The wing conspirators are at it again, but this time it's the left demonizing the right. Make that "Freudinizing."
In two recent instances, spokespersons on the left have opined that the right's "hatred" of former President Bill Clinton is a function of "Freudian projection." That is, those who hate Clinton really hate themselves.
Both Paul Begala, former Clinton adviser and now one-fourth of CNN's "Crossfire," and David Brock, journalist and erstwhile right-wing conspirator, have used the same language - psychological projection - to describe Clinton's opponents. Mere coincidence? Or the outlines of a vast left-wing conspiracy?
I first noticed the suggestion that Clinton-hating is really a psychological pathology while reading a Barnes and Noble interview with Brock following publication of his latest confessional, "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative." The B&N interviewer (www.bn.com) asked Brock why he thought conservatives hated (and still hate) liberals such as Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Brock: "Clinton-hating is a complex phenomenon, more an emotional aversion than an intellectual one." (Translation: too hard for ignoramuses on the right to understand.)
Also: "Clinton-hating is a psychological phenomenon: They see in the Clintons the very qualities that they hate in themselves."
Next came Begala in an interview with www.buzzflash.com, sort of a left-wing Drudge Web site that pulls news stories to help lefties justify their loathing of the right.
BuzzFlash: "How can you explain the virulent hate that so many people in the right wing have for Clinton? It just seems inexplicable. I mean, it is so bilious."
Begala: "I've thought about this a lot. My latest pet theory is projection - the psychological theory that says you take things you hate most about yourself, project them onto somebody else and attack them for that. So in other words, I think this is self-hatred projected on an innocent man.
"I believe these people hate themselves. I believe they hate our country. I believe they hate our culture. And they can't deal with that. They can't accept the level of self-loathing that they have, and so they project it onto someone else."
There you have it - a pet theory with more than one master. Can it be long before everyone understands that Clinton was a great president whose unfortunate libido and tendency toward prevarication were in fact reflections of conservatives' self-hatred? In no time, we'll have a new psychological syndrome known as "Clinton Complex."
We'll understand sufferers of "Clinton Complex" to be people who hate liars and adulterers
not because they find such people morally reprehensible, but because they know that they themselves are liars and cheaters. And they just hate that.
For the record, I don't hate Clinton and never have. I am constitutionally incapable of holding a grudge, much less mustering the energy to hate someone. But I do make judgments, and I do believe in moral absolutes - i.e. terrorism is wrong.
And while most people would agree that lying and adultery are wrong, though clearly not on a level with inflicting bodily harm on innocents, I don't think Clinton's history of deceit and philandering explains why so many people dislike him. I also don't think that Clinton-haters hate themselves or their country. I think they hate what's happened to their country - the loss of civility, family cohesion and social decency - and despised Clinton for failing to provide appropriate leadership, his amazingly weird marriage notwithstanding.
Did Clinton-haters hate in themselves the same flaws they saw in Clinton?
Maybe, but who cares? Presidents are asked - and by their election are presumed - to consent to a higher standard of conduct than the rest of us chad-punchers. Americans don't want to be led by a common man; they want to be led by exceptional men and women, and Clinton failed them.
On a more basic level, people dislike(d) Clinton for the same reason that dogs, knowing nothing, instinctively bark at a snake until somebody either gets bitten, killed or disappears, usually the snake.
Human beings, mammals that they are, sense a wrong thing in other human beings. They may not be able to describe it intellectually, as Brock suggests. They may not be able to label it academically, as Begala does. But they "know" when something or someone "just ain't right." Clinton had that effect on lots of people.
As a revisionist strategy, psychoanalyzing the opposition is brilliant. You take the high intellectual road, arch one brow and superciliously reduce your opponent to a Freudian cliché. One can't defend yourself, which is the beauty and the beast of psychoanalysis. Once you've been tagged with a psychological disorder, any response is emotional: "No, no, I'm not crazy, I swear it!"
Intellectually superior psychology always trumps defensive emotionality.
Begala and Brock - perhaps unwittingly, but perhaps not - have successfully inserted into history's dialogue the possibility that Clinton wasn't a corrupt man who insulted the nation's sense of decency and blasphemed the office of the presidency. Instead, he was a haplessly innocent man, targeted by a raft of emotionally dysfunctional wing-nuts badly needing therapy.
Sane people, of course, know better. And dogs, though they stop barking after a serpent slithers away, continue to despise snakes, biliously.