Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Vast Conspiracy (2000)

I guess I can start this by noting I don't care much for Jeffrey Toobin's incarnation as a TV beltway pundit, at least not since the coming of Bush/Cheney. He was a little better in the Clinton era, but has always displayed too much of that "going along to get along" ethos that so pervades DC media culture. I know, you have to do what you have to do, and if Toobin didn't do it he wouldn't be there at all to annoy me. There's the rub when it comes to cable news. All that said, however, I think this is basically a solid job of journalism and thus a more or less essential primer on the whole Whitewater contretemps, which eventually became the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which led to the impeachment of a sitting president, prosecuted by handfuls of serial adulterers. The impeachment of Bill Clinton at a historical moment when the unregulated economy had begun to metastasize and terrorists abroad had declared war on us struck me even then, without benefit of such perspective, as the most irresponsible instance of governance I had seen in my life. Then came Bush v. Gore, 9/11, Iraq War II, Katrina, and finally the economic collapse of 2008, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. I suppose you can make a case that other political crimes are worse, but the foolish recklessness of Republicans in attempting to take down a president who was too inconveniently popular (and who was all the while implementing their favorite policies) nonetheless happens to mark my own political reawakening, such as it is. This was bad stuff that was going on, acts of political depravity that don't fall far short of treason, to evoke one of their favorite terms. Certainly it shows continuing lack of faith in the country's most sacred document by definition, the Constitution. Toobin does a good job of laying out the whole story here, one I found myself reliving painfully as I read. It made me sad and it made me angry, and even though my personal inclination for sympathy toward Bill Clinton has fallen away in the years since, it comes back any time I review the facts of this excruciating episode. It was wrong what happened here, and there's no evidence that the long national nightmare it arguably started (with the Newt Gingrich class of '94 House) is even close to being finished yet. Chris Christie, for example, is still no idle threat (though hopeful about latest scandal, too soon to tell).

In case it's not at the library.

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