Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
Who Cares If the President is a Liar?
WASHINGTON, DC, January 27, 1998 --
If one thing was made certain by the news of the past week, it is this: President Clinton is a creep. Every day, the proof became more and more damning. By the end of the week, evidence had painted a picture of a president so odious that Americans would not be able to look him in the face -- if only they could tear their eyes away from the screen.
Is this really so surprising?
Evidence shows absolutely no new pattern in Clinton's behavior. All of the allegations against President Clinton are based on character flaws that Americans either knew about -- or should have known about -- at the time of his election in 1992. President Clinton indeed may be a philanderer and a liar, but he was elected with full public knowledge that he was a philanderer and a liar. I have a simple prescription for the outraged public: Deal with it.
The revelations of the past week have absolutely nothing to do with the serious tasks associated with execution of the office of president. The news is juicy. It is intriguing. It makes great theater. Substantive is the one thing that it definitely is not. So what if the President had consensual sex with an adult intern? That's between the intern, the President, and his wife. Period.
The Post-ABC News poll shows increasing public acceptance for this view. The number of people who say the alleged sex is "not an important issue" rose to 56 percent of Americans in the weekend poll.1 Surprisingly, Americans are far less accommodating of Clinton when it comes to the truthfulness of his affidavit. 63 percent said he should resign if it is proven that he lied to investigators about an affair with his intern.2
In essence, the public is saying they don't care if the President is up to a little hanky-panky, but if he lies to the American people about it, he should be forced to resign. This sentiment is almost as outrageous as Shmucko's Oval Office antics. No one can possibly expect a sitting President of the United States to admit in writing that he has engaged in sex acts with a 21-year-old intern. But that's exactly what he was asked to do. When placed in such a extreme situation, Clinton had no alternative but to lie.
That's what it comes down to: a lie. The public is all frothed up because their beloved heroic president lied to them. This is where Americans are overdue for a bone-crushing reality check. In our democratic system, the President is not a chivalrous monarch. He is not a holy pontiff. He is not even a heroic role model. He is a politician. And politicians lie.
If there are any adult Americans who are surprised by this fact, then it is time for them to do some serious growing up. There are many reasons for Clinton to be rejected by the American people: his unwavering support for government expansion, his sponsorship of repressive foreign military campaigns, and his reckless interference in the dynamic high-tech economy. Telling a lie about his personal life, however, is not a valid reason to expect his resignation.
Ironically, the one area of his behavior where Clinton should be vulnerable to public attacks is of very little interest to the public. This involves his abuse of government employees. Remember that all of the revelations of last week came on the heels of an investigation into the President's alleged sexual harassment of a Arkansas government employee at the time he was governor. A similar case for abuse of governmental power could potentially be made against Clinton for his treatment of a government employee in the case of the White House intern. The most appropriate and feasible avenue for resolution of these disputes, however, is via civil court -- not impeachment.
There should be no doubt that President Clinton is a reprehensible individual. He supports immoral policies that are harmful to the country and the world. He admittedly has cheated on his wife on numerous occasions. He appears to abuse his public employees to satisfy his sexual urges. And, yes, President Clinton lies to his constituents.
President Clinton may be a creep, but he is a twice elected creep. Voters were given ample evidence of his character flaws in both elections, yet they declined to reject him as a candidate. Now that his mischief is becoming more blatant and embarrassing, infantile voters want out of the deal. This is indeed an embarrassing time for America: not just for the presidency, but for the democracy.
1. The Washington Post, January 26, 1998, "White House Sex Allegations Don't Trouble Most People"