Politics & Policy

The Wages of Scandal


On Monday, I noted that a major in the Marine Reserve had written a scathing column in the Washington Times entitled, “Please, Impeach My Commander in Chief.” Today the Washington Times reports that Major Rabil is under investigation for his comments. He is the second Marine officer to be scrutinized for comments critical of the President’s conduct. And, as anybody who has talked with people in the military knows, Rabil’s is not a lone voice. It is something of a tragedy. Rabil’s comments were demonstrably disparaging of the President, comments of a type proscribed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It is a necessary regulation. Since Rabil is a reservist he is unlikely to face severe punishment. Nevertheless, he risked his commission which is clearly dear to him. Rabil’s situation is another example of the ripple-effect of Bill Clinton’s selfishness. Clinton’s opponents must seem more hard-hearted and obsessed everyday to a public that wants to sweep things under the rug. I know, for example, that it has changed my life and the lives of those close to me, and this is one of the reasons I look forward to this scandal being over.

But Clinton’s opponents have the firmer footing of principle. Principle is a reassuring thing. Clinton, it now seems, may have won the game as he sees it. He will probably not be impeached. He too, is standing on principle. It’s just that his principle is like a mountain peak in a cartoon, with room for only one billy goat. Clinton stands for Bill Clinton.

But for those who score points based upon honesty, integrity, and consistency, his side has scored some terrible and tragically unnecessary defeats. Indeed, the real tragedy may not be that an inveterate liar and scoundrel stays in office. The real tragedy may be in what this scandal has done to others. By forcing his supporters to defend the indefensible, Clinton corrupts his friends. For example, this summer a promising online magazine — Salon — prostituted itself for the president. By smearing Henry Hyde Salon did exactly what Ken Starr’s severest critics say he has done: expose private, irrelevant, sexual behavior. Of course I don’t think the accusation holds up against Starr, but how could one say it doesn’t hold up for what Salon did? Another example is Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Once (mistakenly) considered a giant in his field, he has been reduced to a partisan hack in his defense of the president (I don’t think defending the president makes you a hack, but employing Schlesinger’s sophistry does).

John Conyers, was always a loyal member of the opposition. But he has recently signaled himself out as a champion of hypocrisy, as Michael Kelly illustrates in today’s Washington Post. Conyer’s argued during Monday’s hearings that the President — nay all of us — are free to lie if asked questions we feel are inappropriate, even if we are under oath. Even, as in Clinton’s case, if you are the chief law enforcement officer in the land.

Or take former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan, long considered one of the brightest and most nuanced writers around. Throughout his career he has championed honesty in government. No matter how seemingly trivial, truth and the process should win out. Yet, because of his own agenda, he is forced to condone Clinton’s perjury because it’s about sex.

Or consider Alan Dershowitz. Well, let’s not do that for very long. The guy is mean. He is disingenuous, and few people had much respect for him before this scandal. Nevertheless, Mr. Dershowitz can now be found championing lying about sex — it’s done all the time he says. Were he to advise a client to do the same he would, in all likelihood, be disbarred. In effect, America’s most famous lawyer can advise the nation to do something which his “professional ethics” prevent him from advising an individual to do.

Or consider any of the various sock-puppets in and out of the administration who’ve been lying for Clinton from the beginning. Some of them, I am sure, are decent people corrupted by the position they held and the misplaced loyalty they felt. Then again, some of them are like Sid Blumenthal.

In the end Clinton’s critics, no matter how much they may gnash their teeth at pictures of Bill Clinton saluting his Marine guard — rather than being escorted to the brig by them — in the end they can at least say “I did the right thing.” As history unfolds and we learn the full story of Clinton administration can anybody be sure his defenders will say the same thing?


Speaking of doing the right thing, today’s New York Times reveals that CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign if Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard had been released in response to Israeli demands. Good for Tenet. Pollard disgraced himself, America, and Israel by spying on the US. He should stay in jail for a good while longer. It sounds like Clinton would have capitulated to Israeli demands on the issue of Pollard’s release if he could get away with it. He couldn’t because Tenet held his ground. Good for him.


The Goldberg File will not appear tomorrow. I will be in Ellicott City with my mother. We are both testifying before the Maryland grand jury investigating Linda Tripp. (I’ve got to get up too early to file.) Thanks to everyone for the encouragement. It should be interesting. If you’re interested, I am scheduled to discuss it on Larry King Friday night. This will likely conclude my revised and extended fifteen minutes of fame.


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