Politics & Policy

Wagging The Dog; Scandal Meets Pop Culture; The Wrong Post Has It Right


Well, we’re pulling back from Iraq. Saddam promised to behave, which is good enough for Bill. This, of course, makes sense. Bill Clinton does not believe in the difference between words and deeds. And even his belief in the existential reliability of words is shoddy at best. This observation, of course, depends on what my definition of “is” is. Nevertheless, no Administration has more thoroughly proven the (Marxist) adage that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. George Bush masterfully used the United Nations to fight a war. Bill Clinton has cravenly let the United Nations use him so we could avoid fighting one. In 1979, Jeanne Kirkpatrick argued in Commentary that history is a better guide than good intentions. What is amazing is that Bill Clinton is not even relying on good intentions. He’s simply relying on the packaging they come in.

To be sure, the Gulf War had its share of farce too. The Left in the United States was eager to re-enact the overly serious sit-ins and protests of the 1960s. I know because I was in college at the time and had friends scream at me, “Peace through strength is like virginity through f–cking.” Ah, the liberal arts. During the Gulf War, the media, eager to capture some of the residual glory of previous war correspondents, went a little overboard as well. But whereas we had Bernie “This is Hell” Shaw and Peter “Which is your better side Saddam?” Arnett, this time we have a nameless, faceless herd of news bunnies and talking toupees. MSNBC has correspondents reporting from Baghdad who would be just as comfortable explaining how to use peanut butter to get bubble gum stains out of your kids’ clothes. Speaking of Peter Arnett, where is he? After all, he had been “too good to fire” after smearing the U.S. military with his nerve gas voice-over. The reason he was such a keeper, we were told, was that he is such a masterful foreign correspondent, particularly in Iraq.

This Administration is quite simply a laughingstock when it comes to Iraq. The Washington Post reports the “inside story” on who opted to strike versus those who opted to call it off. Clinton and National Security advisor Sandy Berger opted for more words. Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, and Gen. Henry Shelton favored attack. The Post was unable to ascertain Gore’s position. I’m shocked. Gore has a habit of being vague on such issues until clarity is risk- free. I am sure if a consensus builds around one option or the other, it will be leaked that, miracle of miracles, such was Gore’s position too. Robert Novak suggests in his Washington Post column today that Clinton prepared this dog wagging scenario before Saddam triggered it. He quotes an unnamed staff officer who says that the timing of Clinton’s response was “purely political.” To be sure, Clinton may indeed have made the right decision given his options, and Gore may have in fact privately argued strenuously one way or the other. But Clinton alone has painted himself and the country into a corner where none of his decisions are good ones. In all honesty, I am a bomb-before- breakfast kind of guy and I would likely have been critical if he gave the go- ahead. But when every retreat is a victory and every set-back “looks encouraging,” then how are we to take the man seriously? The White House has even spun Buddy’s biting of a Marine guard. His hand happened to be there when Buddy was closing his mouth.

One thing is clear though. People who argue that the President is too caught up with “pressing issues” like Iraq or the economy to be subjected to impeachment hearings are ignoring history. When Nixon was being “hounded from office” he was trying to end a ground war in Vietnam, fix a woefully broken economy, calm violent protestors and terrorists around the country, and, oh yeah, fight the Cold War with both Mao’s China and the Soviet Union.


The Clinton scandal has been fodder for late-night comedy for a while. But the real test for the scandal’s legs is how deeply it seeps into normal television programs. Last night on ABC’s The Practice, there were two references to the Clinton Scandal. One was about Clinton’s need to apologize. Another was a reference to Linda Tripp. Two weeks ago, Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue snarled about Bill Clinton getting away with it. But the best so far was last night’s Simpsons (logical since The Simpsons is the best show on television). The opening credits usually begin with Bart Simpson writing a different sentence over and over again on the blackboard as part of his detention punishment. Last night: “Nobody cares what my definition of ‘is’ is.”


Ronald Reagan used to say that the Post and the Times were his favorite newspapers — the New York Post and the Washington Times. But it’s the other Post today which has things right (which is not to say that the NY Post isn’t right too). In their top two editorials they argue that the House must do its duty in going forward on impeachment, even if it fails to remove Clinton from office and, second, that Ken Starr is in fact doing what he must. Dan Quayle argues in a similar vein in today’s NY Times that impeachment, successful or not, is the only option.

Let us not forget that all but five Democrats called for an impeachment hearing. It doesn’t matter what the political probabilities of Clinton actually being removed from office are. If it were a matter of principle to launch this inquiry before the election, it is a matter of principle now too.

As the Post puts it:

“The President, oddly enough, would strengthen the case for his retention in office were he to acknowledge the seriousness of his offense. He refuses to do it. The House has to find a way.”


My motto has always been, “If you think there’s nothing good on TV, you’re not looking hard enough.” In that spirit I have been watching reruns of The Six Million Dollar Man on the Sci Fi Channel. If I am not mistaken, Steve Austin has two bionic legs, one bionic arm, and one bionic eye. Last week they had an episode where the $6 Million Man was swimming at bionic speeds. Now, wouldn’t he just swim in circles?


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