The Clinton In Us All

Those who hate him seem to bear more than a passing resemblance to him

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And the rule for Republicans seems to be that lying under oath about things other than adultery is not actionable. Hyde explained this standard best when excusing lies in the Iran-contra affair. It did not make sense, he said, to "label every untruth and every deception an outrage...in the murkier grayness of the real world, choices must often be made." Ronald Reagan could remember very little about his efforts to arm the contras, but when confronted with facts indicating that he'd been told about it, he insisted his "heart and [his] best intentions" proved otherwise. After Ollie North bragged about his own lying and got off on a legal technicality, the G.O.P. wanted him to be the Senator from Virginia.

We all have a little Clinton in us, and like it or not, that's one of the reasons he remains so popular. At the same time--and it's part of the same truth--those who hate Clinton the most seem to have more than the average share of him inside them, which may be one reason that spittle forms at the corners of Representative Bob Barr's mouth when he talks about the President. Hear his Clintonian combination of self-pity and feigned ignorance after he was called a racist for addressing the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that proudly calls itself white supremacist. "It is a sad day in our country when a member of Congress cannot speak without...an exhaustive investigation to determine if one of their members has ever written an offensive or ridiculous column."

Clinton isn't above the law, but he should be above doing what he did. Livingston's resignation and the impeachment of Clinton teach children exactly the wrong lesson: that other people's deepest secrets can be plundered for political gain. Clinton is weak, not evil. He violated the Commandments, not the Constitution, and should be solemnly censured for it. In this season of Christmas, perhaps some Wise Men will appear in the Senate. One will do. If he comes, he could be next year's Man of the Year.

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