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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/24/16

Bill Clinton's Sexual Recklessness and the 2016 Election (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Monica Lewinsky 2014 IDA Awards (cropped)
Monica Lewinsky 2014 IDA Awards (cropped)
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) January 24, 2016: The horse race is on between the two leading Democratic contenders in Iowa and New Hampshire: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Senator Sanders' campaign aims to appeal to the kind of idealism that Senator Barack Obama's campaign appealed to in 2008 -- the same kind of idealism that former Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson occasionally but famously appealed to, as did former Democratic presidential candidate Senator George McGovern.

Secretary Clinton's campaign aims to rally women and men to support her candidacy, including of course young women and men who may not remember her earlier life. The former Goldwater girl from suburban Chicago became the girlfriend and then married her fellow Yale law student Bill Clinton, who subsequently became Governor of Arkansas and then President of the United States in 1992. During his presidency, now former First Lady famously referred to "a vast right-wing conspiracy."

What she referred to as "a vast right-wing conspiracy" is also known as movement conservatism. It emerged after World War II as part of the Cold War, but is has outlasted the end of the Cold War and continues today as a force in American politics and cultural wars. As a result of the various cultural changes associated with the 1960s and 1970s, movement conservatives capitalized on anti-60s rhetoric to rally support from movement conservatism, as Philip Jenkins shows in his book DECADE OF NIGHTMARES: THE END OF THE SIXTIES AND THE MAKING OF EIGHTIES AMERICA (Oxford University Press, 2006).

For their rhetorical purposes, President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 1990s symbolized the excesses of the 1960s that their anti-60s rhetoric was aimed at denouncing. Unfortunately, President Clinton then proceeded to live up to spirit of libertinism that their anti-60s rhetoric aimed to denounce.

In the book THE AGE OF CLINTON: AMERICA IN THE 1990S (2015), Gil Troy refreshes our collective memory of Secretary Clinton's earlier life in the 1990s during President Clinton's consensual sexual relationship with the young White House intern named Monika Lewinsky.

Troy, a professor of history at McGill University in Canada, is deeply fascinated with highlighting American pop culture -- so much so that his new book could arguably be more accurately titled AMERICA IN THE 1990S: THE AGE OF CLINTON.

But Troy's book is written in a zippier style than Jenkins' book, but Troy's zesty book picks up the anti-60s spirit that Jenkins details. Troy says, "As the Baby Boomer rebels' torch-bearer, [Bill] Clinton embodied the tumult of the 1960s" (page 5).

Of course we should note that in addition to the Baby Boomer rebels, there were also Baby Boomer non-rebels who resisted some or all of the causes embraced by the rebels. As a result of their resistance, the non-rebels were candidates to be recruited by the anti-60s rhetoric of movement conservatism.

By his own admission, Troy "emphasiz[es] domestic policy more than foreign policy" (page 9). In other words, he makes almost no effort to contextualize any of President Clinton's foreign policy actions. As a result, Troy's book is little more than history lite, at best.

For his purposes of contextualizing Bill Clinton, Troy works with what he refers to as five significant revolutions and one counter-revolution (pages 7-8). For Troy, President Johnson's Great Society is emblematic of "the Sixties revolution" (page 305). But Troy allows that "at times [President] Clinton legitimized [President Ronald] Reagan's anti-Great-Society counter-revolution" (page 304).

However, for all practical purposes, Troy's counter-revolution is what I have referred to already as movement conservatism, which started before the 1960s. In a similar way, many of the things targeted in the anti-60s rhetoric of movement conservatism started before the 1960s -- for example, the black civil rights movement.

As Troy himself indicates, certain aspects of his five significant revolutions actually carried forward into the 1990s thrusts of the 1960s. He says, "The new world he [President Clinton], his wife, and their peers helped spawn was so foreign, he paid an exorbitant political price" -- impeachment by the House of Representatives (page 8).

But Troy explicitly claims that his "intent is neither to demonize nor canonize [Bill] Clinton but to understand and explain [him]" (page 9). To be sure, Troy definitely does not canonize Bill Clinton as a saint. Instead, he describes him as an admitted sinner -- at least with reference to his reckless consensual sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky.

In the spirit of contextualizing stuff, Troy contextualizes her with respect to American pop culture. Young women and men who are interested in learning more about President Clinton's reckless affair with her will find Troy's book informative.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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