William Jefferson Clinton. He is the most powerful man in the world. He is also our President. However, what do we really know about him? With all the scandals and controversies surrounding this man and his family, is it possible to ever really know the truth about him? Perhaps the only way to do so is to examine the myths surrounding him, many of them of Clinton’s own making, and delve beneath the surface.
One of the most well known scandals surrounding Bill Clinton is the marijuana issue. During the 1992 election, at a time when Clinton least needed trouble, it became known that Clinton had smoked marijuana while attending Oxford. “When I was
in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, And I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale and I never tried it again,” Clinton said in a 1992 interview. He later added, “I was curious, other people were doing it and I tried it. I assumed it was against the law, but when we got there they told us that as long as we did it inside of our apartments or
whatever; nobody would hassle us. But I was not into that” (Allen 31). Clinton’s grudging confession, especially the “didn’t inhale” quote, would bring him much ridicule.
According to an acquaintance in England, Sara Maitland, Clinton’s claims are technically
true. She states that she and Clinton’s other friends spent “enormous amounts of time
trying to teach him to inhale” According to another friend, the lasting image of Clinton
will always be that of the big southerner leaning his head out of an open window gasping
for fresh air at their parties (Maraniss 154). How much of these accounts are true we can
The issue of drugs was also a big issue earlier in Clinton’s life and one that
came up again in 1992. When he was governor in 1984, his brother Roger Clinton was
arrested on five counts of distributing cocaine and one count of conspiracy to distribute it.
He pleaded guilty and served a little over a year in federal prison (Clinton149). Also at
this time, rumors began circulating concerning an extramarital affair Clinton was
supposedly having. In 1992, Roger Clinton’s arrest and his association at the time with
other cocaine users would become an issue in the presidential campaign (Allen 104).
The rumors concerning Clinton’s extramarital affairs reached a fevered
pitch. It became known to the public that a former Arkansas State employee, Larry
Nichols, had made sensational charges that Clinton had been involved in at least five
extramarital affairs while Governor. These charges came with a lawsuit filed for what
Nichols termed an “unjust firing.” Since all the women named denied the charges
nothing was ever printed. When Clinton hit his peak in popularity in 1992, however, Star
Magazine, a supermarket tabloid, printed the charges and a follow-up story stating that
Clinton had engaged in a twelve year affair with Gennifer Flowers. Flowers herself
admitted to the alleged affair. Strangely enough, after a radio station’s report in 1990,
Flowers had denied the charge angrily and had threatened a lawsuit. As to the charges,
Mrs. Rodham Clinton stated that they were totally untrue, and that without a doubt,
Flowers had been paid to fabricate the story (Allen 187-189).
The draft issue also caused a major controversy. An article in the Wall
Street Journal published an article that described how Clinton had avoided the draft in
1969. The article made it appear that he had signed up for ROTC in order to receive a
deferment, but had withdrawn from the organization after he realized he could possibly
avoid the draft by receiving a high lottery number. Since Nixon had made the lottery
based on birthdays, Clinton was practically guaranteed not to be drafted. He wasn’t. He
had also denied being a vehement anti-war supporter. A letter to the head of the ROTC in
Arkansas, Col. Holmes, prove that to be false. To make matters worse, he didn’t even
have a good explanation. That, combined with his dodging of the question for so many
years led to the furthering of the Slick “Willie” image. Clinton’s method of giving
elliptical answers to questions, the draft and drug issues for instance, helped support this
image. The draft story raised doubt in the minds of many. Was Clinton being less than
honest? Why didn’t he just tell the truth? If he’s lied about this, will he lie to us if he’s
“One way to catch fish, according to an
old Arkansas folk tale, is for people to wade into a
stream and kick their feet around the bottom until
the water becomes so disturbed and muddy that the
fish rise to the top. The story serves as an allegory
for politics, which in Arkansas is both a popular
sport and a muddy one. Bill Clinton was a fish
swimming in muddy water from the beginning of
his political career.” (Maraniss 332)
This is perhaps one of the best descriptions of Clinton’s political career.
From one scandal to the next, it seems that one waits on the tetherhooks wondering: what
next? From drugs to the draft to Whitewater, which truth to tell, I find difficult to
understand, the Clinton’s have been under fire for one topic to the next. The topics range
from the serious to the absurd, as the Hillary Rodham Clinton debacle concerning Mrs.
Roosevelt demonstrates. I, personally, do not like the Clintons, probably a result of living
in a household where their names are considered as bad as certain four letter words. I
feel, however, that to much stock is put into certain private matters which have no
bearing on Clinton’s ability to lead our country. I do not admire his moral character, but I
believe he should be judged according to his qualifications, not his supposed affairs.
Many presidents had affairs, some even in the White House itself. I agree with one
statement made by the Pulitzer Prize Winner, David Maraniss. In the narrow dimensions
of the political world, increasingly superficial judgments are being made. That should not
-Allen, C.F. The Comeback Kid. New York: Carol Publishing Group 1992.
-Clinton, R. Growing Up Clinton. Arlington, Texas: The Summit Publishing
-Maraniss, D. First In His Class. New York: Simon & Schuster 1995.