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Thursday, January 27, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 82

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Economic prosperity a good time to hate

Steve Forsberg

The paranoid style of American politics outlined years ago by historian Richard Hofstadter lives on.

In a 1939 essay entitled "They Hate Roosevelt," he outlined some of the outlandish conspiracy theories and rumors that were circulating about the then second term president.

Roosevelt had supposedly gone insane from syphilis (contracted from a black woman), and Eleanor was secretly plotting to take over the presidency. At least that was one of the rumors that Hofstadter was willing to print for "civilized" company. Interestingly, as Hofstadter pointed out, at a time of economic prosperity (compared to the cellar years of the Great Depression) it was the upper-middle class and wealthy who were most likely to be spreading such gossip.

At the dawn of a new millennium we have once again been witness to a president who has overseen a boost in prosperity, only to be vilified almost beyond comprehension -- often by the same people who benefited the most during his term.

Make no mistake, in certain quarters Clinton is hated.

We are not talking about disagreement with Clinton's policies, nor even with criticism of his sometimes-questionable conduct. Rather, it may be interesting to look over a short list of "crimes and conspiracies" that our president has supposedly been involved with over the past years. These are not just stories taken from the seedy supermarket tabloids, but rather ones that have been tossed into the mainstream press and "Journalist's Round Table" on C-SPAN.

Clinton, the Russian Agent : When it was learned that a young Clinton had actually had the temerity to visit the "Evil Empire" in his youth, he promptly was accused of being a deep-plant agent. Clearly, he had to have been a secret cadre to get permission to go there; either that or they only invited him to gather blackmail material (rumors of which abounded early in his presidency). Well, we haven't been annexed by Russia yet.

Clinton, the Arkansas Serial Killer : Remember when every other death in Arkansas supposedly occurred because the Clintons were trying to cover up one or another of their illegal acts? I can recall "serious" journalists on C-SPAN (for some reason, Brits were fond of this) excitedly exclaiming that "any day now" the "truth" about the deaths of literally dozens of state troopers (and at least one dentist) would be exploding into the headlines. Not only that, but the lives of journalists in Arkansas were supposedly in danger as well, as was proven when one was savagely attacked by Clinton's stooges and his valuable notes were stolen. (Well, he actually told quite a different story, but ...)

Clinton/Bush/Mena/Drugs : Ah, yes, recall how we were showered with stories about how Mena, Ark., and not Miami, Fla., was the city built on drug money? And how the airport there had been used to ship arms to the Contras and drugs into the United States. The Contras? How did they get into this story?

Turns out that then-President Bush and Governor Clinton were involved in illegal stuff long before Clinton's election. It is fascinating that people argued for years that Bush (and Ronnie) were out of the loop on Contra activities, but then changed their tunes when they felt they could implicate Clinton.

The Infamous Vince Foster Murder :No one dies a relatively simple death in the Clinton administration. Before the body had cooled, wild theories were being distributed about just how and why Foster had died. Suicide was much too straightforward an answer.

Rush Limbaugh broke the new on his television show that Foster had been secretly murdered in a Georgetown apartment used as a "love nest" by Clinton staffers, and his body had been moved. Of course, Rush was quick to insert a disclaimer like "according to some" or some such nonsense. He already had enough legal troubles, after all.

I can also recall conservative pundit Mona Charen on some talk show lauding the appointment of a special counsel, who would no doubt get to the bottom of the Foster "murder." When the special counsel ruled Foster's death a suicide, I do not recall hearing any further comment from her. (Ron Brown and others have even had their deaths tied into this nefarious plot.)

Clinton, the Chinese Agent : Space prevents a recitation of the many wild variations on this theme. Times change, and as Russians are no longer such implacable foes, it only makes sense that Clinton would be tied to a new enemy. Even if illegal contributions were taken (and that would be a Washington first!), it hardly explains the alleged patterns of rocket explosions and Indonesian fronts forwarded by conspirators.

They hated Roosevelt. Now they hate Clinton. Who's next?

Forsberg, a senior history major, 
can be reached at sjforsbe@bayou.uh.edu.

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