Magazine article The Spectator

Future of the Little Boy in the White House

Magazine article The Spectator

Future of the Little Boy in the White House

Article excerpt

AS THEY SAY over here: close but no cigar. Or, to put it more accurately, close, even though there is a cigar. Ken Starr's referral to Congress is an entertaining read but the dirty bits aren't novel enough and, more critically, the legal infractions aren't quite compelling enough. Witness tampering? But the President's secretary was never a witness. Obstruction of justice? But he never actually ordered anyone . . . Perjury? But it's not perjury: he genuinely doesn't believe oral sex is sex, nor is cigar insertion, nor `oral-anal contact', nor masturbating into a White House sink. . . . There's still plenty to argue over and, as long as there's something to argue, it'll never be over as the President said in his deposition at one point, `it depends on what the meaning of "is" is'. And, at this stage, only one thing can be said with any certainty: Bill Clinton is.

Still, the Starr report changed my mind about one thing. I now believe that Mr Clinton didn't inhale. Just as, for the most part, he doesn't ejaculate. Just as, in Hillary's smoke-free White House, he doesn't actually smoke, but merely dunks his cigar in whatever flavouring happens to be to hand and chews the tip awhile. In Mr Clinton's many activities, there is rarely, in Ken Starr's euphemism, 'completion'. Only now is he preparing to make an exception, to go all the way, to thrust on to a terrifying climax, until he and we are spent: Bill Clinton is determined to step down as president on 20 January 2001- and not a day before.

So there's no end in sight to what he calls `this journey we're on. I hope this will be a time of reconciliation and healing, and I hope that millions of families all over America are in a way growing stronger because of this.' Gee, thanks, Mr President. No matter how many silver bullets you pump into him, his rotting corpse rises at dusk the following night to announce yet again that he is a `broken spirit' who has 'sinned' but that `good can come of this for our country' now that he has vowed to get `to the rock-bottom truth of where I am and where we all are'.

And where we are, he is: l'etat, c'est lui. It's nice of him to want to take us for a ride, but `this journey we're on' gets awful wearisome: a Marie Celeste of a presidency adrift on an ocean of semen with nothing on the horizon but a few floating thongs and cigar butts. If you can't actually see the point of continuing on this 'journey' with the President, flip open the volume of poetry Mr Clinton gave both Monica Lewinsky and the young Hillary Rodham, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable but I

love you,

I do not hurt you any more than is necessary

for you.

There's the Clinton position in a nutshell. Besides, it's our fault. As the President put it: `I've tried to do a good job taking care of this country even when I haven't taken such good care of myself and my family.' If the American people - his extended family -- hadn't been placing so many demands on him, maybe he would have spent more time in the residential quarters trying out his passive smoking routine on Hillary.

His predecessors didn't talk in this way: whatever the shifting definitions of the American presidency, it's safe to say that Mr Clinton is the first to see himself as a benign day care provider `taking care' of a huge, overgrown child. As usual with this president, the opposite is the case: the American people are the day care provider and he the overgrown child. One of the many fun games to play with the Starr report is to pull quotes at random and guess whether it's Bill or Monica talking: `If I had known what kind of person you really were, I wouldn't have got involved with you.' The airhead Valley Girl? No, the father of our country. Like, duh.

It's not `just about sex', but it is just about Bill. And Bill is so large and undissuadable that he's turned Washington into a kind of parallel universe: liberal defenders of an interpretative reading of an evolving Constitution which apparently supports abortion and gay marriage are suddenly, when it comes to the impeachment clause, 18th-century literalists, insisting that the founders only had in mind arcane offences like leaving your oxen untethered outside the assizes. …

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