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Sundays With The Christianists: U.S. History Textbooks That Feel Your Pain
Pop quiz time! (If you need to review last week's lesson, you may.) Here is an actual review question from our 8th-grade American History textbook from Christian publisher A Beka, America: Land I Love (2006): "What Communist leader toured America in 1990?" Now, you filthy liberals may think the correct answer would be Mikhail Gorbachev, or possibly if you're a big trivia buff, Jiang Zemin, but you would be wrong. Obviously, the huge commie they're talking about is Nelson Mandela.
And that's why we love these textbooks. Their idea of what needs to be emphasized always manages to surprise us.
This week, it's time for the terrible post-Reagan letdown that was the Bill Clinton presidency. Land I Love heads its section on Clinton "The ’90s Inherit the Legacy of the ’60s," and the tut-tutting from the campus of Pensacola Christian College is audible on every page. The main thing to know about Bill Clinton is that if only the Liberal Media hadn't pushed "propaganda of an 'economic crisis,'" and without help from a man who only pretended to be a conservative, That Man never would have replaced George H.W. Bush:
Democrat Bill Clinton won the election of 1992 with a minority of the popular vote. Only 43% of the votes were cast for Clinton; the remaining 57% of the vote was divided between President George Bush and the independent candidate Ross Perot, who campaigned as a conservative. When the election results came in, telecasts showed Perot and his staff celebrating Clinton’s victory. By splitting the conservative vote, Perot helped put Clinton, a strong liberal, into the White House.
We really would like to congratulate the editors of Land I Love for refraining, somehow, from openly using the phrase "stabbed in the back" here. It shows remarkable restraint.
Our other text, the 11/12th-grade United States History for Christian Schools (Bob Jones University Press, 2002), is more openly disdainful of the dude from Hope:
Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, surprised the experts by winning the Democratic nomination. A shrewd politician with a strong popular appeal, Clinton sidestepped and deflected charges concerning his past behavior. First his Democratic opponents and then the Republicans leveled charges concerning Clinton’s alleged sexual immorality, marijuana use, draft dodging during the Vietnam War, and shady financial transactions as governor of Arkansas. Clinton shrugged off these attacks. Instead, he put forth himself as a "New Democrat." He claimed that he would not follow the pattern of promoting big government and would end the policies of high taxes and free spending that the Democrats had followed in the past.
Perot is depicted -- fairly accurately -- as more of a doofus than as a Sekrit Liberal who sought to swing the election to Clinton:
A small, folksy man with the spirit of a Texas maverick, Perot promised to put an end to “politics as usual" and to trim the budget deficit. He made a virtue of the fact that he was no politician. Many Americans -- put off by the candidates of the major parties and what they saw as the dirty politics of Washington -- warmed to a candidate who was a true outsider. Even his wealth, which might have offended some voters, made Perot appear independent and se1f-sufficient. No special interests could "buy" him in return for their financial support.
The campaign was a confused one. Perot first dropped out of the race and then returned. Bush focused on Clinton’s moral failings and tried, unsuccessfully, to label him another "tax-and-spend" liberal like those Ronald Reagan had vanquished. Clinton wisely made the economy his central issue as a recession had followed the Gulf War. With the Cold War won and no immediate foreign threats, Americans worried about domestic issues such as education, health care, and especially the economy. On Election Day 1992, Americans gave a decided rejection of Bush and a faint endorsement of Clinton.
So, not so much stabbed in the back as kind of a "meh" election of a very immoral man -- U.S. History later says that the Clinton presidency was a time of "Economic strength and moral poverty." Land I Love agrees, and knows exactly where all that immorality came from: the bad old Sixties.
With the election of Bill Clinton, the children of the rebellious ’60s came to political power, and their values began to influence the lives of many Americans. The Clintons represented the youth of the ’60s in many ways. Like a few other young men during the Vietnam War, Bill Clinton had dodged military service and participated in anti-war demonstrations in Great Britain. His wife Hillary was an outspoken advocate of feminism and abortion rights.
Oddly, the book doesn't mention that many conservative heroes managed to avoid serving in Vietnam, probably because they made up for it later by supporting sending other families' kids to war. It evens out, after all.
Both texts are very careful to point out that Bill Clinton was a very immoral person, and probably a criminal, though he escaped a guilty verdict somehow. Land I Love soft-pedals the sexxytime stuff, because 8th-graders should only read about adultery in the Bible; instead, they focus on Clinton's alleged corruption, with some truly interesting math thrown into the mix:
Before and after President Clinton’s election, rumors circulated of scandalous behavior, including an adulterous affair and illegal business dealings. In particular, some accused Bill Clinton of using his position as governor of Arkansas to grant special, illegal favors to a real estate firm called the Whitewater Land Development Company. TheWhitewater affairwas assigned a special investigator and scheduled for a Congressional hearing. After six years of investigation, an independent counsel would determine that the evidence was insufficient to convict the Clintons of any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, the scandals of the Clinton Administration so tainted the image of the Democratic party that many Americans voted for Republican candidates in the 1994 Congressional elections, giving the Republican party control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
So after six years of investigations that turned up nothing, Americans were so disgusted that two years into his first term, Americans voted Republican. Let's do the Time Warp again! We're also charmed by that description of the Whitewater investigation: it's not that there was no wrongdoing, just that there was not enough evidence to convict, even though everyone knew they were guilty. By some miracle, Land I Love doesn't also accuse the Clintons of a string of murders. You've got to imagine that they gave it some thought, though.
U.S. History is careful to not get too titillating, either, although it sets up Whitewater, somewhat more accurately, as the starting point for Clinton's later Lewinskian difficulties:
Past controversies also dogged Clinton. A series of women from the president’s past accused him of sexual immorality. The most significant scandal, however, was the "Whitewater" scandal. It took its name from the president’s past investment in the failed Whitewater Development Corporation, a resort in northeastern Arkansas. Rumors surfaced that Governor Clinton had unethically used his influence to promote the Whitewater scheme for his private benefit. Eventually the federal justice department hired an independent counsel (an attorney not under the control of the executive branch) to investigate the Whitewater affair. This investigation went on throughout the Clinton administration and eventually led to the president’s greatest humiliation late in his second term.
On the other hand, where Land I Love at least acknowledges (while hinting otherwise) that the Whitewater investigation came to nothing, U.S. History leaves that teaser of the Lewinski affair hanging, implying that Clinton actually had been corrupt. When it finally does pick up the thread again later in the chapter, the closest U.S. History is willing to come to saying that Clinton wasn't a criminal is that the investigation "led to the trial and convictions of several friends of the president" but the "evidence never touched the president himself." So definitely a crook, just an unconvicted one.
And here we are, just barely getting started on the many terrible things about the Clinton years, and we've hardly even touched on how big a communist he was! Next week, we'll learn about how America narrowly avoided having socialistic healthcare insurance imposed on it, but was rescued by commonsense opposition from the medical and insurance industries.