Jonah Goldberg

Have you noticed how we don't hear much about Bush-haters? It's odd since not long ago "Clinton-hatred" was a national epidemic. The New York Times, Washington Post, Time magazine and others devoted dozens, if not hundreds, of articles to "Clintonophobia" and other maladies stemming from "right-wing paranoia" and "irrational Clinton hatred."

But first, I should admit: I was both a "Clinton hater" and a Clinton hater. The quotation marks offer an important distinction because you could be labeled a "Clinton hater" even if you didn't actually dislike the man.

According to then-President Clinton's supporters and staff, "Clinton haters" - with quotation marks - referred to just about anybody who dared to criticize the man they considered to be the greatest president in the history of carbon-based life.

If you thought, for example, that Whitewater or TravelGate were worth investigating, you were therefore "obsessed" with Bill Clinton. If you questioned Bill Clinton's decision to bomb terrorists immediately after his grand jury testimony, you were letting your paranoia drive you to the wacky and unpatriotic fringe.

If you weren't seduced by Bill's lip-biting assurance that he was "working so hard" to purge meanness and bigotry from our shores, you were a force for meanness and bigotry.

Even today, I can't mention the man's name without someone e-mailing me to say that I should just get over my "hang-ups" about Bill Clinton - as if there were no rational reason in the world to have a problem with the tackiest president in American history.

Of course, this was all a new twist on an old tactic. Liberals and leftists have been dismissing inconvenient facts by attacking motives for generations. In the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, Soviet spies and abettors attacked the motives of their accusers because the fact of their guilt was undeniable. In the 1960s, over a thousand psychiatrists who'd never even met Barry Goldwater signed a petition saying the GOP candidate was too mentally unstable to be president.

In the 1990s the merits and/or popularity of the Contract With America were largely unassailable, so Democrats told us that Gingrich & Co. were "mean-spirited" and therefore their agenda was illegitimate, as if it's better for nice people to do wrong than for "mean" people to do right. Even now, Gov. Gray Davis is trying to change the recall debate in California to the "issue" of his opponents' motives.

But the Clinton White House made this sort of thing official policy at the highest level of our government. He and his wife milked - and often manufactured - their victim status for all it was worth.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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