A country, a president fail together

August 20, 1998

Excerpts from columnists around the country:

Nixon tried to survive by hiding evidence from the public. Clinton has tried that, too, but his strategy, advanced through compliant surrogates, has been to corrupt the public by encouraging indifference to evidence of brazen deceit about scabrous behavior.

John Adams said, "There never was yet a people who must not have somebody or something to represent the dignity of the state." Clinton's little legacy will be a quickened understanding of the indispensable nature of the sort of dignity from which he has been such a tawdry subtraction.

-- George F. Will

It is as if Americans have constructed their own lifeboat exercise. They've decided that Bill Clinton may be a moral reprobate, but so far, he's steered the country through peace and prosperity. Should they really toss him overboard when they're not sure who else can row the country as ably? The problem with such reasoning, however, is that this lifeboat we've created has so mired the country in the muck that we may never recover as a nation. When a majority of Americans can tell themselves that lying under oath is not a serious offense, the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy has begun to crumble.

-- Linda Chavez

Whether you're dancing the dance of vindicated Clinton-bashers or weeping tears of disappointment because your dreams of Camelot II have been forever tarnished, it really won't affect the business of the country. The reality is, we have a pathological liar in the White House -- and yet the great majority of the citizenry doesn't mind because he's leading the country through some of the most peaceful and prosperous times in our nation's history.

-- Richard Roeper

Last winter, when the Monica Lewinsky story first broke in the press, it was the Hollywood producer Harry Thomasson, alone among advisers, who counseled Mr. Clinton to stare into the cameras, wag his finger angrily, and tell the American people that "I did not have a sexual relationship with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Monday evening, it was the same Harry Thomasson who prevailed at the White House, exulting in Bill Clinton's evasive defiance.

If Mr. Thomasson's advice had been ignored in January, this entire episode might well have been avoided. Now, having once again followed Thomasson's lead, Bill Clinton has imperiled his tenure in office.

-- Philip Terzian

If Clinton could see past his anger at special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the legions of Clinton bashers who gnaw at him like fleas and his own crafty ability to finesse sticky situations, he would resign. For the good of his country, his party and his own place in history, he should call it quits. Pack it in. Say adios.

Of course, he won't. He's too angry and stubborn for that. I don't blame him. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't do it.

-- Clarence Page

Anything that is private is rendered semipublic or public if it catches a public hook. How much money you have is your business, unless you want to build a house and take a mortgage. Then it is also the business of the lending organization. If you patronize a speakeasy and a bust is ordered and your name is taken, your private right to consume liquor becomes the stuff of a public datum. If you lie about it, you step through the window of privacy into the public street. If you insinuate to the arresting officer that better days are in store for him if he just forgets about it, you are obstructing justice and suborning perjury and all that stuff. There is no way, if reflection is given to the question, to shrug it off with an: All he wanted was just a little drink.

-- William F. Buckley Jr.

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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