Atrios and other leftie bloggers are wondering why exactly there is so much rage at Obama and his major proposals, including health care. Surely, they keep suggesting, race and old-fashioned white racism are involved.
Conservatives such as those on the Corner will point out that the Clintons' health-care package suffered the same fate that now seems likely for Obama's--and of course, the Clintons are a white couple, Bubba himself hailing from the South. Beyond this, Bill and Monica elicited a kind of rage, a determined campaign to impeach the President, that I believe had never happened before, and I for one certainly didn't expect. Andrew Johnson was impeached after he came in for a kind of angry contempt because of his handling of Reconstruction; race was involved, and indeed old-fashioned racism as well. When Nixon was finally brought down, this was more the work of people who were sad at the outcome, rather than those who had despised him for years. With Clinton there was a kind of pure personal hatred. "Look at the kind of man the Democrats have produced, and given the country."
Surely no one was really shocked at adultery as such, or even oral sex as such. (There is an old joke that nice girls might perform fellatio in order to get married, but they are less likely to do so after marriage). But Republicans either believed, or knew that many voters would believe, that Bill Clinton's combination of selfishness and true casualness about sex was shocking. It is usually a kind of propagandistic over-statement to say "those people" believe in casual sex. Surely it is not truly casual for very many people, young or old. (Although a recent court case in Canada has confirmed my old suspicion that hockey players in this country, even in their teens, get an amazing amount of sex, almost in the way they get to consume video games and junk food). Billy seems to have been a true "lady's man" or sexual predator. From what we know, he didn't care much what they looked like-they weren't as a rule the most beautiful women available. He wasn't necessarily great on learning their names--although he has a phenomenal memory. He just did it, a lot, because he liked it.
If Republicans were honest they might say: sure, we have affairs, we've had a lot of divorce just like other Americans. But we agonize about it, we get divorced because we've discovered "the love of our life," to paraphrase Governor Sanford. There is nothing casual about it. Of course one can question all this: Newt Gingrich? Rudy Giuliani?
Matthew Yglesias has suggested that Republicans like talking about gay sex because they know most of their voters will feel they are totally in the clear on this one--unlike a lot of other sexual peccadilloes one might think of. I think it was somewhat the same with Clinton: OK, I have my problems, but I would never do that--therefore that is where the line is drawn, it is totally unacceptable to do that.