Editor Richard Berke on the 'Feral' Tea Party Movement

Richard Berke, who is being promoted from assistant managing editor to national editor of the Times, reviewed "The Death of American Virtue - Clinton vs. Starr," by Ken Gormley for this week's Sunday Book Review, and lumped in the "birthers, the Tea Party movement" and even Congress as part of today's "feral" politics (meaning wild or undomesticated).

That word could easily have been applied to the fiercely anti-Bush, anti-war rallies in 2003. Needless to say, the Times never made that comparison. It's only right-wing movements, from conspiratorial (the birthers) to justifiable (the Tea Partiers) that are "feral."

In retrospect, it is tempting to see the Clinton impeachment as having ushered in the feral reality of politics today: the birthers, the Tea Party movement, a Congress where old-fashioned legislative victory has given way to the insatiable appetite for annihilation. But in reality, the case belongs on the continuum that began with the toppling of Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court, continued through the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill fracas and was followed by the contested 2000 election. Indeed, the most consequential result of both Clinton's behavior and the Starr investigation was the election of George W. Bush. Clinton's would-be successor, Vice President Al Gore, was embarrassed to campaign alongside Clinton, especially in the Bible Belt, and ended up losing states where Clinton was still popular.