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Jewish World Review / August 7, 1998 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5758

Roger Simon

Roger Simon Has the presidency been reduced to a 'Leno' joke?

WASHINGTON -- I am talking to a real-estate agent on the phone about a vacation place I want to rent for a week this summer.

I had planned on showing up Aug. 15, but I now tell him that this is, of course, impossible.

"Oh?" he says. "Why can't you make it?"

The president, I say.

"The president?" he says.

He's testifying on Aug. 17, I say, and so I have to hang around Washington until that's over.

"Testifying?" the guys says, genuinely mystified. "Testifying about what?"

The guy is, I should point out, a educated, involved citizen of this country. And he has not been on submarine duty under the polar ice cap for the last seven months.

"Clinton is giving testimony to the grand jury that day," I say. "On closed circuit TV? About Monica Lewinsky?"

"Oh, Monica," he says with a weary laugh. "I've really sort of tuned out about that."

Of course he has. Why wouldn't he?

It dawned on me some months ago that there are human beings leading normal, productive lives in this country without immersing themselves in the Lewinsky story.

Unfortunately, I don't know any of them.

To the people who work inside the Washington Beltway, it is All Monica, All the Time.

It reminds me of when I was in Los Angeles covering the O.J. Simpson trial and would sit in the courtroom and listen to hours of testimony about blood samples and DNA testing procedures and the thumps that Kato heard.

There would be a break for lunch, and I would go to the semi-grungy cafeteria in the courthouse and sit down with reporters and cops and courthouse personnel, and our conversation would always be about blood samples and DNA testing procedures and the thumps that Kato heard.

It was our whole world, and rarely did we ask the question: Who, besides us, cares? And why should they?

I am not saying the O.J. story was unimportant then or that the Lewinsky story is unimportant now, but it pays to keep in mind that the media are reporting a lot (a whole lot) more about this story than sane people want to know.

"I have one question," the real-estate agent asks me.

And I know the question is not going to be about transactional immunity or suborning perjury or the viability of dress stains.

"How is it going to end?" he asks. "I mean what's going to happen to Clinton?"

He asks this in a very matter-of-fact tone, however, the same tone one might use to ask, "What's happening to the Kinko's on the corner? Is it going out of business?"

Well, I don't know, I tell him. I am guessing Clinton won't be impeached and will finish his term.

"Impeached?" the guy says with a laugh. "Oh, come on."

In the real world, people are not talking about impeachment. In the real world, people are not studying Article II, Section 4, Clause 1 of the Constitution. In the real world, people are not reviewing what happened to Andrew Johnson in 1868.

Is anybody where you live talking about this? I ask the guy. Are they talking about Clinton and Lewinsky at all?

"Well," he says, "there has been some raunchy talk. And some people with young kids don't turn on the news anymore. But it's mainly Letterman-Leno stuff to us."

He pauses. "Maybe that's wrong," he says.

No, no, I say. Maybe that's exactly right. Maybe it is just Letterman-Leno stuff. Maybe that's what the presidency has become: a late-night joke.


8/05/98: Tell the truth?
7/30/98: All ya need is luv...and to deny, deny, deny
7/28/98: 'Man-of-da-people,' huh?
7/23/98: Can frequent-flyer miles alone earn Bubba a Nobel Prize?
7/21/98: San Francisco: not only 'gay,' but happy
7/17/98: Why Bubba claims Y2K is US' biggest problem
7/14/98: Close Amtrak --- PLEASE!
7/9/98: Flag burning is for nuts!
7/7/98: Forget about his legal defense fund, buy Bubba shirts!
7/1/98: Wall-nuts
6/26/98: Perks and the press
6/23/98: There's a good reason Bubba wants gun-control...
6/19/98: Why Clinton can get away with going to Tiananmen Square
6/16/98: Maybe Big Brother ain't so bad after all
6/11/98: He claimed responsibility for Rwanda, so why isn't Bubba stopping Serbian genocide?
6/9/98: The Internet president?
6/4/98: You can call me ‘slick;' and you can call me ‘sick;' but never call me ‘Dick' .... as in Nixon, that is
6/2/98: Being a 'talkin'-head' is hard work
5/29/98 Pay the pol, pick the policy
5/27/98 A 'loo' in London
5/21/98Buba is back from Europe ... but what did he accomplish?
5/18/98Roses for Buba
5/12/98: Just who is "Mr. Republican" these days?"
5/7/98:"Why Clinton keeeps "going and going and going""
5/1/98:"Bubba v. Tabacka"
4/29/98:"You may ask, but should they tell?"
4/24/98:"McCurry and the kids from the ‘hood "
4/23/98: "NOW" should change its name to "THEN"
4/20/98: Freedom to be a jerk?
4/14/98: Bill is Hef's kinda guy
4/7/98: South African memories --- and a paradise not yet found
3/24/98: Bill's 12-day safari
3/20/98: Peace for Ireland?
3/18/98: Flat tire? Spare me
3/13/98: Latrell Sprewell's genius
3/10/98: On truth and reality
3/5/98: No, I'm not harrassing Hillary
3/3/98: The Unforgettable Henny Youngman
2/26/98: Grow up, boys!
2/24/98: Go get 'em, Bill!
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
2/3/98: Speaking Clintonese
1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
1/8/98: Carribbean Cheesecake: First couple has cake, eats cake
1/6/98: PO'ed: a suspected druggie jumps through the employment hoops
1/1/98: Cures for that holiday hangover
12/30/97: Buy stuff now
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be
12/18/97: Bill's B-list Bacchanalia: Press and politicos get cozy, to a point
12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.