By Thomas, Mark
New Statesman (1996) , Vol. 131, No. 4588
When the rumours started about a month ago that Bill Clinton was in negotiations to host an Oprah Winfrey-style TV talk show, I prayed: "Oh Lord, let it be true." I hope it sets a trend and soon ex-leaders all around the world will be presenting daytime television. Wouldn't you love to hear the phrase: "And now over to John Major for the weather"? Perhaps Tony Blair's next job will be to sit alongside Richard Whiteley, smiling with an open dictionary as he pronounces: "Well, we've found a seven-letter word."
As for Clinton, I hope he gets the show, but, more than that, I hope Monica Lewinsky is booked to appear on it. I want to see her sitting on some cheap red sofa, while the strapline runs across the bottom of the TV screen, reading: "My boss stained my dress and won't pay the cleaning bill." I want to see the incredulous members of the audience standing up, pointing and shrieking: "Girlfren, yew gotta learn to love yo'self, cos yew ain't gonna get none outta yo' boyfren." I hope they go the whole hog, with Clinton doing a Jerry Springer-style roundup at the end of the show before saying: "Join us for tomorrows show, 'My wife caught me cheating so I had to bomb Iraq!'"
The trouble with playing this kind of "fantasy politics" is the more absurd the suggestion, the more likely it is to become policy. As you might expect, the best examples of political surrealism come from America. Only last week, the Bush administration was refusing to sign a UN declaration on children's rights unless the UN's current plans for sex and health education in the developing world were changed to teach sexual abstinence before marriage. Had this measure been adopted, it would have, in effect, curtailed the right to information about sexual and reproductive health for many young people. Yet the very existence of President Bush himself is a compelling argument not just for chastity before marriage, but also for chastity within marriage, and, just to be on the safe side, chastity after marriage as well.
Despite these measures being defeated on 10 May, we must assume that Bush's agenda has not changed. So, not content with bombing Afghan civilians, preparing to kill Iraqis and hurling America back into the McCarthy era with his anti-terror laws, Bush plans to eradicate teenage sex before marriage. He has declared a War on Hormones and is set to do battle with every teenage erection, secretion and moistening in the world. It is a war he cannot win unless he wires up every teenage penis to receive electro-shock therapy every time its owner has a sexual thought. …