Let's see if I've got this Clinton victory right.
A federal judge in Little Rock , Ark., has decided that the president is innocent of committing an "outrage" as defined by Arkansas law, or of inflicting any actionable damages on Paula Jones' psyche. That leaves the president guilty only of indecent exposure. Sure, it's "alleged." But who in their own private counsels, or in their right mind, could believe that Jones and the six people in whom she confided at the time just made the whole incident up?
And who, even among those who think it shouldn't matter, doubts the president had sex in the Oval Office with a 21-year-old intern, not his wife, and lied about it to a court of law, and then lied about it directly and bald-facedly to the American people? Or that the commander in chief groped a troubled and confused Kathleen Willey. After all, Joe Klein's "Primary Colors," the most widely distributed full-length portrait of the Clinton character, reveals a man perfectly at home with such obnoxious behavior. And Klein was a Clinton fan and defender. Has there been even one review of the book or the film that even suggests the portrait of "Gov. Stanton" as sexual predator is inaccurate or unfair to the original?
Let's accept for now the argument that the president's sex life -- even though it leaks into the Oval Office, even though it has penetrated the entire nation's mental life, including that of its prepubescent children -- is still a private matter. Let's just ignore the fact that the president of the United States is a flasher, a sexual pig, a liar and even a perjurer in his compulsive and repulsive behavior toward women. Does this mean we can be done with the matter, just say "yuck" and put it behind us, as the groupthink induced by the Clinton spin staff seems to be demanding?
Let's remember that not too long ago, we forced a president out of office and sent several of his aides to jail for far less than has been done by the Clinton White House. On this president's watch, we have misappropriations of FBI files, illegal leaking of personnel files, defying of court requests and court subpoenas, missing records, destroyed records, massive illegalities in campaign finance, including breaches of U.S. security regulations and, of course, multiple coverups and potential obstructions of justice.
Richard Nixon went down primarily for erasing 18 minutes of tape to cover up a burglary of which there is no evidence to suggest he had knowledge in advance. Moreover, the consequences of Nixon's downfall were not small. His forced resignation led directly to the reversal of his Indochina policies, the cutting off of U.S. military and financial aid to the governments in Cambodia and South Vietnam, the fall of those governments and the slaughter of 2.5 million peasants by their communist rulers. Hillary Clinton, then a staffer in the Watergate investigations, was part of the crowd that thought the pursuit of a president they hated was more important than this.
While we are getting things straight about the victors in the Paula Jones case, let's pause for a reality check about the losers. They have become victims of a politically induced witch hunt that allows not only the Clinton attack machine but press institutions like Salon to demonize critics of the president -- and defenders of Jones -- as members of a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Consider the supposed conspirator in chief, Richard Mellon Scaife, a man featured, but never interviewed, in several recent issues of Salon (although, to be fair, Salon reporters tried). Scaife's name has been so blackened by a ruthless White House and an irresponsible press that it can instantly taint any individual he has touched. But what has he actually done? It seems Scaife provided $2.4 million to journalists, investigators and witnesses in these matters regarding the president with the idea of facilitating their efforts. It seems, further, that believing that the president was guilty in these matters, Scaife was eager to see him prosecuted and if possible to have him impeached.
So what's the crime? It's no longer OK for an individual to take it upon himself to try to make the system work? And what is the conspiracy? The Washington Post financed a couple of reporters for nearly two years to bring down Nixon. Is there some law that prevents Dick Scaife and the American Spectator from trying to do the same? Is there no one financing Terry Lenzer and the other private eyes digging up dirt to smear and perhaps intimidate individuals who get in the Clintons' way? Are Joe Conason, Sidney Blumenthal, Murray Waas and James Carville working for free? Did someone not collect $400,000 for convicted felon and presidential lawyer Webster Hubbell? Did others not conduct job searches for Monica?
If Salon and other presidential defenders are so concerned about
conspirators, they might want to think about which attack machine has the real power to destroy individuals who get in their way.
Readers of Salon will know that despite my low opinion of the president, I have not been out to "get" him. I have written some 25 columns for Salon over the last year, and have only rarely mentioned Clinton. On one occasion I criticized his race panel as being a dialogue of the deaf. On two other occasions I actually praised the president. It was only this year, after Sidney Blumenthal sued Matt Drudge, and I stepped forward to provide Drudge with a defense team, that I became -- inevitably -- embroiled in this matter. I then wrote two Salon columns on the White House crisis.
Two weeks ago, my name appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in an article about the Drudge case. The Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a tax-exempt foundation that I run and that houses the Drudge Defense Fund, was also mentioned. Five days later, I received notification from the IRS that the center would be the subject of an IRS audit. We had never been audited before.
This is a White House that is not shy about using and abusing its power to correct the moral wrongs it detects in others. Its occupants don't approve of smoking, so they use the punitive resources of government to change what people have been doing since the discovery of tobacco. They don't like people who stand up to them and question their ethics, so they demonize them and destroy them. In this moment of White House triumph, this is not a reassuring picture.