Clinton's Shoe Shine

Staples and Tell

Clinton's Shoe Shine

Staples and Tell

Clinton's Shoe Shine
New books dissected over email.
Oct. 8 1998 11:14 AM

Staples and Tell

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Dear Dave,

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Who believes that Bill and Monica engaged in "healthy loving sex"? Firm grasp of the obvious there, Dave. Nobody does. Not even those of us who live up here in Sodom and Gomorrah. What strikes me about the relationship--and about all of Clinton's affairs--is their surface, alienated quality. The idea of just unzipping and presenting yourself while you read the paper or talk on the phone ... Well, yes, Dave, that's abhorrent and sad. When Clinton lied about the relationship, well, he lied. But looking closely at what he said, you get the sense that he in fact regarded the sex he had as neither "sex" nor "relationship"--but as something akin to, well, a shoe shine. Very troubling.

Nice thought on Bishop Jakes. Were I him, I might also fire a minister who had an affair in the congregation. Such a thing destabilizes the entire institution. But a minister is a salaried employee--not the twice-elected leader of the free world. The process of "firing," then, is not quite that. Also, Jakes is a little more open to modern views on sexuality than you think. For example, check out his newest, guaranteed best seller: The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord.

I am hurt, Dave, that you disbelieve me on the demographics of adultery. You clearly read the editorial page. But if you read the other sections as well, you might have found the following. A CBS News poll released earlier this year (2/9/98) showed the following. When asked, "Do you personally know anyone who has cheated on their spouse," 68 percent said yes. A CBS poll from one year earlier (9/20/97) had another interesting finding. When asked if the media should reveal that a candidate has been unfaithful to his wife, 64 percent said, "We don't need to know." A recent Times poll shows that 78 percent of all Americans and 60 percent of conservative Republicans said that the video taped testimony should not have been released. An earlier tally had 62 percent saying that sex--even adultery--should be viewed as a "private matter."

Millions of Americans have a deep-seated diffidence about this investigation and the impeachment that will follow. What are "we" to do with these people, Dave. Should we punish them corporally with copies of The Death of Outrage. Should we say, shape up or get out of Western Civilization? The Christian Right tried that in '92, causing the people to elect a draft-dodging, reefer-smoking, philandering saxophone player. Dole '96 ended with Dole bleating "Where's the outrage?' The voters are outraged, by the way, but nearly as much at Starr and The Process as at Clinton.

Firm grasp of the obvious again, Dave, when you say that this is about more than sex. It's about lying and covering up--sex. Can you not concede for even a second that the diffident millions have a legitimate source of concern about potential incursions into their own private lives? This is about more than just ideologues and politicians, Dave. It's about how people feel on Main Street, too.

--Brent

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Brent Staples writes editorials on politics and culture for the New York Times. David Tell is opinion editor and lead editorialist at the Weekly Standard. This week Staples and Tell read The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals, by William J. Bennett (The Free Press; 160 pages; $20).