The New Puritans
Rothschild, Matthew, The Progressive
I've long wondered why so many people on the right hate Bill Clinton so much. After all, he has advocated Republican-style policies on many fronts. Domestically, he's abolished welfare, expanded the use of capital punishment, and endorsed a balanced budget through deep cuts in social programs while maintaining a bloated Pentagon. On foreign policy, he went to the mat for NAFTA, rammed through the expansion of NATO, refused to sign the treaties abolishing land mines and establishing a world court, lobbied for the arms companies, and bombed Iraq, the Sudan, and Afghanistan.
So where's the rub? It's not about economic policy. It's not about foreign policy. It's not even about punishing the poor or making life miserable for prisoners.
No, the rub is on social mores. Whereas a past generation of Republicans saw FDR as the Antichrist for his economic program, a new generation of Republicans sees Bill Clinton as the Antichrist for his social attitudes. Bill Clinton is a stand-in for all that the right wing still hates about the 1960s.
As Linda S. Kauffman argues in Bad Girls and Sick Boys, "Bill Clinton's connection to the 1960s explains why his detractors are so vehement. Gary W. Aldrich's Unlimited Access: An F.B.I. Agent Inside the Clinton White House is a case in point.... He objects to White House staffers who wear black, or short skirts, peasant blouses, loud ties, and earth shoes. He criticizes Hillary Rodham Clinton for favoring `tough, minority, and lesbian women, as well as weak, minority, and gay men.'"
"The sun is setting on the last son of the sixties," Senator John Ashcroft, Republican of Missouri and a putative Presidential candidate, told the Christian Coalition to great applause in September.
Why does Clinton embody the sixties? Because he didn't fight in Vietnam, he supports abortion and women's rights, he's comfortable around African Americans, he's comfortable around gays and lesbians, and he enjoys oral sex--which is still outlawed in twenty-one states, as Barbara Ehrenreich noted last month.
As a faithful right-winger, Ken Starr set out to prove not only that Bill Clinton was a perjurer, but that he was a pervert, too. After reading the Starr Report, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, reportedly said that the acts Clinton and Lewinsky engaged in are not things that a husband and wife would do.
The new Puritans would tar and feather Clinton. Since November 1992, they have gnashed their teeth that this creature of the sixties is ruling the country, and they will do almost anything to smear him. …