Baby Boomers Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich share a theory that fellatio does not constitute a sexual act which violates marriage vows. In a 1995 Vanity Fair profile of the speaker, one of Newt's former female playmates was quoted as saying that he demanded oral sex "because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'"
Many Americans outside the reach of the racier tabloid dailies first learned of the president's similar views last Friday on CNN's Inside Politics, when news anchor Bernie Shaw introduced a report by warning that it "might not be suitable viewing for children." Now there is hardly a tube-watcher in the country who does not know that Clinton for years has claimed "Bible research" convinced him that blow jobs are not adultery. All this gives new meaning to the phrase "head of state."
Those of us who are civil libertarians abhor intrusions by any branch of government--including Kenneth Starr--into our sex lives. But there is a certain poetic justice in seeing the president who made Family Values the central theme of his re-election brought low by his own reckless philandering (just like his F.V. ad guru, toe-sucking triangulator Dick Morris). Clinton is, after all, the man who shredded the social safety net for unwed mothers while lecturing them about "responsibility"; who signed the gay-bashing Defense of Marriage Act and boasted about it in his campaign commercials; whose Defense Department continues to condone anti-gay witch hunts in the military; who opposes frank sex education and condoms in the schools; and the like.
Whether the Office of the Independent Counsel can make a legal case stick against Clinton is another question. The circumstantial evidence--phone records of his calls to Lewinsky, White House documentation of her after-hours visits, gifts exchanged, public hugs--is strong, although not conclusive. The tapes Linda Tripp made of her chats with Lewinsky were recorded in Maryland, where laws don't allow recording a conversation without the consent of both parties. Clinton's lawyers could challenge their admissibility in court; similarly, they could argue that the tapes Tripp made while wearing an FBI wire are out of bounds because they were recorded before Starr got his jurisdiction expanded to this matter.
Starr's people are reported to be conducting DNA tests for the president's semen on a dress seized from Lewinsky's apartment. But Clinton's lawyers could claim that, since Starr only knew about the dress from the illegally obtained Tripp tapes, it is the fruit of a tainted tree. And obtaining a sample of the president's DNA for comparison could spell a lengthy legal battle as Clinton could invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
If Lewinsky flips for Starr and testifies to her affair with the president, these delaying tactics would probably be moot. And Starr has a potent weapon to use in forcing such a flip: The "talking points" Lewinsky gave to Tripp to induce her to lie constitute subornation of perjury. Lewinsky's lawyer has made it clear he's not going to let his client wind up in a jail cell adjoining Susan McDougal's. It is inevitable that she will testify to the affair. That is why the anonymous White House leakers are beginning to paint a portrait of Lewinsky designed to undermine her credibility.
But if Lewinsky is the unstable, bubble-headed, manic-depressive "stalker" the White House is trying to make her out to be, why was she given a Pentagon job with a top security clearance that allowed her access to highly classified material and afforded her a dozen trips around the world with the secretary of defense?
This brings us to the administration's massive effort to find a job for Lewinsky. U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson and his chief of staff had a long lunch with Lewinsky to interview her for a $24,000 receptionist's job; the notion that this is standard practice for such a low-level employee is absurd.
But it is in the person of Vernon Jordan that the Lewinsky affair and Whitewater come together. Jordan is a corporate fixer who operates at the highest levels of monied power; he sits on the board of directors of RJR Nabisco, Bankers Trust, J.C. Penney, Xerox, American Express, Dow Jones, Corning, Union Carbide, Sara Lee, and Revlon. When Webb Hubbell, the man who knows Bill and Hillary's Whitewater secrets, was ousted from the Justice Department, Jordan called Revlon chairman Ron Perelman, a big campaign contributor to Clinton.
The perfume magnate agreed to put Hubbell on the payroll at $25,000 quarterly for "public relations" work, an odd assignment for a man under indictment. Revlon paid Hubbell $63,000 before he pleaded guilty to theft and fraud and went to jail. Thanks to Jordan and other Clinton cronies, Hubbell made more under indictment than he ever had as a lawyer.
Revlon has already admitted that it offered Lewinsky a cushy public-relations job, once again at Jordan's behest. Jordan says he acted as a personal favor to Betty Currie, the president's oh-so-private secretary; but as former Clinton spin doctor David Gergen remarked last week, "When Jordan gets a call from Betty Currie, he knows she's talking for the president." It was also Jordan who sent Lewinsky to the lawyer--a member of his own firm--who would prepare her affidavit in the Paula Jones case.
Jordan is a notorious womanizer who has boasted about how he and Clinton share "locker room" talk. Indeed, he has cultivated the Clintons for two decades, having seen in the young Arkansas governor the perfect vehicle for the corporate takeover of the Democratic Party by his cronies in the Democratic Leadership Council. As chairman of the '92 transition Jordan helped shape the corporate character of Clinton's cabinet. And he has been present for every major Clinton political crisis, including the Gennifer Flowers affair.
Jordan will never talk, for admitting that he helped orchestrate and carry out a coverup at Clinton's instigation would put him in criminal jeopardy. Even if Lewinsky eventually fingers him under oath, the case for obstruction of justice on his or Clinton's part will be next to impossible to prove in court.
But the legal technicalities won't matter if Clinton loses the country, which will not tolerate a protracted, Nixonian defense to the bitter end. New York's Daniel Patrick Moynihan this week became the first Democratic senator to say that if Clinton had sex--any kind of sex--with Lewinsky, he must resign.
Sex is still America's dirty little secret, as the cartoonist/playwright Jules Feiffer has said, which is why Clinton--no matter what he says--will be unable to rally the country behind him. This president has rubbed our collective noses in the national hypocrisy about sex, and the country will not forgive him for it.
Bill Clinton is nothing more than pond scum on Corporate America's political agenda. He should have been chased from office for selling everything that wasn't nailed down to get re-elected. If the mass media had given the political corruption that has riddled this administration the kind of attention they have lavished on the Lewinsky affair, he might have been. But even bombing Iraq won't save Clinton if he's convicted of lying in the court of public opinion--for a president, the only court that really matters. The question now is not whether he'll have to resign, but when.
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