Roll the Credits
In the movie JFK, director Oliver Stone suggests that President John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and possibly Martin Luther King Jr., died at the hands of a right-wing conspiracy to overturn the will of the people and seize control of the government.
Now, let me hasten to say I recognize that JFK is a work of fiction. I do not believe in the existence of a right-wing conspiracy dedicated to overturning the will of the people and seizing control of the government. Even if I did believe in the existence of a right-wing conspiracy dedicated to overturning the will of the people and seizing control of the government, I certainly wouldn't admit it. Uh-uh. Not me. The right wing is good. I love the right wing--especially right-wing conspirators who may or may not be dedicated to overturning the will of the people etc. etc.
But I get this creepy feeling of recognition as I watch the steady, inexorable dismantling of the Clinton administration.
It's as if I'm watching an Oliver Stone movie unfold before my eyes. It is a film about a small group of people, so nasty and out of control that they will stop at nothing to drive the president out of office. It is a film about a group of self-righteous and hate-filled people who care nothing about democracy and who secretly despise the electorate. It is a film about the people behind the Paula Jones lawsuit, the Whitewater investigation, and independent counsel Kenneth Starr's relentless pursuit of the president.
My friends insist that the conspirators have finally overreached--particularly with the Sept. 12 release of the videotape of President Clinton's testimony when he appeared before the independent counsel's grand jury. My friends insist we will shortly see a backlash against the ham-handed attempt to drag the president into the gutter and kick him to death.
Indeed, the president's videotaped testimony turned out to be much ado about nothing. If Bill Clinton's enemies had hoped America would recoil at the spectacle of the president perjuring himself, they're likely to be disappointed. The president seemed even-tempered and sincere, even on those occasions where he was obviously straining the outermost boundaries of the truth. For example, he explained apparent misstatements in his Paula Jones deposition by saying, "My goal in this deposition was to be truthful, but not particularly helpful. . . . I was determined to walk through the minefield of this deposition without violating the law. And I believe I did."
Clinton added that he believed the goal of the "[Paula] Jones lawyers" was to embarrass and humiliate him, to "bleed" him "financially and politically," to "take a wrecking ball" to hurt him.
I believe he is right. And I believe his inquisitors were empowered by a group of creepy, crawling cockroaches who refuse to accept the will of the electorate.
They represent a new low in American politics. They keep on fighting even after the campaign is over. If they cannot beat you in the voting booth, they will destroy you some other way.
At the same time, I cannot escape the fact that the president lied. He lied repeatedly under oath, he lied to his aides and advisers, and he lied to us.
True, he is just the latest in a long line of lying presidents. True, he lied about what he had every right to believe was a personal matter. But at some point the lying has to stop. Lying is as injurious to democracy as are slimy hypocrites such as Kenneth Starr.
So what do we do now?
I agree with the two out of three Americans who, according to the latest polls, approve of the job Clinton has done in office. I agree with the majority who believe that the president's offenses do not meet the "high crimes and misdemeanors" standard for impeachment called for in the Constitution.
But I take lying seriously. Congressional censure does not seem adequate. I am sitting on $60 in unpaid parking tickets. I'd gladly take Congressional censure in exchange for paying them.
If Clinton were all that honorable, he'd resign. But his resignation would mean that the sleaze merchants who despise him--and all of us--have won. And if they're allowed to win this battle, they'll never, ever stop. Frankly, I don't know what we should do.
I began this column with a reference to Oliver Stone's movie JFK. I'll end with another movie--King Kong.
You'll recall that in the very last scene, King Kong is lying spread-eagled on a New York street, bleeding from multiple wounds. "The airplanes got him," a cop observes. "Uh-uh," says the impresario who brought the great ape to America. "It was beauty that killed the beast."
Some might say the same thing about the White House tragicomedy. Uh-uh. It wasn't beauty. It was slime that felled this beast.
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