Clinton supporters take wrong tack in his defense

September 12, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

A NOTE TO BILL Clinton's supporters: Please do an abrupt about face and return to reality. You're dancing perilously close to the line that separates fact from fantasy.

This week, independent counsel Kenneth Starr sent his report to Congress accusing Clinton of perjury and obstruction of justice. In spite of those clear and unconfusing accusations, Clinton's supporters continue to whine that he is being accused of adultery, which is a personal matter.

There are, indeed, some countries left on earth where adultery is a crime. A few even have laws requiring that you be stoned to death for it. There are even some states here that have anti-adultery statutes. But we can dismiss those laws along with the ones requiring that sex be performed in the missionary position only: archaic, stupid and unenforceable.

But perjury and obstruction of justice -- especially by elected officials -- are different matters entirely. They're not archaic but necessary, not stupid but sane, and enforcing them is imperative.

Clinton's supporters sound as if they'd be only too eager to have their boy skirt the law. They'd like to have him above the law, not answerable to it. Thus they blame everyone but Clinton for Clinton's troubles.

At the top of the list is Starr, who stands accused of running some kind of partisan political vendetta. Starr was appointed to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton's role in the Whitewater affair. Almost everybody involved in that scandal has been found guilty, except the Clintons. The more skeptical among us figure the odds of that happening are pretty much the same as any one of us getting struck by a meteorite. Starr and members of Congress also have investigated campaign abuses in Clinton's 1996 re-election effort and whether he violated privacy laws by obtaining FBI files on Republican political appointees.

Next on the list is Monica Lewinsky, that licentious lass who found her perfect whoopee mate in the libertine Clinton. A group of teens on yesterday's CBS News morning show moaned about Starr poking around in Clinton's private life. They implied Clinton's ordeal is Lewinsky's fault.

"She's the one who made public their affair," one of the woefully misinformed teens lamented. Actually, it was Linda Tripp, who is to snitching what Michael Jordan is to basketball, that spilled the beans.

Rounding out the list of the usual anti-Clinton suspects are Republican members of Congress. They are out to "get" Clinton. They have been for some time, Clinton supporters allege.

Let's ponder that for a moment. Republicans have always been out to get Democratic presidents. Franklin D. Roosevelt was pilloried even worse than Clinton. Roosevelt managed to turn Republican jibes against them. In a now famous quote, he said the Republicans attacked not only him, but stooped to new lows and included his dog Fala in the vitriol.

"The attacks don't bother me," Roosevelt quipped. "But they do bother Fala."

Harry S Truman was another president who didn't hesitate to return the fire of opposition congressmen. Truman was called "Give 'em hell Harry" because of his unrelenting attacks on Republicans.

Democratic members of Congress have been just as harsh on Republican presidents. In any two-party system, it's practically a duty for the opposition party to keep the president in check, to skewer him unmercifully and see that he doesn't get too big for his britches.

And Clinton, according to his own testimony, apparently got so big for his britches he -- or at least parts of him -- came out of them for Lewinsky. His personal business, his supporters fume, in a pathetic attempt to help him.

But if Clinton's supporters want to help the guy, help him. Whining about an invasion of Clinton's privacy won't help him, not with that FBI file thing hanging over his head. All Clinton supporters have to do is call their congressional representative and say, "If you vote for impeachment, I vote against you." Because even the most fervent anti-Clintonite has to admit that something smells about the Lewinsky investigation being initiated eight months ago, Lewinsky not testifying until August, and Starr's file not being sent to Congress until five days before the primary election.

The issue here isn't Clinton or his private life. It isn't Lewinsky. It's not even about perjury and obstruction of justice. It's about Tuesday's primary election and the general one to be held in November. It's about whether Republicans will retain control of Congress or cede it to the Democrats. It looks as if, in this particular political chess game, Clinton and Lewinsky are mere pawns.

Pub Date: 9/12/98

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