June 24, 2004
POLITICS: Not Clinton
Will Saletan pens a transparently fatuous article seeking to compare Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan to Bill Clinton so as to level a ludicrous accusation of hypocrisy against Republicans:
Six years ago, Republicans demanded that Bill Clinton be investigated and impeached for having sex with an intern and covering it up. Now their nominee for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, Jack Ryan, is brushing off his then-wife's allegations that he repeatedly pressured her, despite her protestations, to have sex with him in front of other people. Instead of denouncing Ryan, many Republicans are defending him.
Saletan concludes: "Now we know why Bill Clinton got impeached. He was in the wrong club." No serious adult could believe that the GOP's defense of Ryan shows "why Bill Clinton got impeached," and I very seriously doubt that Saletan expects anyone to believe this column. Note that Saletan doesn't even bother to deal with the inconvenient facts about Clinton, none of which are involved here:
1. He was the President; character is more central with an executive than a legislator, and particularly the president;
2. He was cheating on his wife;
3. With a star-struck and emotionally vulnerable woman half his age;
4. Who was a subordinate and, later, a federal employee;
5. In the office during the workday;
6. He lied about it under oath;
7. He conspired with others to do the same, including hiding evidence and offering favors to those who agreed to keep quiet;
8. He involved other federal officials in lying to the public about it;
9. He had an extremely long history of sexual infidelity, including numerous charges, some of them quite credible, that Clinton had essentially forced himself on unwilling women.
Ryan, by contrast, comes off only as a bad and boorish husband with freaky sexual interests - not a recommendation of his candidacy but hardly fatal to being a U.S. Senator (heck, John Kerry left his first wife while she was battling suicidal depression to run for
the Senate). [CORRECTION: Kerry left his wife because he was concerned that she would distract him from running for Lieutenant Governor, not the Senate]. Only in the fantasies of Clinton's defenders is that all there was to the Lewinsky saga. I suppose Saletan is trying to bait us conservatives into rehashing all this to make us sound obsessed with Clinton, and if that's his intent, I just fell for it. But really, nobody could believe Saletan's Clinton analogy here in good faith.
Please don't miss the point that the Republican Party holds itself up as the Party of moral character and family values. I'm not sure Ryan himself made those issues a big part of his platform, but many who are singing his praises and/or defending him have.
With Clinton, everyone knew what they were getting when they voted for him. He was still elected and then re-elected. Obviously his "affairs" were not a significant enough factor to erode his support. You make some good points in your list, and I am not here to defend his actions. He should have been censured and everybody should have moved on. The Starr Invesigation and the circus that was the Impeachment Proceeding was a stain on our country, not just Clinton's Legacy.
Saletan's point is the Hydes, Gingriches and many others on the Right were actively stoning Clinton in the public square and going home at night to their glass houses.
All of that said, Saletan's conclusion is bogus. Ryan may be a perv, but it seems to have remained within the confines of his marraige, and certainly no laws were broken. Clinton was actually charged with a crime, witchhunt or no. The comparison is barely apples and oranges. More like apples and...um, bananas?
Clinton Democratic President.
Ryan Republican Candidate for Senate.
I'm sure if the roles were reversed but the transgressions remained the same, you guys would still be standing up for Ryan while taking Clinton to task.