In a recent syndicated column entitled "Why They Hate Hillary," talk show host Bill O'Reilly raised the question of the intensity of the animosity for Hillary Clinton felt by many Americans. He noted that polls indicate that 44 percent of Americans disapprove of Sen. Clinton, which, says O'Reilly, is a "very strong negative for any politician, particularly one who wants to be president." He called it an "unhealthy obsession," far beyond the routine aversion people harbor for those who disagree with them politically.
O'Reilly attributes the hatred for Mrs. Clinton to three sources: women who believe "she made a deal with her husband" to "ignore his infidelities in return for his help in her political life"; those who object "to her leftist ideology" and see her as a hypocritical "limousine liberal who lives large herself, but wants to impose high taxation on those who are achieving in America"; and those who see her as "a cold, calculating woman with a sense of entitlement." I don't disagree with O'Reilly. But I think there is another dimension to the "hate Hillary" phenomenon.
First of all, I don't "hate" Hillary, certainly not in any way that clashes with Christian teachings. I wish her no personal harm. I wish her a long and happy life — out of public office. But I will admit that my dislike for her and her husband rises to a level of intensity far beyond what I experience in regard to other politicians with policy positions identical to theirs, people such as Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi, for example. I don't reach for the remote as soon as their faces appear on the television screen. There is something different about the Clintons for me.
Why? Because with Schumer, Kennedy and the others, you get what you see. I know who they are. These are individuals (Kennedy, Gore and Pelosi) who inherited or married into great wealth and have used it to build political careers by reciting lines prepared for them by their aides; or Democratic party operatives (Schumer and Biden) who have worked the system since their days as young lawyers by catering to the voting blocs back home that put them in office. There is no misrepresentation going on. They are the voice of the various factions that make up the political left in this country.
I submit that is not the case with the Clintons. They have built their political careers by not letting us know who they are, by covering up their counterculture past. Both Bill and Hillary were active members of the anti-war protest movements of the 1960s. Bill has gone to pains to keep off the record what he was doing in Eastern Europe during the time he was supposed to be studying at Oxford on his Rhodes scholarship. He says he was just traveling and staying with friends. He refuses to elaborate. (He never received his degree at Oxford because so much of his time was taken up with the European anti-war movements of the time.)
Hillary's team takes pains to ensure that her work in 1970 with the ACLU, in defense of the Black Panthers on trial for murder in New Haven while she was a law student at Yale, is not discussed publicly. She has also refused to discuss why the Clinton White House contacted the president of Wellesley College in 1993 to convince her to put under lock and key Hillary's senior thesis on the work of the radical leftist Saul Alinsky. Wellesley's president at the time, Nannerl Overholser Keohane, agreed. She issued a directive stating that the senior thesis of every Wellesley alumna was to be made available in the college archives for anyone to read — except for those written by either a "president or first lady of the United States."
Whenever these questions about the Clintons come up, sympathetic reporters — many of whom share the Clintons' counterculture past — treat those who raise them as kooks and conspiracy theorists. The charge is made that it is unfair to focus on an individual's youthful political activism; that we are all entitled to make mistakes in judgment in our youths. Fair enough. Republicans are willing to accept George Bush's defense of his youthful indiscretions with his comment, "When I was young and stupid, I was young and stupid." Al Gore made a similar observation about some anti-military statements he made as a graduate student. The point is that Bill and Hillary have never said anything similar about their youthful radicalism. Instead, they have worked to keep discussions of that part of their lives verboten, as if only narrow-minded hate-mongers would even bring it up.
There were many anti-war activist-types in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There were Catholic Worker-types motivated by pacifistic sentiments. There were those who simply reached the point where they thought the war in Southeast Asia not worth any more American lives. There were the thoughtless hangers-on who grew their hair and wore their beads and spouted the anti-war rhetoric of the time because it was the thing to do.
But there were others of a different stripe, people who read Herbert Marcuse, Frantz Fanon and Antonio Gramsci, and who understood the full revolutionary implications of the youthful slogan of the time: "Drugs, Sex and Rock and Roll." This group was not just posturing to impress their friends when they wore their Che Guevara t-shirts or marched under the Viet Cong flag chanting "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win." They understood perfectly well the end game. I encountered literally dozens of people — professors, fellow students and colleagues — who fit this description in my graduate school years and early years as a teacher in the 1960s. They were as commonplace as long hair and peace buttons in those days.
Their analysis of the political currents of the time was shaped by Marxist notions of economic determinism, class struggle and imperialism. They would not have hesitated for a second to tell you that what Fidel Castro and Mao Tse-tung were doing was a better choice for mankind than the policies of the American "establishment." This group did not just mouth the words to the Beatles's song "Imagine," as if it were a harmless ditty. They knew what John Lennon was advocating (probably more than Lennon himself) when he called on young people to aspire to a world where "there's no heaven," where "there's no countries," and "nothing to kill or die for and no religion too."
What am I implying? That Bill and Hillary were hard-core Marxist radicals of that sort during their youths? That they were comparable to the SDS and the Weathermen and other militants who called for violent upheaval at the time? Well, I would bet the mortgage that the two of them never did anything more violent that shake a placard at a police officer. But I would also bet the mortgage that they spouted the Marxist rhetoric in vogue at the student sit-ins about the inherent contradictions of capitalism and wars of national liberation. I mean spouted. Remember whom we are talking about — two of the planet's premier motor-mouths.
Should that have disqualified Bill for the presidency? Does it disqualify Hillary? Not necessarily. It depends. Many of the old radicals who once talked about bringing down the system "by any means necessary" are now selling stocks or real estate. People change. Bill and Hillary could have defused this issue years ago by letting us know what Bill was doing in Eastern Europe and why they wanted to keep the public unaware of what Hillary wrote in her senior thesis about Saul Alinsky's tactics — and by explaining to what extent they have changed in their thinking from those days. Or the extent to which they have not. The voters are entitled to know such things.
The way that they and their allies in the media have succeeded in covering up the matter is what is hard to take. Compare it to the months of network news coverage we were given about George Bush's National Guard career. Bush was about the same age at the time he is alleged to have missed some National Guard assignments as Hillary was when she was defending the Black Panthers, and Bill was doing whatever he was doing in Eastern Europe.