Last year, at a National Press Club
dinner, Bill and Hillary had to sit in silence while the New York radio
shock-jock Don Imus made a string of merciless jokes about
Clintons adulteries. It was all the worse because it wasnt
funny. The audiences embarrassment was palpable. Henry VIII,
no model husband himself, never had to go through that! But for all
the subsequent controversy, the occasion was a net plus for
Imuss career. Hed calculated correctly that he could get
away with it, garnering a lot of publicity.
As far as I know, nobody has made the
most obvious comment on all this: Clinton is, by far, beyond any
comparison, the most humiliated public figure in American history.
Clarence Thomas must sigh with relief that hes not Bill Clinton.
At a press conference, Carol Channing was
once asked whether she remembered her most embarrassing moment. She
answered: Yes ... Next question?
People dont forget humiliations.
They may not talk about them, but they remember them. Given the power
of pop culture nowadays, Clinton must realize how can he help but
realize? that its not his policy achievements
that are defining his presidency, but his scandals, and especially his sexual
scandals. People who couldnt find Bosnia with both hands know
who Paula Jones is. The phrases Arkansas state troopers
and distinguishing characteristics are to him what
expletive deleted was to Nixon, only more so.
Much more so.
He sought the presidency from boyhood,
chasing women on the side, but he never bargained on this. He assumed
that being president meant being respected by everyone. Isnt that
pretty much the whole point? The pomp and dignity of the nations
highest office! Hail to the Chief! The successor to Washington, Jefferson,
and Lincoln! He wasnt just going to be president he was
going to be a great president. Was there room for another face on
It hasnt quite worked out that
way. We already forget just how drastically Bill Clinton has changed the
image of the presidency in just five years. Oh, how he has changed it
from Pennsylvania Avenue to Tobacco Road.
Image is a word from the
Kennedy era. It suggests an aura of glamour that is notably lacking in the
Clinton era. Even the dirt about Jack Kennedy links him to glamorous
women, including Marilyn Monroe. Clinton is linked to the likes of
Gennifer Flowers, and to a failed pass at Paula Jones which, by her account,
says little for his savoir-faire.
At least Nixon could say, I am not a
crook and complain that the press was wallowing in
Watergate. Poor Clinton cant even protest the treatment
hes getting. He cant say, I am not an adulterer.
He cant afford to show that being the Dirty-Joke-in-Chief is
bothering him. He just has to pretend he doesnt notice. He notices!
And he has brought it on himself. He
cant turn back. There is no way out. I doubt that impeachment
could rival the scalding humiliation he endures every day. Its
When Paula Jones filed suit, he
couldnt admit he remembered her. He remembered! He hired
the toughest lawyer in Washington and did everything he could to
smear her. This isnt the way a president of the United States
would respond to a lie by a little nobody. His attempts to settle out of
court with a large cash payment and a statement attesting her good
character, with typical Clintonian equivocation, dont exactly
help refute her story.
Clinton has had his defenders in
the press, but there is one defense none of them has dared to attempt:
Oh, hes not the type of man who would do a thing like
that! Hes exactly the type. If a woman had accused
Jimmy Carter of such a thing, nobody would have paid any attention.
(If Carter had admitted doing it, wed have had trouble
So what does Clinton do? Does he
discreetly steer away from sexual issues? No! He addresses a gay rights
banquet and pledges his full support! He draws analogies between the
gay rights movement and the abolitionist movement, the feminist
movement, the civil rights movement. He talks about sodomy in the
accents of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
Why? Of course homosexuals are big
donors to the Democratic Party now, but Clinton hardly needs the
money. I think he has another motive. I think he feels he has to see
the sexual revolution through to the bitter end. And I think he feels a
deep empathy for his fellow deviants, even if his tastes differ somewhat
from theirs. When hes among gays and lesbians, hes
among people who dont laugh at him or look down on him. To
them hes not just a risible, white-trash parody of Jack
Kennedys secret life, the Arkansas cousin of Larry Flynt and
Jimmy Swaggart. Hes a moral leader! They admire him without
irony! They make him feel the way he always thought a president
would always feel!
