The public life of the nation in 1998 and the first six weeks of 1999 was dominated by President Clinton's struggle to retain his office. The struggle was deeply and not merely pruriently or dramatically interesting, though it was high drama--Wagnerian in intensity and protraction, with wonderful actors, the Clintons, in the lead roles, a supporting cast of hundreds, dramatic revelations aplenty (the tapes, the dress, the sex lives of Republican Congressmen), a splendid libretto by Kenneth Starr,1 a Greek chorus of television commentators; plus hapless walk-ons, clandestine comings and goings, betrayals, suspense, reversals of fortune, hints of violence (supplied by the Clinton haters), a May-December romance as it might be depicted by an Updike or a Cheever, a doubling and redoubling of plot, a Bildungsroman,2 even allegorical commentary (the movies Primary Colors and Wag the Dog) and a touch of comic opera ( Chief Justice Rehnquist's costume out of Iolanthe). It was the ultimate Washington novel, the supreme and never to be equaled expression of the genre and the proof that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
But putting its entertainment value to one side, are we better or worse off for the experience? It is too soon to tell; it is especially premature to say that we are worse off.____________________