President Clinton appears to be losing some of his supporters in the media as the position he has staked out appears more untenable by the day. As the final chapters of Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s report are being compiled, two major events that could lead to Clinton’s impeachment have occurred in the usually quiet news month of August. Monica Lewinsky became a cooperating witness before Starr’s grand jury in exchange for immunity from prosecution, and President Clinton, at the time of this taping, is scheduled to appear before the same grand jury, on closed circuit television, on August 17.
Clinton’s options are not very attractive. Either he sticks by his story of last January when he said in a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit that he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, or he admits that he lied at that time, thus having committed perjury, and acknowledges that he did have some kind of sexual relationship with her. He is at the disadvantage of not knowing what all Ken Starr knows, and thus any lies he tells could nail him.
As the nation holds its breath waiting to see Clinton try to dance his way across this latest minefield, some of his staunchest early supporters have already reached a verdict on his presidency, regardless of which story he tells. Over the past few weeks three liberal columnists – Jack Newfield, of the New York Post, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post and Bob Herbert, of the New York Times – have addressed the issue of Clinton’s legacy.
Newfield is feeling some heat, but he is undaunted. “I’ve felt the dismay and hostility from my fellow liberals,” Newfield writes, “over the dozen columns I have written this year hammering Clinton on several fronts, including stonewalling on dirty campaign money and lying about sex,” unquote. He has regrettably concluded that Clinton played a roll in paying hush money to Webb Hubbell and obstructing justice in the campaign finance scandal. “Clinton,” Newfield concludes, “will be remembered as the sitcom, soap-opera president…his real story is a Tysonesque case of insatiable adolescent appetites for personal pleasure, and invincible hubris, causing amazing recklessness and self-damage,” unquote.
Richard Cohen of the Washington Post begs President Clinton to tell the truth. He says that if he does, quote, “We cannot approve, but we can all understand.” But Cohen doesn’t expect it. Quote, “the lie is his best friend, his true amigo. It has gotten him out of many a jam,” unquote. Cohen then proceeds to refer to Clinton’s lies about the draft, smoking dope, Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky. “Enough,” Cohen pleads.
Bob Herbert of the New York Times is even more harsh. “Bill Clinton was never about dignity or integrity or respect for others,” Herbert wrote this month. “He raised hopes with his style and his rhetoric, but it turned out there was very little that was authentic about the man. His contempt for the truth is legendary,” unquote. Herbert concludes that if Clinton, quote, “had any sense of dignity or personal responsibility, he’d be working on his resignation,” unquote.