I am asked all the time why I continue to defend Linda Tripp as a hero. Well, I’ve never called her a hero. I’ve called her a human being trapped in a terrible situation where she may have made a mistake by recording her friend. To be sure there is reasonable room to differ on this point, as a nation, and in Linda’s own mind. People, and the press, in particular want to reduce this scandal to a tight morality play with villains and heroes. To many, Linda is the obvious villain and to a few she is the obvious hero. I disagree with both. She is a flawed human being, like the rest of us. But she gets no benefit of the doubt. She is “Evil Incarnate” according to Dee Dee Myers. She is outside the “family of man” according to Margaret Carlson. She is a traitor, a demon, a “betrayer,” according to an unending list of moralists. But Bill Clinton, who betrayed far more people, far closer to him, who had far more at stake, is “a complicated man,” a flawed leader, a great President who made a human mistake. Linda betrayed Monica. I don’t have the room, even in cyberspace, to list the number of people Clinton betrayed — a list which obviously would include Monica Lewinsky — and yet as a nation we have given him not only the benefit of the doubt, but abject and total willful ignorance of facts and evidence. Whatever.
I am beseeched to dump Linda Tripp and my mother. Sometimes this even takes the form of career advice. Indeed, if I followed the leads of, say, David Brock or Michael Lind and signed on with the Greenwich Village cocktail circuit I could make some money (finally) off this scandal and have a shot at writing for the “respectable” press. Unfortunately I can’t do that.
Nevertheless, in order for me to feed the ravenous clamor of the selective moralists who cannot fathom why I have not abandoned Linda, I have a treat for you. Linda Tripp has reportedly made a terrible, terrible mistake. She is going on Hard Copy as early as today. This came as news to Lucianne Goldberg and myself. It is demeaning and stupid for her to do it. I am sure she needs the money and I do not begrudge people for selling their stories. But Tripp is in dire need of credibility and Hard Copy has none to spare.
Tripp sought no guidance on this decision from Lucianne Goldberg and did not notify her about it in advance. It seems Tripp is unconcerned with Goldberg’s advice. I am sure many wish she felt that way a year ago when my mother advised Linda to make those tapes. But, my mother was right then, and she would be right now, if Linda had bothered to ask.
THAT SCARLET I
There seems to be a ground swell around a truly constitutional censure: impeachment. As suggested on this page last Friday, the only censure the Founders provided was a formal article of impeachment. The Senate may dispose of that scarlet I as it sees fit. The idea is simple. The President in the eyes of his sober-eyed defenders and bleary-eyed enemies, broke the law, behaved like a cad, and embarrassed the country. But, these transgressions may not warrant removal from office. Or for those who believe his crimes do require Clinton’s forcible removal from office (and with Clinton it would have to be forcible) censure is unacceptable because it is unconstitutional, and on a more visceral level, it is what Clinton wants. So what to do? Negotiate a deal with the Senate that the articles of impeachment will be dismissed automatically or at the very least, with a nominal and brief trial. By making this deal in advance, Democrats could vote their conscience and therefore stop the obstructionism. Republicans could put the scandal behind them, Clinton could get his last two years in office and we could all move on.
Speaker-elect Livingston suggested this weekend that “If the House should decide to proceed with articles of impeachment, which means all they do is charge the President, the plea bargain in my mind seems to me more appropriately a question for the Senate rather than the house.” Gary McDowell, a scholar-witness for the what-is-impeachment Judiciary teach-in and Director of the Institute of U.S. Studies at the University of London, makes the case explicitly in today’s Wall Street Journal, as does the WSJ lead editorial.
Contrary to what many people think, not even the President’s “enemies” in the Lewinsky scandal thought this would ever lead to impeachment hearings in the first place. Even in their darkest moments and when momentarily indulging their most sinister motives, all they wanted was to expose the President for the kind of man he is. Putting the scarlet I next to his name for all history would do that. So let’s do it. Leave him in office — maybe he’ll even redeem himself — and let’s move on.
NEW FEATURE: PREDICTING GEORGE WILL’S COLUMN
Often viewers of ABC’s This Week can predict George Will’s column from the questions he asks guests. It’s not fool-proof, but here’s my guess: “The Schlesinger Doctrine.” Will pointed out that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., to much Democratic approval, argued that Clinton’s behavior can be explained, condoned, excused, overlooked, understood because Clinton is, get this, a gentleman. Now, Will asked, does this mean that lying in sexual harrassment cases is excusable because gentlemen don’t tell? Imagine for a moment if George Bush were caught in a similar situation, or more plausibly, imagine he had said Clarence Thomas shouldn’t answer the Senate’s questions because Thomas is a “gentleman.” Ambulances would have to be dispatched for Gloria Steinem, Patricia Ireland et al., before Bush even finished his sentence because the feminists would have had grand mal seizures trying to contain their outrage.
LETTERMAN’S TOP TEN
10. “Even as a baby, my parents noticed I had an unusual attachment to my pacifier.”
9. “‘Give me all your hot, intern love,’ said the big creep.”
8. “It was a dark and windowless corridor.”
7. “Dear Penthouse: I never thought I would be writing one of these letters…”
6. “I knew someday I’d go down in history.”
5. “Like, I hate hate hate hate hate hate Linda Tripp.”
4. “Does this font make me look fat?”
3. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — na, it was mostly bad.”
2. “By the time you read this, I’ll be on to my next President…”
1. “Me and my big mouth!”