selves away time and again, whetlier it’srnTracy praying to God to help her win thernelection because she is the only one whorndeserves to, or McAllister assuring us he’srnat peace with himself as he pummelsrnvending machines or hurls a Pepsi at arnpassing car. Despite their reasonable discourse,rnthese are people firmly in the griprnof their destructively instinctual selves.rnAn image near the film’s conclusionrnmakes the point. It’s a lingering shot of arnmural in the American Museum of NaturalrnHistory in New York Cit)-, an artist’srnrendering of what pre-humans mightrnhave looked like 1.8 million years ago. Arnman and a woman stand in the tall grassrnof an East African savannah, scavengingrnfor food. Naked, besHal, brutal and brutalized,rnthey look on with fear and angerrnas a jackal moves in on an antelope carcassrnthey had intended for their ownrnmeal. They provide an all-too-vivid reminderrnof where we’ve come from: Tworncraven creatures on the prowl in a jackalhauntedrnworld, both as ugly as the Yahoosrnwith whom Gulliver desperateK’ deniedrnrelation. Are these the beingsrnInstinct’s Ethan Powell had in mindrnwhen he spoke admiringh’ of those whornknew how to live in the world?rnGeorge McCartney teaches English atrnSt. ]ohn’s University.rnPOLITICSrnTouring the Arcrnby Janet Scott BarlowrnIn my mind’s eye, I have come to see arngreat arc radiating above the Clintonrnpresidency, an arc of constant existentialrnactivity, a zone where effects are receivedrnbut not transmitted, a curved line onrnwhich every American, with the singlernexception of the President of the UnitedrnStates, occupies a place. One of thernmany distinctions of the Clinton presidencyrnis that, while every citizen acceptsrnhis place on the arc, no citizen is quiternsure what he’s supposed to be doingrnthere.rnOn one end of the arc—arc right, we’llrncall it — are people like me, folks whorntook one look at Bill Clinton during thern1992 presidential campaign and felt everyrncell in their bodies rebel: Phony!rnFraud! Liar! The reaction was instinctive,rninstantaneous, and irrevocable—asrninvoluntarv’ as anking one’s hand from arnhot stove. From that very first reaction,rnnothing awful that Bill Clinton has donernhas surprised me, although everythingrnawful that he has done has shocked me.rnOver on arc left are my opposite: kneejerkrnClinton defenders, those whose visceralrnloathing is prompted by peoplernwhose visceral loathing is prompted byrnBill Clinton. This group has a reverserntake on the President: Everything awfulrnthat he has done has surprised them, butrnnothing av’ful that he has done hasrnshocked them.rnThese two groups, the Clintonrnloathers and the loathers of the Clintonrnleathers, have spent the last six years beingrntested. I can’t speak for everyone onrnarc right, but personally I have found itrnburdensome and distracting—no fun atrnall — to carr)’ such negative feelings for arn. . . a politician, for crying out loud.rnWhaf s more, it is exhausting, and vaguelyrnembarrassing, to feel one’s emotionsrncontinually overwhelm one’s attempts atrnreason. On the other hand, I know whatrnI know—you know? So there I am.rnAs for the occupants of arc left, theirrnfate for letting emotion overwhelm reasonrnis to become public (and, worse,rncomic) examples of rank hypocrisy.rnThey have defended behavior in thisrnPresident that has betrayed everythingrnthey claim to stand for. My reaction tornBill Clinton is such that m’ punishmentrnis to have been robbed of intellectual detachment.rnThe left’s reaction to peoplernlike me is such that their punishment isrnto have been robbed of principle. It is anrnessential element of the Clinton experiencernthat the one shared fact of bothrngroups is that neither anticipated such arnmiserable fate back in 1992.rnIf there is discomfort at the ends of thernarc, there is sheer existential angst at itsrncrest, territory occupied exclusively byrnpeople I call the Smarties. Sniarties arernnot dealing with issues so raw as visceralrnreactions or so blunt as clashing worldviews.rnRather, they pride themselves onrntheir understanding of nuance and subtlet)’,rntheir refined insights, broad vision,rnnimble intellect, and superior intelligence.rnWhat we are talking about, inrncase you haven’t guessed, are male journalistsrn—boomers mostly (think JoernKlein, Jonathan Alter, Richard Cohen,rnThomas Friedman) —who once sawrnthemselves in Bill Clinton and Bill Clintonrnin themselves. And make no mistake,rnthey were deeply and completely infatuatedrnwith this dual image: We are Clinton;rnClinton is us; wow.rnWell, the romance has faded, replacedrnby primal terror. While arc right is smirking,rn”I told you so,” and arc left is hissingrnsome version of “So’s your old man,”rnnone of it can be heard over the Smarties’rngreat wounded cry: “What in God’srnname have we gotten ourselves connectedrnwith—and bv the way, none of this isrnour fault.”rnWith problems coming from all directionsrn(ever)’ dav. Bill Clinton does somethingrneven more embarrassing), thernSmarties are running out of rationalizations,rnnot that they don’t keep trying. Itrnturns out thev hitched their wagon not torna star but to a head case, and this knowledgernis so terrible, so humiliating, sornalien to their self-image that they arernblinded to the most obvious sources of insightrnand resolution. In this case, thernmost obvious source of insight and resolutionrnis something on the order of If yournlie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.rnBut the first problem with Smarties is thatrnthey can’t recognize a dog. And the secondrnproblem is that they think this is therndog’s fault. They do not look at Bill Clintonrnand ask, “How could I have been sornwrong?” They ask, “How could he havernbeen so bad?” Scratching away, theyrnprotest, “Well, he didn’t look like a dog,rnand he didn’t say he was a dog, so thesernfleas don’t belong on me and probablyrnaren’t fleas to begin with.” I don’t knowhowrnthis argmnent impresses dogs, butrnI’m sure it has no effect whatever on fleas.rnWliv are these men in such exquisiternpain? And I am talking here exclusivelyrnabout men, because there is somethingrnunmistakably gender-specific in theirrnmoral and intellectual struggles with thernperson of Bill Clinton. I think theirrndilemma goes directly to the definition ofrnmanhood and our forced rediscovery,rnthrough exposure to the opposite, of whatrnwere once known as the manly virtues.rnBill Clinton has proved himself to be, inrna word, weak. Not flawed: weak. Who isrnimpressed by a man’s I.Q. while he isrnwallowing in self-pity? Who thinks of hisrnpolicy mastery when he betrays hisrnfriends? \’^^o gives a damn about his intellectrnwhile he lies through his teeth?rnWho is comfortable knowing that hernonce admired, if only in a political context,rnthe sex appeal of a President forrnwhom the designation of “sexual lowlife”rnwould be a step up? Who still thinks thatrn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn