Myth: Clinton is thoroughly corrupt.
Fact: Clintonís "corruption" is the result of a multi-million dollar smear campaign.
Clinton's critics spent millions on smear campaigns, knowing that the mere accusations are enough to tarnish his reputation. And they also knew that if they threw enough mud, some of it was bound to stick. But it is important to note that despite a four-year, $45 million investigation, Clinton has been cleared on Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate, Troopergate, Vince Foster's death, cocaine smuggling at Mena airport and dozens of other baseless accusations. The only thing they could get him on was the cover-up of an entirely legal and consensual affair.
During Clintonís presidency, a mythology has sprung up around Clinton claiming he is thoroughly corrupt. This impression is reinforced by the sheer number of accusations aimed at him. People tend to think, "Where thereís smoke, thereís fire."
However, the smoke is being generated not by the fires of corruption, but by a well-funded anti-Clinton machine. As Hitler said, "The grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down." Hitler understood that a mere accusation is often as damaging to a personís reputation as a conviction in court. This is one of the reasons why slander and libel are illegal.
Imagine that you are an average citizen who is completely honest and moral. But for some reason your neighbor hates your guts Ė perhaps because your religious or political beliefs are different. Unfortunately, your neighbor sees it as his moral and patriotic duty to destroy you. Even worse, your neighbor is a billionaire, and has no problem launching a multimillion-dollar campaign to invade your privacy and assassinate your character. Furthermore, a third of the public agrees with him, and will do anything, legal or not, to help him, especially if it means receiving his million dollar grants.
Soon you find newspaper stories accusing you of all manner of character flaws. To your horror, you learn from headlines that you have a giant library of pornography. You frequently have affairs, straight and gay, normal and kinky. Office workers youíve never met claim that you lie, cheat and steal constantly. Your prison, health and school records are suddenly opened to the public, with all their embarrassing revelations. Former lovers release faked pictures of you in the nude on the Internet. Some accuse you of bestiality and incest.
Are the accusations true? Of course not. They are generated from your opponents, not your true behavior. Where there is smoke, there is not fire. But the accusations take their toll, and your reputation suffers.
The example above assumes that you are a completely honest and moral person. But in the real world, no human being is perfect. We all have flaws. In which case, the above smear campaign actually fulfills a second function: if it throws enough mud, some of it is bound to stick. For example, you might be a relatively honest and moral person, but you subscribe to several adult magazines. Nothing illegal about it, but it is embarrassing. When the reporters show up on your door demanding to know if itís true, you have three options. You can lie by denying it, look evasive by refusing to answer it, or you can admit to it. In the latter two cases, you become late-night joke fodder for Jay Leno and David Letterman, and your reputation is shot.
Several morals stand out in this example. First, no one has a right to gratuitously invade your privacy with multi-million dollar investigations. The right to privacy is a deeply cherished one in American tradition, because other peopleís opinions are often prejudiced, hypocritical, sanctimonious, misguided, wrong, different, hateful, intolerant and more. We have a right to keep people from forming opinions on behavior which is none of their business. Invasions of privacy are justified only when there is a suspicion of wrong-doing.
Second, no one has a right to smear your name in the media with baseless accusations. Accusations should be investigated in secret, and publicized only when found to be true.
Third, and most importantly, questions demanding your confirmation or denial over legal but embarrassing behavior are themselves wrong. They are illegitimate questions. They place you in a lose-lose-lose situation: either lie, evade or humiliate yourself. Such grim options stem from a well-publicized invasion of your privacy that should have never occurred in the first place.
And what of Clinton? It should be pointed out that Scaifeís scandal-machine produced endless accusations, but all failed to stick. After a four-year, $45 million fishing expedition, Ken Starrís investigation found no evidence of wrong-doing in Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate, Troopergate, campaign financing, Vince Fosterís suicide, cocaine smuggling at Mena Airport or any of the other dozens of smears aimed at Clinton. The only mud that stuck was his attempt to deny an entirely legal and consensual affair that he had. The questions concerning this affair were illegitimate, because they did not concern illegal behavior such as sexual harrassment, but presented him with a set of grim options after invading his privacy.
The irony is that Clinton stands as the most investigated president in history, and the lack of evidence of wrong-doing suggests that Clinton is relatively cleaner than most politicians. (A low hurdle, granted.) This infuriates conservatives, who see Clinton as "obviously" corrupt. But then these critics must prove their accusations with evidence. Ken Starr couldnít find any after four years and $45 million. They canít either.