This makes Clinton only slightly less popular in Russia than among this country's media elite. The media's wildly counterfactual insistence that Clinton is the most popular man since John Lennon merits investigation. Whenever a Democrat loses, the mainstream media invariably start spouting bizarre theories about why the election really turned on something other than the unpopularity of Democratic ideas: The candidate was an imperfect messenger for the happy, upbeat message of socialism, class warfare and atheism; or the Republican candidate had some supernatural capacity to entrance gullible voters; or the American people have lost their minds and are throwing a temper tantrum by rejecting the idea of behemoth government.
But this time the left doesn't even need any fancy theories. There's a perfectly good excuse for an incumbent vice president to become a historical first by losing a presidential election during peacetime in the midst of a booming economy: It was sitting with its legs spread on the cover of Esquire magazine a couple months ago. It was the first elected president ever impeached, to say nothing of being the first president to have his capacity to sexually arouse an intern described in unseemly detail to Barbara Walters on national TV.
So you might think the left would jump on Clinton, an impeached, dishonored president, as the explanation of why Gore lost an election that the economy indicated should have been his in a cakewalk.
But they haven't. The left loves Clinton and the worst he stands for even more than they love high taxes and failed government programs. It is now accepted as hard fact by the press that Gore made a fatal error in not making Clinton front and center of his campaign.
Without irony (or evidence), New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called Clinton "the most popular and articulate leader in the world." (But see the American people when they're allowed to cast their own votes.) Dowd conjured up a pop-up bubble over Clinton's head during the presidential debates, with Clinton thinking: "Give me a shot at Bush. I can take him."
In another peevish explanation for Al Gore's impending loss just before Election Day, Joan Didion explained in the New York Review of Books that "the Democrats have fallen into the same 'fatal eddy' that the Republicans did in '98 -- buying into the Washington establishment's still completely unproven conviction that you can win elections running as moral paragons against Bill Clinton's sins."
The only "still unproven conviction" here is the lunatic delusion that the "American people" adored Bill Clinton -- and adored him most of all for his "sins."
It is somewhat easier to spout out about the convictions of the 280 million-odd "American people" when there is no conceivable method of testing the theory. If we didn't have presidential elections every four years to provide some hard data, the media would be contending that the opinions of the "American people" hover in the range of Barbra Streisand's political views.
One ideal method of testing the Didion theory would posit two Democratic candidates, both linked with Clinton, both running for public office and both -- for control purposes -- the same election year, in the same state. One candidate would allow Clinton to campaign for her, and the other would do everything in his power to disassociate himself from the president.
As luck would have it, that's exactly what happened in New York state this year. Hapless, wooden Al Gore -- who lost in America -- wouldn't let President Clinton near him throughout the campaign and won New York state handily. (Of all the states Hillary has never lived in, there's a reason she choose New York to run for office.)
Meanwhile, Hillary brought in Mr. Popularity to campaign for her and she won narrowly against a political unknown. A lot of split votes out there. If Clinton is such a beloved icon, how come Hillary was almost walloped in New York, while Al took it in a walk?
Gore got more votes than Bill Clinton ever did, and he lost Arkansas, Mr. Popularity's home state.
It is really rather amazing that when the left is given a choice of attributing Al Gore's historic loss either to the unpopularity of Democratic ideas or to a pervert like Bill Clinton, it's Clinton they decide to save. If liberals aren't on Larry Flynt's payroll, they're being cheated.