Scandals of the Clinton Presidency
I spent most of the 1990s heavily involved in politics and political campaigns, often working closely with individuals quite active in conservative and Republican Party circles, and became friendly with many of them. Bill Clinton was President during those years, and I never had strong feelings about him one way or the other, agreeing with some of his policies and disagreeing with many others. But among the conservatives whom I knew, nearly all of them hated him with a passion, sometimes for reasons I endorsed and sometimes not.
Such passionate hatred naturally inspired dark theories of the evil doings of the President and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and these often merged into a broader current of anti-government sentiments common in conservative circles. Charges regarding such nefarious activities regularly boosted the circulation of leading conservative magazines while they also received much shriller treatment among activists farther to the fringe.
At the time, I never paid much attention to these accusations, except what I read of them in my morning newspapers, and while I never actually considered them debunked, I was still quite skeptical that any of them were likely to be true. Back then, Id never done any serious reading in American history beyond the level of my introductory textbooks and I flatly doubted whether any of the more famous conspiracies from the JFK Assassination on down had any reality. So if the previous 200-plus years of American history were an open book, it hardly seemed likely that a former governor from tiny Arkansas had suddenly transformed DC into a snake-pit filled with intrigue worthy of Renaissance Italy.
But more recently, Ive been persuaded by the opposite sort of argument. Over the last decade or so, my careful investigations have convinced me that many crucial elements of the most important events of the last hundred years of American historyfrom World War II to the JFK Assassination to the 9/11 Attackswere totally different than the standard accounts presented in my mainstream media or introductory textbooks. And if the claims of supposedly disreputable conspiracy theorists had often been correct in all those other cases, perhaps many of the far lesser events of the Clinton Administration were also quite different than what Id casually absorbed from the pages of the New York Times.
The 9/11 Attacks of 2001 and the endless cycle of foreign wars they unleashed marked a watershed in American history, so that the stories of the Clinton 1990s probably feel far more distant than events that happened only a couple of years later.
Just consider the boldface names from that period: Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Branch Davidians, Vince Foster, Whitewater, Oklahoma City, Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr. For many of us who were of age during that period, these bring back faded memories, while for younger readers, they are probably relegated to obscure trivia questions.
But earlier this year I decided to revisit that period, and see what I could decide about some of the events that Id mostly disregarded at the time.