The Clinton Crisis and the Double Standard for Presidents

By Whicker, Marcia Lynn | Presidential Studies Quarterly, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

The Clinton Crisis and the Double Standard for Presidents


Whicker, Marcia Lynn, Presidential Studies Quarterly


This article makes four points:

1. By demanding that politicians, and particularly presidents, be more traditionally moral in private behavior than either private sector leaders or average citizens, the American media has applied a double standard to presidents.

2. The presidential double standard undercuts the distinction between public and private life and support for the participatory concept of the citizen president.

3. In periods of rapid change in social norms, the double standard-driven gap in expectations for presidents and private sector leaders grows.

4. The changing role of the media has exacerbated the negative consequences of the presidential double standard for Clinton.

A double standard of more rigorous and traditional behavior is applied to politicians and particularly to presidents, compared to private sector leaders and average citizens. Several elements must be present for a double standard to exist. The population is separated into two separate and distinct groups: the powerful and preferred and the less powerful and less preferred. In the political double standard, the two distinct groups are private business leaders and public officials. Private business leaders are the powerful, preferred group. The values of capitalism--individualism, property, contracts, and profits--have been dominant in American culture since the founding of the nation and, indeed, are incorporated in the U.S. Constitution. Private business leaders, especially the economic elite heading up major corporations, decide what will be produced, how it will be produced, how much will be produced, how much it will cost, how many people will be employed, who will be employed, and what their wages will be.(1) They also retain the right to the accumulation of unlimited wealth.

Public officials are the less powerful, less preferred group. While governmental authority is broad sweeping in scope, it is fragmented among many levels of government and many officials, each with checks and balances on others so that no single official is individually all powerful. Political power is greatly constrained by constitutional and legal limitations as well as public opinion. The capacity of public officials and the institutions in which they operate to govern effectively is constantly questioned.(2) Clinton's capabilities and legacy are questioned repeatedly, for example, despite his ability to move social issues including the rights of gays, health reform now addressed as HMO reform, social security funding, and family leave to the national agenda; his successes in trade policy and in lowering the deficit from a high of $220 billion during the Reagan years toward balance; a booming economy; and comparatively smooth transition to a postcold war era.

The emphasis in American culture on private sector profits and the accumulation of wealth causes private business leaders to be esteemed and public officials to be devalued. Business leaders are assumed to be upstanding citizens; politicians are assumed to be crooks. Contributing to the development of a political double standard in earlier years were ethnic and social-class differences between the WASP patricians who managed major corporations and the newly arrived ethnic groups that used urban political machines as conduits to power and the protection of group members. Clinton represents to some extent this class difference. Raised mostly by a single mother whose second marriage was troubled, Clinton lacked the high social standing from birth other presidents, especially Bush and FDR, have enjoyed. Despite his early academic success and association with Georgetown and Yale Universities through achievement, he did not make money before entering politics at a very young age but rather relied on his wife to be the main breadwinner for the family. Clinton's lowly beginnings and lack of personal wealth have contributed to his double-standard stereotype.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Clinton Crisis and the Double Standard for Presidents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.