Moral squalor, like misery, loves
company. If Clinton can help to normalize even sexual perversion, if he
can drag the whole country down to his own level, maybe, he reasons,
his own conduct wont look so bad in retrospect. Like Fidel
Castro, he may feel that history will absolve him. He envisions a
future America, fully liberated about sex, in which his
ordeal will be recalled with indulgence. He will be honored as a hero
and martyr of the sexual revolution the president who made
it official that sexual freedom is a human right!
Is this Clintons hidden agenda?
I think so. Under the lofty rhetoric of rights we often find
less edifying concerns.
Consider another pillar of the sexual
revolution: Alfred Kinsey, author of the famed
Kinsey Report. Kinsey
taught educated Americans that all sorts of sexual practices of
which homosexuality was only one were actually far more
widespread than anyone had suspected. He said this in dry prose, backed
up by a mountain of impressive statistics, complete with decimal points.
In matters of sex, Kinsey was the very voice of disinterested science.
And the result of his findings was to change American
attitudes toward sexual morality, even though there is no logical
connection between how people behave and how they ought to
behave. His work provided the intellectual underpinning of the
But recent studies of Kinsey himself,
including a huge new biography, tell a different story. Kinsey was an utter
fraud but one of the most successful in the history of science.
His methods were not only shoddy but profoundly dishonest. His
samplings were deliberately skewed. His statistics were fake. His
findings have been refuted by subsequent studies by
more honest inquirers though his findings are
still cited as gospel, especially his finding that about 10
per cent of the population is homosexual. His use of children in his
studies should have landed him in prison, assuming he was telling
the truth about it (a large assumption). But it was excused as
science, and no law-enforcement official ever moved
to prosecute him. And his work was financed and protected by the
But he had his reasons. Kinsey
himself was a promiscuous bisexual and masochist. Privately he
both practiced and fostered perversion. He encouraged his wife
the mother of his four children to have sexual intercourse with
other men, which she often did. He held that pedophilia was harmless
and that pedophiles were unjustly persecuted by law. A new biography
describes his personal conduct in graphic detail. Suffice it to say that he
makes Bill Clinton seem wholesome by comparison.
Kinseys agenda was to bring
the whole country down to his own level, and in fact nobody did more
to advance the sexual revolution. Raised in a strict Protestant home,
he betrayed his heritage in the name of neutral-sounding
science. What an act! He had the remarkable faculty of
writing about sex as if he took a purely clinical interest in it, like a
Martian observing the curious biology of Earthlings.
A horrifying man. Yet a New
York Times reviewer of his biography, without disputing the
facts, considers Kinseys lies and sins redeemed by the results.
After all, Kinsey helped give us sexual freedom! And the curious
thing is that his behavior horrifies us less than it might because of
the power of his own influence. Thanks to his work, his perversion
isnt quite as shocking as it once would have been. If he had
done a similar study of the prevalence of lying, maybe his mendacity
wouldnt be so shocking either.
Bill Clinton may think he too will
finally be redeemed by the results. It would be one thing if he were
an honest advocate of sexual license. But he matches Kinsey in
hypocrisy. Hes the sort of man who can sing hymns in church
with a tear trickling down his cheek (at least if a camera is aimed at
him) and no president has quoted the Bible so often. He still wants
Christians to think of him as their fellow Christian. Even Clinton
can quote Scripture for his purpose.
In a sense, Kinsey is partly
responsible for Clintons election. This is now the kind of country
in which, verily, any boy can grow up to be president, no matter what
he does along the way. As the columnist Paul Greenberg observed the
other day, Clinton falls somewhere between the con men of Mark
Twain and the degenerates of William Faulkner.
Im beginning to think
democracy is the cruelest form of government, because it gives
people exactly the kind of leaders they deserve. We finally have
one who is so transparent that we can hardly complain
weve been betrayed.
To read the Epilogue Joe wrote for this piece after the Lewinsky
scandal broke, click here.
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