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Jewish World Review /Nov. 5, 1998 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5759

Roger Simon

Roger Simon Monica? Monica who?

WASHINGTON -- You can't get rich betting against Bill Clinton. He just keeps beating the odds.

In three separate elections, Republicans have tried to attack him on his ethics, morals and values -- or his lack thereof -- and three times, they have gotten their heads handed to them.

In 1992, George Bush, seeing his re-election hopes sinking along with the economy, told voters that Clinton could not be trusted to tell the truth. He was a "waffler," Bush said, waffling not only on the issues but about his draft record, smoking marijuana and Gennifer Flowers.

The voters elected Clinton anyway.

In 1996, Bob Dole was enraged by Clinton's behavior and was baffled that the voters didn't seem to care.

"Where's the outrage?" Dole asked time and again.

Wherever it was, it was not among the electorate. And Clinton was sent back to the White House for another four years.

Last Tuesday, a week before the midterm elections, House Speaker Newt Gingrich personally unleashed a $10 million ad campaign implying that Clinton was untrustworthy and that his behavior should be punished at the polling booths.

But while the Republicans were spending big money to get their ads on the air, Clinton used a Rose Garden news conference to get his message on the airwaves for free.

"I'm not trying to sugarcoat the fact that I made a mistake and that I didn't want anybody to know about it," Clinton said, placing his hand over his heart. "The American people have had quite a decent amount of exposure to that. I hope very much that they have seen that I'm doing my best to atone for it."

The White House political strategy was now the opposite of what it had been a few months ago when aides urged Clinton to reveal the details of his relationship with Lewinsky (while his lawyers urged him to keep his mouth shut).

Now, the strategy is to ignore the scandal and emphasize "business as usual."

So, in the final weeks before Election Day, the president was seen going about his job, pursuing his agenda, not just because that is why he was elected but because it was part of his "atonement."

And it worked.

The Republicans, who a few weeks before had predicted a 40-seat pickup in the House of Representatives, read their polls and predicted a much more modest gain.

But they woke up Tuesday and found their world had been turned upside down:

Not only did Republicans not achieve a gain, but they had actually lost seats in the House. They still retained control of the House, but their already slim margin was now razor thin.

In the Senate, the Democrats fought the Republicans to a standstill by not losing any ground.

If this election was supposed to be a referendum on whether to impeach Bill Clinton, the public seemed to be saying "forget about it."

This will not stop impeachment hearings from beginning soon in the House.

And it may not even stop the Judiciary Committee from voting articles of impeachment.

But what once looked like a sure thing -- impeachment by the whole House, sending Clinton to the Senate for trial -- is no longer so sure.

All those members of the House elected last night face re-election in just two years, which means they have to start campaigning in just one year.

And so they have to ask themselves: "Do the people want me to spend my time passing legislation or pursuing Bill Clinton?"

The White House will exploit this by continuing its "plea bargaining" strategy: urging the House to pass a censure of Clinton rather than impeach him.

Though such a censure would be symbolic, the unexpectedly strong Democratic showing on Tuesday brings it into the realm of the possible.

Exit polls show only about 5 percent to 7 percent of the American people saying that the Lewinsky matter is important to them.

Now, the White House is trying to find censure language that both Republicans and Democrats can vote for and Clinton could live with, language, in other words, not that much different than the "contrition" language the president has already used himself.

Whether that effort will succeed is not known. What is easier to predict is what will happen to Clinton in the Senate.

Barring new disclosures, it seems extremely unlikely that the Republicans will find the Democratic votes they need to remove Clinton from office.

In fact, even the Republican leadership admits that as of today there is not a single Democratic senator willing to vote to kick Clinton out of office.

And the news gets even better for the Democrats:

The failure of the Republican leadership to gain ground in the Senate and its inability to hold ground in the House in a midterm election, where the party out of power almost always gains seats, may set off a bloodletting in the Republican Party.

This has made the White House very happy as it looks toward 2000. Many potential Republican candidates for president in 2000 -- including Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle and Bill Bennett -- are already criticizing the Republican leadership for blowing the election and especially for giving into the White House on the recent budget deal.

Final analysis? It all gets down to one question, a question the Democrats are happy to ask these days:

Monica? Monica who?


11/03/98: Telling the truth about journalists
10/30/98: The vanishing president
10/27/98:Bubba's last hurrah?
10/23/98: Podesta is used to cleaning toilets
10/15/98: Glenn will once again be an American original
9/24/98: The greatest political actor of our time
9/17/98: Bubba's 'weasel words' --only a partial list (There's only 24 hours in a day)
9/17/98: Hah, I told ya so!
9/08/98: Orthodox Jew Lieberman's moral outrage: Why religion matters in politics
9/04/98: Bubbasky
8/27/98: Cigars?
8/25/98: Why it's all-Lewinsky-all-day-all-night
8/21/98: From magnifying glass to microscope
8/19/98: Let's be blunt: Bubba really needs a shrink --- and fast!
8/13/98: At home, with real, live FOBs
8/11/98: Bubba's new secret weapon: the Marine Band
8/07/98: Has the presidency been reduced to a 'Leno' 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.