family’s legacy.
Do we really want to go back there?