Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

A figure of fun

Sir: Matthew Parris's piece on Clinton (Another voice, 31 January) falls a long way below his usual standard of intellectual honesty. Let us replace his amiable conceit of left-handedness with homosexuality. Rational society has no problem with adult homosexuals pleasuring one another, providing they do it privately and quietly and with no equine risk. (It is, of course, a different matter when they combine this with an attempt to rewrite the traditional teaching of an established Church). A severer view is taken when an older person seduces a child; and when the seduction takes place in the context of, say, a children's home, condemnation is unequivocal. What is involved in this sort of case is not just sexuality, but such wider issues as trust and responsibility and power.

What is alleged in regard to President Clinton is that the most powerful person on the planet had an exploitative physical relationship with an employee more than 20 years his junior, and then used that power in the first place to persuade the woman to deny it on oath, and subsequently to destroy her credibility. In so doing he rendered both of them liable to criminal charges for which five years' imprisonment is a normal penalty. It seems at the moment that the American public, riding on the crest of a wave of economic bliss, would rather believe their President, his dreadful record notwithstanding, than his accusers. But the same opinion polls have made it clear that if, despite his improper exercise of power, he is eventually shown to be a liar, they will as fully condemn him. Meanwhile the leader of the Western world is a derisory figure of fun.

Incidentally, the Tricky Dicky caption to your page 6 cartoon seems unnecessarily unkind to President Nixon. His crookedness was politically motivated, not a trivial exercise in physical self-gratification. Bent Willy would perhaps be more appropriate. John Christopher 1 Whitefriars, Rye, East Sussex

Sir: If Matthew Parris had not been intent on making yet another vacuous libertarian point, he would have soon realised what the issue really was and thought again.

The allegation is that the President of the United States advised a Miss Lewinsky to break the law. No, sorry, Mr Parris, in this case anyway it has got nothing to do with being a `left-hander', `back-to-the-waller', or any other traditionally `hard-done-by' element in 'silly', intolerant Western society. Andrew Macdonald Flat D, 52 Sinclair Road, London W14

Sir: Peregrine Worsthorne (As I was saying, 31 January) and Matthew Parris are being disingenuously fair-minded in their defence of Bill.

His offence is really aesthetic rather than moral. Always, it's the personableness of the protagonist that matters. We rather enjoy the fantasy of our Caesars enjoying their concubines - but a good ole boy with a W.C. Fields schnozzle and his pants rounds his ankles? I'm sure we empathise more with our cousins' embarrassment than their outrage.

As well we might - when confronted with not dissimilar mental images of our very own Foreign Secretary. Robert Bowman Ballintemple, Cork

Sir: Most American politicians have been elected because of their ability to make appropriate biblical quotations. Clinton may well have a point when he claims that holy writ does not include oral sex as infidelity.

There are echoes of this view in the groves of academe. A former headmaster of Stowe (whence your distinguished contributors Sir Peregrine Worsthorne and George Melly graduated) addressed the assembled body of pupils with these moving words, `It is not homosexuality that we mind, it is this damned penetration.' Claus von Bulow 109 Onslow Square, London SW7

Et in Arcadia . . .

Sir: David Welch (Diary, 28 January) paints an Arcadian picture of the royal parks.

Shortly after he became chief executive of the Royal Parks Agency, he gave a talk to the Friends of Bushey and Home Parks in Teddington. …

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