Salon Magazine has done something scuzzy. They have reported a story about a thirty-year-old affair of House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde. Their rationale is simple. President Clinton is being destroyed for having an adulterous affair. Therefore, if you’ve committed adultery–no matter when or where–you are morally inoculated from addressing the Clinton scandals. This is a massive intellectual stolen base.
The adultery aspect of President Clinton’s affair with Ms. Lewinsky accounts for a tiny portion of the outrage directed against Bill Clinton. To be brutally honest, nobody really thought Bill Clinton gave a damn about his marriage vows anyway.
I don’t think I have the energy to recount all of the reasons why we should be outraged with Bill Clinton–and if you’re reading this you probably already have your own reasons. Nevertheless, let’s dip a ladle in our reservoir of rage and offer a taste. The Lewinsky affair is repugnant because it took place in the Oval Office, the locus of all our laws and, alas, our secular morality. If a priest sins in the Vatican presumably it is a greater offense to God and man than if he did it in a Ramada Inn. The Lewinsky Affair is repugnant because the President utilized every mechanism available, legal and institutional, to obstruct this abusive relationship with the most junior of subordinates in the Oval Office. The Lewinsky Affair is outrageous because the President had this abusive affair, in the Oval Office, covered it up with every mechanism possible, corrupting laws, people, and institutions after twenty years of bloviating about sexual harassment and how his marriage offered a new feminist paradigm. The Lewinsky affair is repugnant because. . . .oh jeez you get it already.
Salon somehow thinks this whole scandal is about adultery. I can’t remember the last time “adultery” was the cudgel in a debate about Bill Clinton. The conventional wisdom in Washington has been confirmed again and again that it’s the coverup and the lying, not the crime which drives the scandal feeding frenzy.
Not so, says Salon. Those who emphasize the lies are naive. “Lying and having an affair can’t be separated. To have an affair is by definition to lie about it–an affair is a lie.” This is reductionist flapdoodle. To defraud a bank is to lie. To steal is a lie. Deceit is at the core of almost all immoral acts, unless of course you boast about your exploits from the rooftops. Simply because we cannot separate each sin like eggs in a carton of crime does not mean we do not open the carton.
Ultimately though the real blame for the Hyde article doesn’t reside with Salon. Bill Clinton is responsible. Like a general who insists on fighting after the battle is certainly lost, his loyal soldiers are forced to employ ever more brutal tactics (they called it a “War” remember?). It has been well-reported that the Clintonites tried to smear Starr and his deputies months ago. Now that the investigation is out of Starr’s hands they are trying the same tactics again. Because Bill Clinton does not have the honor to resign, he is insisting that his defenders exhaust every argument, turn over every stone, and spread the mud so evenly across the landscape that everyone feels as dirty as the President is. He is causing the desperation of his defenders through his dishonor. He is to blame. (Full Disclosure: Salon Magazine has a profile of me pending. I have reason to believe I won’t like it.)
SOME THINGS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
“The other thing we have to do is to take seriously the role in this problem of. . .older men who prey on underage women. . .There are consequences to decisions and. . .one way or another, people always wind up being held accountable.”
-Bill Clinton, June 13, 1996, in a speech endorsing a national effort against teen pregnancy
(As quoted in U.S. News and World Report)