WASHINGTON -- In dipping into Daniel Halper's interesting new book about the Clintons' return from the grave that they had dug for themselves during their White House years (from an approval rating of 66 percent after his impeachment, he plummeted to 39 percent upon leaving the White House to a chorus of pardon-induced Bronx cheers), a thought occurs: We have been reading these exposes about the malfeasance of the most corrupt presidential family in American history for over two decades! For some reason the scandals that these books reveal never sinks into the American mind. Today, despite Bill Clinton's public record of shoddy financial deals, brutal politics and endless abuse of women, he is the most beloved of recent presidents.
It is not like the Clintons presided over a tremendously successful presidency, save for Bill's innocent lapses with Monica Lewinsky, with her stained dress, and with his subsequent impeachment. Bill's first year in office was so appalling he scored the worst first-year approval rating in history. From there on he was up and he was down with the pollsters -- as we have seen, really down upon leaving the White House. Moreover, what helped his present appraisal as president was the health of the economy, which would not have been possible without Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Before Bill confronted Newt, he was always a big spender. His budget plans called for extravagant spending.
Now Bill and Hillary are back in the running for the presidency, at least Hillary is. The revelations of their mendacity and general corruption are all out there, featured in a dozen critical books written over the years. Yet the Clintons have come back. Why have these books been so ineffectual? One answer I have proffered in this column and in my own books is the phenomenon of the Episodic Apologist. There is in the press an amazing collection of journalists who simply view the Clintons with resilient high hopes. They have, for over 20 years, proceeded through every Clinton scandal episodically, from great expectations to deep indignation at the Clintons' revealed turpitude to sudden amnesia and finally hope renewed! The cycle has gone on through all Bill's scandals and all of Hillary's, too. Any other politicians would have been put out of business years ago.