SLOUCHING TOWARDS HADES
Not since I was on a fourth grade class trip and my friend Ben ate a bunch of wild blueberries and then decided to share the digested fruit with the rest of us on the bus ride home have I seen such a mess. Everyone in Washington feels dirty. Everyone wishes we could roll down the windows on this steamy bus ride.
A little over a year ago, I had a bureaucrat from Columbia, Maryland, my mom, and a nebbishy scribbler from Newsweek
in my living room. This civil servant named Linda told us a tacky story about a tacky intern who was servicing a remarkably tacky President in the formerly untacky Oval Office. Yesterday I heard Richard Gephardt declare that we must take Saddam Hussein’s perception of impeachment into account, because he might take it as a sign of weakness while we were bombing him. A few hours later Newt Gingrich’s replacement (!) was explaining that he had strayed from his marriage vows.
How did we get here from there?
Well, like the ferryman on the river Styx, Bill Clinton has escorted us here to this land of drek. Yeah, Momma G and Linda Tripp bought a ticket for the ride, but it was Bill Clinton pulling the barge.
BILL CLINTON, BAD MAN
I had more than my share of Christmas cheer (memo to self: finish file, shave tongue, slam head in fire door) last night, so forgive me my snarkiness. But, Bill Clinton is a bad man. While there is no conclusive proof — yet — that Clinton orchestrated the bombing for political gain, there seems ample evidence that he knew all week that he was going to bomb. That is why he was so calm even as his canoe was filling with water. And yet, he did not notify Republicans who were supposed to be notified, including Porter Goss, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He knew that if he sprung this attack the Republicans would cry foul, because the thing seemed so unseemly. Bill Clinton played politics with war far more than the Republicans.
But it’s not surprising that he would play politics with war, because he thinks politics is war, and so is life. By holding out, he forces the world around him to dance to his tune. He forces good men to behave badly, great men to be petty about small things, and a nation to measure the weight of arguments in the fine print of overnight polls.
Speaking of polls, sources close to my television and in touch with my email have suggested that the White House’s greatest fear is a certain question that pollsters have been watching closely. The “Should the President Resign?” question was moving up to the 50% mark when Clinton moved to bomb Iraq. The bombing braked the bandwagon. But, it is very possible as we get closer to a Senate trial that the number will rise again. If it does, will reporters and TV hosts keep replaying every soundbite from the herd of White House sock puppets who have argued for a year that the polls are the best indicators of right and wrong?
POOR LIVINGSTON, POOR US
Whether or not there is a White House connection, does anyone doubt that Bill Clinton drew a smile when word came out about Bob Livingston? Insiders at the White House admit that they knew about Livingston’s affairs for quite some time. A more cynical man than I, no that’s not right. I’m cynical enough. I would not be surprised to learn that the reason the White House wanted Livingston to become more involved in the impeachment process a couple weeks ago was because they knew this would come out about him. I wish Livingston had more forcefully offered to resign, even though I don’t think they should accept his resignation. Newt Gingrich resigned rather than tear apart his party. Livingston offered to resign even though his transgressions were not with an employee and he never lied under oath. He never used his office to cover it up and he never lied to the American people. Still, there was a time when bringing disrespect to your office or turmoil to your party was sufficient cause for exiting the public stage. That burden of conduct may be outdated, but it seems to me that wherever the new line is, Bill Clinton crossed it a long time ago.
JESSE JACKSON A DIFFERENT KIND OF PREACHER
Nevertheless, an upside to the Livingston thing might be that Democrats will start believing Republicans when they say this isn’t just about sex or adultery. But on the topic of adultery, I did see something pretty jarring yesterday. At the AFSME, NEA, and Teamsters rally to “Stop the Impeachment” (Translation: Keep the Union Shill Where He Is), Jesse Jackson spoke in defense of a President he once said had no core beliefs, just an appetite. With Al Sharpton nodding behind him — his pompador creating a nice breeze — Jackson compared Newt Gingrich to Clinton. He clearly believed Gingrich’s crimes were far worse.
Gingrich “liiiieeeeeddddd about his taxes!” Jackson wailed, like lying about taxes is something only fat men in dirty raincoats do at playgrounds. He violated his oath to Congress, not his oath to his wife! Jackson yelled to the crowd.
Remember this is a Reverend talking. He honestly was more disgusted by someone lying about his W-2s than a Baptist committing serial adultery. The sanctification of the Federal government is one thing, but this, this, is weird.
Minority Leader Gephardt and his minions make a good point about what’s going on in Saddam’s brain. But I’m not sure it holds up. Saddam routinely gasses his own people. He uses men and women sexually on a whim, with or without consent. If he decides he doesn’t like the way a heretofore trusted general looks, it is not uncommon for Saddam to have the man raped in front of numerous onlookers, including the man’s family (imagine how tense his dry cleaner must be). He tortures people as policy and believes that he is the reincarnation of Saladin and will rule all the Arab world. Meanwhile, his enemy, the United States of America (not Bill Clinton), is debating whether to remove its President and Commander-in-Chief, while fighting hi-tech war half way ‘round the world, while doing its Christmas shopping, and going to see the latest Tom Hanks chick-flick. “How can this be?” Saddam must wonder. “He lied about using a concubine in his office and they will remove him for it? These people are crazy! I can’t mess with them.”
Indeed, we are a strange country. We are a nation of laws, which is a fairly strange thing in the history of the world. And in a nation of laws, words must have meaning. Yes, the image of America having a debate about impeachment while troops are under fire is troubling. But on the other hand, how amazing are we that even when raising swords against an opponent we do not forget the principles that make us great.
NOTING THE NOTABLE QUOTABLE
I’ve gotten a bunch of e-mail asking me if I’m the “Jonah Goldberg” mentioned in the “Notable & Quotable” section of the Wall Street Journal today. Yes, that’s me. I love the idea though that world is teeming with people named Jonah Goldberg. Sort of like an army of Shlomo Finklesteins. Anyway, the item is lifted from the latest issue of Women’s Quarterly put out by the Independent Women’s Forum. It’s a fantastic journal and I am honored to write for it. And if you don’t read it you won’t be allowed to sit at the cool kids’ table at the cafeteria. Seriously, it’s not just for chicks.