THE TRIUMPH OF OUTRAGE Word is that Bill Bennett’s The Death of Outrage will be #1 on the New York Times bestseller list this weekend. Maybe the reason these telephone polls are so fouled up is that the people who can read are in the bookstores.
QUESTION If the rumors about Bill Clinton and other interns turn out to be true, what will be the White House spin? Will they say a) This doesn’t change anything. This is still just about sex. b) Attack the women. c) Attack Ken Starr. d) Attack Linda Tripp. e) Attack the reporter breaking the story. f) Attack some right-wing conspiracy existing only in the perverted humors of Sid Blumenthal’s own mind. g) Attack small dogs or any other innocent creature if necessary. h) Blame Newt Gingrich. Answer: All of the above.
The tough question is what do they say when the polls go down? Of course there might not be any other women. After all Monica Lewinsky’s charms are so overpowering, it would make sense that she was the only one who could pick the lock of Bill Clinton’s heart. . . .Stay tuned.
TONI MORRISON, RACIST Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison has stirred up a fuss with her piece in the new New Yorker: “. . .this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”
Ms. Morrison goes on to imply in fairly tortured prose that Bill Clinton is being lynched and crucified (her words) because he has refused to “assimilate.” She suggests Ken Starr is some sort of fascist tearing up the Constitution et (yawn) cetera.
Ms. Morrison is just the latest black intellectual to make some sort of claim that Bill Clinton is metaphorically black and that’s why they support him. Some of these intellectuals, like Orlando Patterson and Henry Louis Gates I respect a great deal and therefor I must take them seriously. So instead of disposing of this idea with scorn, I’d like to propose a different theory. Of course I could write that Bill Clinton is dysfunctional and therefore black — just like Ms. Morrison — but that would be racist coming from a white male.
Besides, I don’t buy into the sort of post-modern nonsense that allows one person’s view to be valiant truth and another’s to be invalid bigotry.
So here’s my theory. Blacks, as a group, have a specific understanding of the Federal Government. For the last 150 years the Federal Government—as personified by the President — has interceded on behalf of the African-American community. The Feds, essentially, freed the slaves. FDR made civil rights a national issue (and converted blacks en masse from the Republican to the Democratic Party). Truman desegregated the Army. Eisenhower and Kennedy fought Jim Crow governors. Johnson passed massive Civil Rights legislation and Nixon created the affirmative-action regime. Blacks hold government jobs in extremely disproportionate numbers, partly because of private sector reluctance to hire minorities. Blacks — with considerable historical justification—have long believed that local and state governments are illegitimate and that the President is capable of interceding with powerful results. They also, as a group, are more prone to personalize politics, which I believe, is at the root of many conspiracy theories running through the black community. In Imperial Russia a common saying on the shtetl was: “If only the Czar knew.” Jews believed that the Czar was on their side; it was the local baron who was launching the pogroms. Blacks feel, rightly or wrongly, that Bill Clinton is their guy, just as they felt, rightly or wrongly that Reagan and Bush weren’t. If you’re disposed to gut feelings that the President is more like a monarch, and this one is on your side, it’s understandable you’d take to the barricades to defend him.
Nevertheless, just like forcing his defenders to smear Henry Hyde, Bill Clinton will be judged harshly by history by forcing his black allies into employing mindless and racist rhetoric in his defense. Even the Czar might have abdicated.
GOOD FOR THEM After my screed yesterday about chicken-brained Hollywood leftists signing on with the French (I don’t know why I italicized that, it’s just that the Frogs are so French) it turns out that they’re not all lemmings out there. Ben Stiller (my neighbor from the Upper West Side of Manhattan) and James Woods (an MIT grad rumored to have a higher SAT score than the entire cast of Baywatch combined) stood up for Truth and Justice. CNN did a piece on what Hollywood thinks about Bill Clinton. As per usual, the Vanessa Redgraves and Martin Sheens displayed the typical Hollywood attitude — a willingness to agree with everyone around you, but with a studied conviction that you hope will be mistaken for thoughtfulness. Stiller on the other hand simply said, “Unfortunately, he’s the president, so he probably shouldn’t be setting that kind of example for the rest of the country. I’d say he probably should resign.” Humble, simple, brave. James Woods was more philosophical, “You want my take on the Clinton situation — the guy’s a scumbag, he’s a slimeball.”