Magazine article Insight on the News

Why Troopergate Matters to Voters

Magazine article Insight on the News

Why Troopergate Matters to Voters

Article excerpt

The president and first lady today face several allegations that challenge their basic integrity and, indeed their public identities. Mounting evidence about the private and financial conduct of Bill and Hilary Clinton, while in Arkansas and in the White House, could shatter the popularity of the first couple and severely damage, if not destroy, the Clinton presidency.

Few would enjoy deny that the alleged financial chicanery involving the Whitewater Development Corp. and Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan is a serious matter. And the apparent suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster and the clandestine confiscation of documents in his possession have caused deep concern across the political spectrum. A study by the conservative American Spectator lists possible legal infractions by the president that could result in disqualification from federal office, 178 years in prison and more than $2.5 million in fines. His wife conceivably could serve 47 years in prison and pay more than $2.1 million in fines. The facts in this case are now to be determined by a special investigator.

Equally damaging, if true, are charges by four Arkansas state troopers that the Clintons were both involved in extramarital affairs while in Arkansas and are, in fact, crude, dishonorable, foul-mouthed politicos - far from the pillars of virtue and compassion believed by millions of Americans. Testimony by Gennifer Flowers, who claims to have a 12-year affair with Bill Clinton, and by Paula Jones, who says that Clinton sexually harassed her in 1991, would in themselves make a mockery of the president's lofty rhetoric about morality and personal trust.

Of course, the Clintons have strongly denied illegal or immoral activity, and it is important to remember that they have been convicted of nothing. Carefully investigation may clear the air completely. Indeed, all of us, regardless of ideology, and for the good of the country and the world, should hope that the president and first lady are who they say are - innocent victims of a small group of people seeking financial and partisan gain.

There are many, moreover, who argue that "Troopergate" is irrelevant; that a chief executive's sexual conduct, before or during his presidency, is a personal matter of little or no consequence. Conservative writer Dennis Prager had declared, "the evidence is overwhelming that whether a man or woman has had an extramarital affair tells us nothing about his or her ability to be a good and moral leader." Time magazine's Lance Morrow has dismissed the "character issue [as] the sex lives of politicians," a story that was "basically junk." In New York magazine, Joe Klein wrote of a president's "zone of privacy" and contended that only "twerps and moralists" are concerned about sexual hijinks. "The world is a subtle, dangerous place; leadership requires something more complex than Sunday school morality."

And yet very few are willing to dismiss the character question completely, especially when it comes to national political figures who wield immense authority. Wilbur Mills, Gary Hart, John Tower, Clarence Thomas and Robert Packwood are among those whose private lives have been publicly scrutinized in recent years.

Character has been a part of every presidential contest in our history. As well it should, for presidents, of course, have vast power and are role models for people all over the world. As Bill Clinton himself has acknowledged, we need president who have outstanding integrity and deserve out confidence. In short, president should have good character.

But what does sexuality have to do with character? And why should we be concerned about the marital fidelity of someone in the Oval Office? Franklin D. Roosevelt has a mistress and was one of our greatest president. John F. Kennedy indulged his satyriasis constantly and remains our most popular chief executive. On the other hand, Richard Nixon was faithful to his wife and was forced to resign from office. …

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