EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the May 8, 2006, issue of National Review.
About five years ago, at a weekly prayer meeting of senators, Sam Brownback came as close as he ever had to confessing to a hate crime. “I was scheduled to be the speaker that morning,” recalls Brownback, a Kansas Republican. “As I was preparing for it, I had seen hate in myself for the Clintons. I felt righteous. That’s not a Christian virtue.”
Brownback says his antipathy for the Clintons grew out of the government shutdowns of the mid-1990s, when he was a freshman member of the House. “We were trying to balance the budget, and President Clinton backed away from an agreement,” he says. “I flew off the handle.” More controversies followed, including impeachment. As a senator in 1999, Brownback voted to remove Clinton from office. He says he isn’t sorry for that, but he does regret the way he felt about it at the time: “When somebody does something wrong, there is a penalty to pay, but there is not an entitlement to hate.”
Within a couple of years, of course, one Clinton was out of office and another was in–Hillary Rodham Clinton became one of Brownback’s Senate colleagues in 2001. She also started to attend the Tuesday-morning prayer group. Brownback figured that she would be there on the day he was supposed to speak, and indeed she was. He used the occasion to clear his mind. “I confessed it to the group,” says Brownback. “I apologized for my hate.”
Today, Brownback is all about the love–not just for the Clintons, but for everyone. As he mulls a long-shot bid for the White House in 2008, he is trying to reinvent the politics of compassionate conservatism for the post-Bush era…
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