Five hundred years before Christ, the Greek Heraclitus
observed that "Character is destiny." This essay about the
Clintons and their supporters first appeared March 21, 1994,
in Conservative Consensus, in slightly expanded format.
Each of us at some point in our lives will suffer a loss of
innocence. For many, that loss is in the past; the wound has
healed, the scars are barely visible. For others, the loss looms
in their future, a dark shadow clouding their hopes and dreams, a
valley yet to be crossed.
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Innocence takes many forms in its passing; always it is deeply
personal, and correspondingly painful. Love betrayed, a promotion
denied, human failure in someone we looked up to. ...
Just as individuals suffer a loss of innocence, so too, do
generations. Earlier generations remembered the Civil War, the
first World War, the intervening Great Depression, and the second
great war that followed on its heels, and the Korean War that came
after it. Baby-boomers remember the Vietnam War, the protests,
the riots on college campuses with police; this is the event they
claim as their own, their loss of innocence. With the exception
of the soldiers who served in that war, they are sadly mistaken.
It is one of life's enduring puzzles that those who speak most
fervently for or against some real or imagined good or evil are
themselves mysteriously drawn toward it. The fire and brimstone
preacher assails sexual immorality, at the same time he is drawn
toward a woman in the audience. The policeman or prosecutor most
zealous in pursuing lawbreakers is himself engaged in some petty
scheme to feather his own nest at the expense of the law. And the
politician who promises to reward those who "work hard and play by
the rules," is inexplicably caught up in a tangled web of the very
rules he urged upon the others.
So it is with Bill Clinton. The baby-boom generation saw a man of
immense energy and intelligence, full of hope and with a vision for
the future. Contrasted with him was a fatherly figure of their
parent's generation, who did not seem particularly enthused about
another term in the White House. Yet now Mr. Clinton is himself
caught up in a web of deceit that stretches back to his early days
of political life; perhaps even to his days at a student at
Oxford, where another young man who "worked hard and played by the
rules" was drafted to serve in Mr. Clinton's place, sent against
his will to a distant land he knew little about, perhaps to die in
a war he did not understand.
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While railing against the powerlessness of those most at risk in
our society, Mr. Clinton stands exposed as having used the very
power and trappings of his office as governor for no higher
purpose than to secure quick and easy sex with women whose
position in life assured they were powerless to resist him.
Mr. Clinton decries tax loopholes and regulatory favoritism that
shield the wealthy and powerful, yet he himself has used similar
devices to advance his career, fatten his campaign coffers, and
advance the interests of his political friends -- all at the expense
of his enemies and the very citizens of the state who elected him.
The President speaks boldly of putting a hundred thousand police
on the streets, even while his lawyer and White House officials
thwart the efforts of the Park Police, FBI, and government
regulators -- the very representatives of the government he swore to
"preserve, protect, and defend."
And caught up in these events, linked to him in the fabric of
time, is the generation who elected him to speak for them, to act
in their stead, to secure for themselves and their posterity the
blessings of liberty. "A wicked and evil generation calls out for
a sign: there shall be no sign given it, save that of Jonah." As
Whitewater flows downstream, old friends are thrown overboard as
little more than bilge pumped from the listing ship-of-state's
tanks during a storm, for no higher purpose than that the captain
should gain temporary shelter another bend further up the river.
World events, frozen in time like some ancient horse trapped in
the Siberian tundra, are thawing and mysteriously returning to
life. Dictators and despots worldwide assess their chances of
empire, their moment in history. And the United States, the great
country that Abraham Lincoln termed "the last best hope of
mankind," has at its helm a man elected on the cry that "character
doesn't matter," shielded by a press tossed upon the stormy sea of
moral relativism, playing its final tune to an arrogant, selfish
generation that is about to be denied its innocence by the cruel
schoolmaster of history.