JWR Jeff JacobyBen WattenbergRoger Simon
Mona CharenLinda Chavez

Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellClarence PageWalter Williams
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Jewish World Review / August 20, 1998 / 28 Menachem-Av, 5758

Ben Wattenberg

Ben Is consuming a
Big Mac eating?


First, about America. Do not bother to worry, even a little bit, about whether America's president can "govern." This apparently concerns some observers. They fret about whether Clinton has lost the "moral authority" to lead the affairs of a great nation. Read the Constitution. The president conducts foreign policy and commands the armed forces, often on his own. He signs executive orders, with the force of law. Through the use of the veto power, he owns the equivalent of 16 Senate votes and 72 House votes. And anyway, he's been governing without much moral authority for quite some time now, and has not done badly at all. The president of the United States of America is president until he is not. Respect the office.

Second, about Clinton's address. Is he kidding? Here's what he said: I am a liar. But trust me when I, the liar, tell you that what I said under oath was "legally accurate," not perjury. You should not ask me any questions about why it's legally accurate and not perjury, because even a lying president has a right to privacy. Let's put this behind us. I'm going to Martha's Vineyard, Russia and Ireland. Bye now.

The basis of his claim to legal accuracy appears to be that while his Definition One parts were handled with the purpose of sexually arousing him, he did not reciprocate by handling any of her Definition One parts. In other words, he claims he was presented with a definition of sexual relations that excluded the receiver of sexual gratification.

Early reports of the president's Monday grand jury testimony indicate that he balked when pressed for details on the nature of his sexual relationship with Lewinsky. But it was precisely the details of those encounters that form the basis of his claim that his Jones testimony was legally accurate. In other words, he appears to be claiming that the same details that get him off the perjury hook in the Jones deposition are, for the purposes of his grand jury testimony, private and injurious to the dignity of the office. That is, he appears to have mounted a legal defense against the perjury charge that he will not allow to be tested.

That's called having your cake and eating it, that's called smoking your dope and not inhaling it, that's called ducking your draft and preserving your political viability -- that's called having your Definition One parts pleasured and not having sex! It is like claiming that he doesn't interpret devouring Big Macs as "eating," per se. This may be why he has had a weight problem.

Of course, Clinton's legal exposure on perjury charges in the Paula Jones suit goes beyond just whether he was truthful about having sex. For example, how could his testimony that he was unsure if he had ever been alone with Monica be true, given that he is now admitting that he had sexual relations with her? And who would now give the benefit of the doubt to Clinton in a swearing contest with Kathleen Willey, who charges that he groped her in her moment of maximum vulnerability? Why should he be given the benefit of the doubt in swearing contests with Arkansas state troopers, sworn officers of Arkansas law, who have sworn that they routinely solicited women for sex for him, on government time? Why should we assume that he did not tell Monica Lewinsky or anybody else to lie? Why should we assume we know what he means by "lie"?

And so, the sordid story is not over. Ken Starr has facts, valuable currency not yet spent. Congress must decide to act, or not. Richard Morris, a very loose cannon, is still rolling about the deck. Most importantly, the voters will be heard from.

But the important thing is America, not President Clinton. The Social Security checks will go out. The mail will be delivered, about as it has been. The Lincoln Memorial will be open to the public, although that may be a small tear you see on Lincoln's cheek. If we have to do something in Kosovo or Iraq, we will. The economy will behave as it would have without Monica. Clintonites will say it's doing wonderfully because of Clinton. Others will note that he's done well but is riding on the shoulders of Reagan, Bush, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, the end of the Cold War, and the animal instincts engendered by a free market economy. The president urged us all to "turn away from the spectacle of the past seven months" and "repair the fabric of our national discourse." Alas, his speechlet Monday night assured that the spectacle will go on, and the fabric remains unrepaired, for a while longer.

Ben Wattenberg is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and is the moderator of PBS's "Think Tank." Daniel Wattenberg, who wrote this week's column, writes regularly for The Weekly Standard and is a contributing editor for George.