by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Clinton is hardly the lone driver of descent into absurdist denial of objective truth. But he serves as a walking emblem of it. In terms of cultural legacy, the determining act of Clinton’s tenure was his testimony to a grand jury that he was not lying when he swore “there is nothing going on” between himself and his 22- year-old intern: It depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.
The president of the United States bore witness before a watching world that there is no objective reality; no truth exists beyond one’s particular perception of it. His rationalization prompted admiration from Timothy Noah in Salon: “Bill Clinton really is a guy who’s willing to think carefully about ‘what the meaning of the word “is” is.’ This is way beyond slick. Perhaps we should start calling him, ‘Existential Willie.’”
The message seeped into a generation: Reality can be parsed until it suits us. The mind is its own place. My truth trumps yours.
Today’s campus crybullies, insisting on the primacy of their willed realities, are inheritors of that poisonous grand jury moment in 1998. They absorbed the lesson bequeathed them by a discreditable man who left office with the highest final approval rating of any president in the previous half century. He was named Time’s Man of the Year—for the second time, and with Ken Starr—within days of his impeachment.