I hated Bill Clinton the first time I saw him on TV during the 1992 campaign. They showed him working a crowd, and I just loathed him and his hair. I know why the name 'Slick Willie' has stuck. He just seemed so fake. "No way I'm going to vote for that man," I thought to myself, "I hate him."
I hadn't even heard any of his positions yet. I just disliked him on sight. He became my instant favorite to root against. "Anyone but Clinton, " I said to myself.
But I disliked Reagan and Bush even more. They had driven the national debt sky-high, broken the law, almost got us all killed in nuclear war, supported corrupt regimes, sold weapons to Iran, betrayed promises, harmed the space program, and killed brave American soldiers in fits of incompetence.
So when Clinton was nominated, I held my nose and vote for him, as opposed to Bush.
Coincidentally, but I had forgotten this, an older friend of mine had been friends with Clinton when they were both young. Don't look so shocked. It's not like my friend was rich and powerful. He was a pathetic loser like the rest of us. It doesn't make me important, either. All of us come in contact with droves of insignificant castoffs in their lives -- Why should Bill Clinton be any different?
It just so happened, by chance, that I knew an unimportant person who knew Bill Clinton.
This friend approached me in '88 to '90 -- some year far enough from '92 for me to have forgotten by '92 -- and he said to me: "I have a friend and I am afraid that some day he's going to be president."
He said that this friend of his was a governor, that they had big parties for "friends of Bill," and that so many people were clustered around seeking favors that he, the guy I knew, was being pushed to the side.
"What state?" I said.
"It's very unlikely," I said. "I don't think there's ever been a president from Arkansas, and it's not the kind of leading-edge state like New York or California that's likely to give him the spotlight."
When Clinton was elected I assumed he'd be yet another hollow, corrupt fake. The bit about gays in the military, though fair and right, was political suicide. I could not understand the timing.
But he was willing to use force to stop the murder in Bosnia, and I appreciated that. I also thought that NAFTA, GATT, and the first balanced budget in many years were worthy.
My crazy brother-in-law supported Clinton, but also listened to right-wing talk radio as a hobby. We were driving one day, and my sister and I started talking about Whitewater. "They're trying to make a scandal, but they haven't produced any evidence," I said.
"Yeah," she said, "and what about Hillary?" She and I knew she meant the baseless Rose law firm charges.
"Yeah!" said the BIL, "He's bonking another woman! They sneak him out of the White House in a car so he can have trysts! They've got a rule: No skirts or low-cut blouses around Bill."
We thought the BIL was bonkers. But of all the charges against Clinton, this theme turned out to have some merit.
So, the years went by, and the Clinton people continued doing better and better for the country. The right grew more and more furious. They made clowns of themselves, slinging all the mud they could at Clinton. Bush junior is a failure based on his own track record, but for Clinton they had to make up fantasies.
He had sex with an intern and lied about it. Then he did a great service to the nation and to the future by riding out the cynical and wasteful impeachment process.
In the Clinton years I made one vast mistake: Thinking that Americans could tell good policy from bad, that we knew a decent leader when we saw one.
The fact that the 2000 election was so close, even though Bush lost, goes to show how wrong I was. The right was superb in their manipulations. They won, and America lost. It also didn't hurt them that Al Gore ran from everything he stood for and should have been proud of.
Still, I thought no voter could look at the simpering, arrogant fool that George Bush is, and decide to vote for him.
Oh, how wrong I was.