I've never understood the ferocity with which some conservatives despise Bill Clinton. It's natural for certain Republicans to dislike certain Democrats, and vice versa, but the hatred that many in the conservative cartel feel towards Clinton is personal. Their venom goes beyond politics; it is visceral.
Some, such as noted curmudgeon Christopher Hitchens, explain this hatred as a reaction to Clinton's lying ways. Yeah, Clinton can talk his way out of any situation, is every bit as deceptive as his detractors describe, and is an ardent practitioner of situational ethics (and policies and beliefs -- whatever it takes for him to be liked), but so is virtually every other politician who makes it to the national level. Besides, when it comes to lying, Clinton is a piker compared to our current propagandist-in-chief.
Others propose that this seething hatred for Clinton is really all about the 1960s. To some arch conservatives, Clinton represents everything that was wrong about that tumultuous decade -- he is anti-war, pro-feminist, all long hair and rock and roll and the very antithesis of the conservative ethos that all but evaporated during the Vietnam War era. There's probably something to this analysis; fighting Clinton during his presidency let the conservatives refight the 1960s' cultural wars all over again. (And if this analysis is sound, then it's quite ironic that the conservatives' current standard bearer has essentially recreated the Vietnam War cultural conflict via his so-similar-it's-eerie invasion of Iraq.)
It's more apparent why many liberals today feel a similar visceral hatred of George W. Bush. I won't speak for anyone else, but my dislike for Bush predates his post-9/11 empire building and Orwellian takeover of the public debate. No, I hate Bush more for what he is than for what he's done -- although what he's done is deplorable enough.
In my mind, George Jr. is the perfect poster child for everything I hate about class and privilege. Throughout his life Bush has felt entitled to success and approval. He comes from a rich and powerful family, so he's never known what it's like to achieve anything on his own merits. It's not that he's dumb (and he's not as dumb as he seems), and it's not even that he appears to be intellectually incurious. It's that he's lazy, and he still expects good things to come to him.
In Bush's world, someone is always there to bail him out. If he gets arrested for drunk driving, one of daddy's lawyers is there to take care of things. If he thinks he might get drafted, one of daddy's friends is there to make sure he gets a cushy position in the National Guard. If his business is on the verge of going under, another one of daddy's friends is there to buy it off him for significantly more than it's worth. And on and on and on.
You can see this sense of entitlement in the way Bush runs his administration. Opposing views aren't allowed to be heard in this White House; problems aren't even acknowledged, let alone dealt with. All is as the emperor says it is.
And the emperor, privileged as he is, doesn't have to work hard for his success. Unlike past presidents who routinely put in 12-14 hour days, Bush takes a long lunch, sets aside a few hours in the afternoon for a bike ride and a nap, and then retires early. Like others in his privileged class, he spends more time on vacations and long weekends in a year than the typical American worker gets in a decade. The privileged class doesn't have to work; they're entitled to success without effort.
This is why I hate George W. Bush. He's a wealthy, protected fratboy who's never worked a hard day in his life. Everything comes easy to him because of his family and class. He is not a typical working-class American; he is everything that working-class Americans despise. He is the kind of person the masses will put up against the wall, should the revolution ever come.
And yet Bush projects an aura of everyday American. His public persona is that of the guy next door, an average guy with average tastes (and average intellect). Bush's handlers are masters of perception to pull this deception over on the press and the public. George W. Bush is no more an average American than Marie Antoinette was an average Frenchwoman. He is not us, no matter what he pretends.
While I'm comfortable in my disdain for Bush and all that he represents, there's one thing that bothers me. I recently read a scholarly analysis of Ross Macdonald's novels, The Novels of Ross Macdonald, by Michael Kreyling. (I'm a huge Macdonald fan; he was the first -- if not the only -- author to merge genre fiction with the literary novel.) In the book, Kreyling reveals an episode during the 2000 presidential campaign where a reporter was comparing summer reads with then-candidate Bush. The reporter recommended Michael Connelly's The Concrete Blonde; Bush came back with Macdonald's The Zebra-Striped Hearse.
Hence a conflict. How can someone I hate so much for who he is and what he thinks also be a fan of such a great and thoughtful novelist such as Ross Macdonald? In other words, can I continue to hate someone who likes the same books I do? (Forget, for the moment, the additional surprise that Bush even reads -- let alone what he reads.)
I think this is where I have to reluctantly pull out a Hitler analogy. As evil as Hitler was (and I'm not comparing Bush to him in that manner), Hitler liked dogs. Can a man be pure evil if he likes dogs? Can Bush be all bad if he likes Ross Macdonald? I don't know. All I know is that someone of Bush's nature doesn't deserve to be leader of our country, and shouldn't be held as an example of all things American. Despite his reading habits, George W. Bush is everything that America is not. And that's why I hate him.
But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.