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On Right-Wing Fanaticism
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Eighteen
by Brian S. Wise
26 June 2003

Who exactly is Bill Clinton to judge fanaticism and demonization when he thinks he sees it?

The Rainbow / PUSH coalition’s annual meeting carried on (and on and on, I am sure) this week, with the most heartwarming scene coming on Tuesday, when Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton were seen on the same stage, embracing.  One can only imagine the vibe in the room, an odd combination of good feeling and moral superiority, mixed with a collective wish these two corrupt jackasses could somehow merge into one Super Liberal, who would have no practical use for the presidency because he could come to govern the people – and, we can only hope, the world! – through the sheer force of his Good Will Toward Man.
           
So what was on the former president’s mind?  You know, the usual.  Tax cuts are evil, insidious things: “We are going to put half-a-million [children] out on the street, so I can get my $80,000 [tax cut].”  Never mind that he campaigned on them in 1992 and later signed them into law, and that no rational explanation can be offered for tax cuts equaling homelessness.  He loves paying taxes: “I must be the only person in America that every time – I pay the maximum tax rates – every time I sign that tax form, I smile. I thank God I live in a country that gave me a chance to make the money I do.”  That he wishes the IRS would audit him: “I think they ought to audit me and everyone in my income group every year, because if I make a mistake, I actually think they can make some real money out of me and I want to pay what I owe.”  (Sigh; isn’t he wonderful?)
           
But then we come to this, the cryptic warning: the audience (there were 750 in attendance) must not to stoop to the demonizing tactics of the right-wing talk-show hosts.  “Let us never demonize or give up on those who disagree with us. We don't want to become like the right-wing talk-show hosts, hammering our adversaries into cartoon characters and denying their humanity.”  (The emphasis is my own.)  It is important not to give up on the Right, and to ultimately forgive them (yes, he said that as well), because he, like most in the room he was sure, is a Baptist, and forgiveness is their thing.
           
Whoa, slow down a minute.  As the man who presided over an administration that trotted out its first lady to blame its serious moral failings on a Right-wing conspiracy, that looked the other way when James Carville went on national television to say Paula Jones is what happens when you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park, and that claimed conservative talk radio hosts were to blame for the Oklahoma City bombing (Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy were specifically named), is Bill Clinton in any position to speak against the Right’s demonizing anyone?  Is Jesse Jackson in a position to speak against fathering bastard children, or Ted Kennedy against killing your date while intoxicated?
           
We have become quick to dismiss assertions like “So-and-so is demonizing such-and-such” as tired political banter, but close consideration should always be paid to such things, because they so often speak to grander political philosophies and trends.  Especially when listening to Clinton, as his is a particularly interesting disconnect with reality.  If you preach to the choir long enough, it probably slips your mind that whatever is true among some portions of the Right is just as true among some portions of the Left, that whenever one lowers himself to fanaticism he is doing so not because he is either a liberal or conservative, but because he has intellectual flaws and is incapable of expressing his alliances any other way.  These are individual character flaws Clinton is speaking of, not ideological flaws.
           
Besides, can it logically be said that the editorial pages of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today have always taken up calm, steady advocacies of the various Leftist positions?  What about NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and public television?  Or Hillary Clinton, Janeane Garofalo, Mike Farrell, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Bill Moyers, James Carville, Al Franken, Sidney Blumenthal, Robert Byrd, Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Al Sharpton, Harold Dean, Carol Moseley-Braun, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich and Nancy Pelosi?  Are we now to believe these people and organizations have never been hatchet men for the Left, or have never come to the defense of an administration that was so often utterly indefensible?

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