Gore can't shake Clinton's ghost

June 25, 1999|By Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

LONDON -- Every spring about this time the popular British historian Paul Johnson holds a garden party at his London home. At this year's party -- like all of his parties -- the mix of politicians, intellectuals and business people is unlike anything one would come upon in the United States. Political Correctitude is not yet a religion here.

At Mr. Johnson's party, there are apt to be people from the left such as the playwright Harold Pinter and Lord and Lady Longford. They are now war resisters. Then, too, there are authoritative, if divergent, students of the Balkan fracas, such as Noel Malcolm and John Keegan, the author of a very good history of World War I.

The playboy philosopher Taki was there, postulating his tricky metaphysical theories. And there was even a London-based reporter from a mainstream American newspaper, who lived up to my expectations. He was very nice, very superior and very convinced that this London crowd was so much wittier than any group of sophisticates one might find in America. Furthermore, no one at Mr. Johnson's party would be so gauche as to inveigh against our president in the shocking way that the Washington Post's Sally Quinn and David Broder had.

A blundering pol

At any rate, there were many diverse views expressed the other night, but most seemed to agree with the philosopher Taki that when Vice President Al Gore termed President Clinton's sex life "inexcusable," he committed a major political blunder. Better it would be for Mr. Gore and all Democrats up for election simply to stay the course. Continue to say that fellatio in the White House with a young intern is a private matter. Continue to say everyone does it. Continue to insist that every U.S. president from George Washington to the present had a small harem somewhere behind the drapes.

Mr. Gore has been stalwart in defending the adulterer, obstructer of justice and dog wagger in the White House. On the very day Mr. Clinton was impeached for doing what any red-blooded American sexual deviant would do when brought before a grand jury -- that is to say, commit perjury -- Mr. Gore stood on the White House lawn and described the boy pedophile as "one of our greatest presidents."

Second thoughts

Now he says he was just being loyal and that voters should marvel at what a good, loyal vice president he is. Well, he should not be surprised that his sudden disparagement of the president triggered uncomfortable questions from the press. He gave them the provocation.

Had Mr. Gore stuck to his earlier line, that the president should be allowed his privacy and that presidents will be presidents, it is unlikely the press would have pounced. If the press did take issue with Mr. Gore, he could merely rely on the Democrats' party line. If it did not get them into hot water in the past, why should it get them into hot water now?

The Clintons have been successful in overcoming their scandals because they are reflexive liars. Even when caught with an abundance of evidence they merely avoid the topic. Then they excoriate those who amassed the evidence and remind the world of the incipient Nazism of their political opponents. At best they are Clinton haters or extremists -- a term that has not been so effectively used since President Lyndon Johnson used it against the late Barry Goldwater in the presidential campaign of 1964.

Take notes from Clintons

Rather than call Mr. Clinton's behavior "inexcusable," Mr. Gore should be laughing it off as the price Mr. Clinton pays for being the best-looking Southern president since Jimmy Carter. Then the vice president should remind the journalists' of their complicity in the Spanish American War and the red scare. He should repine over the politics of personal destruction and denounce the Republican Party as a "vast right-wing conspiracy." Recent history suggests this really works. He might also suggest an air strike against Monaco.

That Mr. Gore would depart from his old tactic of defending the boss so early in his race for the presidency is curious. Remember, it has worked for years. The Clintons have been lying, obstructing justice, breaking campaign laws and perhaps even swapping nuclear technology with the Chinese for campaign funds. Mr. Gore has been as good at covering up for them as they have. This is no time for Mr. Gore to begin telling the truth about Mr. Clinton.

Frankly, it makes Washingtonians edgy. It leaves them wondering if the man who would have his finger on the nuclear trigger is unstable. If Mr. Gore begins telling the truth about his boss, seasoned Washington political insiders might even begin to question his character. I can see it now: Gore Mr. badgered along the campaign trail by "the character issue." All because finally he told the truth about Mr. Clinton.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is a syndicated columnist and editor in chief of the American Spectator magazine.

Pub Date: 6/25/99

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