The Magazine


Feb 2, 1998, Vol. 3, No. 20 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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FOR SIX YEARS, COVERING THE BILL CLINTON scandals has been like being in a greased-pig contest. So the Monica Lewinsky disgrace raises the question, What do you do with a greased pig once you catch him?

The damage that the Clinton presidency is going to do to the republic has mostly been done. Clinton has introduced his legislative idiocies, performed his budgetary legerdemain, made his foreign-policy mischief, and inured the American people to a chief executive with low principles, high turpitude, and wide moral cowardice. It's a little late to nab him now.

Must Congress impeach the fellow? This would leave the dangerously loopy Al Gore in charge. It would be tougher for a Republican presidential candidate to face an incumbent, even a woody-stemmed, sap-spouting one with his roots tangled in the fund-raising sewer. And Gore remembers Jerry Ford's political Vince Foster act with the Nixon pardon.

If Congress does feel compelled to impeach Clinton, my advice would be to do it in the true pulled-pork barbecue fashion -- very slowly. A key Clinton strategy, with all his previous scandals, has been to play for time. Congress should turn the scheme on the schemer. A lollygagging impeachment process would let Clinton's past dirt be brought into public view again and allow leisure for new muck to be raked. And prolonged impeachment proceedings, even if ultimately unsuccessful, would leave a pack of exhausted and quarreling Democrats to run against in 2000. True, a lengthy impeachment would tie up the resources of the White House and Congress and bring the federal government to a virtual halt. But I'm a conservative of libertarian bent, and I wouldn't mind a bit.

Congress may have a future role in the Lewinsky Affair, but we in the conservative media have a role to play right now. And our role is to stay out of it. The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and the network news shows have been carrying Bill Clinton's water for years. Now let them drown him. The journalism establishment may be liberal, but it likes nasty journalism better than it likes Bill. The Clinton White House has shrugged off past accusations by saying they had their source in partisan hatreds and right-wing-nut conspiracy theories. Let's hear the White House call Sam Donaldson and Katherine Graham names.

Personally, I'm phoning all the talk-radio shows and saying, "Rush, Gordon, I'm a member of a New Hampshire militia, a bit of a gold bug, and I've got my own Mena airport Web site, but I think, in this case, we shouldn't jump to conclusions. Let's just let the facts come out." Of course the facts may not come out. But that's also fine with me. I see only two Clinton Squirm Scenarios:

1. Clinton admits to having sex with Monica Lewinsky but claims that he never urged her to lie. Indeed, he urged her to tell the whole truth when subpoenaed. In this case the nation sees that we have a pathetic fool with deep-seated psychological problems for a president. (And punishment, more severe than even Gordon Liddy would recommend, will be meted out by Mrs. Clinton.)

2. Clinton does not admit to having sex with Monica Lewinsky and claims she made the whole thing up. In this case the nation sees that the full prestige and influence of the presidency were used to get a Pentagon job, a Top Secret clearance, free legal advice from Vernon Jordan, and recruitment offers from Bill Richardson and various major U.S. corporations for a pathetic fool with deep-seated psychological problems.

Either way Clinton has found his place in history -- the pathetic fool with deep-seated psychological problems place.

I'm so pleased with this latest scandal that I'm going to do more than stay out of it; I'm going to take the president's side. I'm going to go out and talk to members of Clinton's core constituency -- women, labor, and minorities. I'll tell the minorities, "Clinton's all right. I'll bet it was Vernon Jordan's fault." I'll tell labor, "The intern did it. Interns are there to bust the civil-service wage scale. This is what the White House gets for hiring scab labor." And I'll tell women, "Big deal if he fooled around. What do you think interns are for? You can't chase secretaries around the desk anymore or you get the EEOC on your neck."

I'm supporting my president. I figure I can do more damage that way. And maybe I'll get a job at Revlon.

P. J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.