Jumpin' Jack Flash

Staples and Tell

Jumpin' Jack Flash

Staples and Tell

Jumpin' Jack Flash
New books dissected over email.
Oct. 9 1998 1:57 PM

Staples and Tell

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Dear David,

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I embrace your overture for peace. You have had trouble discerning where I stand. Let me go through it by the numbers in the plainest possible terms.

1) Bill Clinton is a lying cad with a pathological sexual appetite. Were I him, I'd have resigned the moment I was found out.

2) As my heroine Joan Didion wrote earlier this week, Monica Lewinsky is a prime example of the proto-adolescent sexual predator; She wears thong panties and flashing herself at famous men in hopes of a sexual fling.

3) Linda Tripp is a vengeful and manipulative Machiavellian who puts on a microphone and coaches an emotionally needy young woman in how to entrap The Big He, a sitting president.

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4) Ken Starr is the prosecutor as moralist under the bed and aspiring dirty book writer. He has employed a number of questionable strategies. I take very seriously the coming debate over those strategies, the dangers they present to privacy generally and the question of whether or not the cad Clinton was denied rights commonly extended to Dave and Brent.

Given the polls on Starr, the public has already passed judgment on this issue and found the prosecutor's movements unacceptable. I look forward to learning how much contact there was between the Jones Team and the Starr Team--and whether or not that contact led to what might qualify as entrapment.

5) I don't like the phrase "Joe Sixpack"; I find it demeaning. But I spoke to my 67-year-old mother--the street minister in conservative Southwestern Virginia--two nights ago. She is wary of Starr for biblical reasons ('let he who is without sin cast the first stone') and because she perceives the loopy zealots who have become his groupies as "dangerous." That's my mama talking.

To answer you directly. I do not believe that Clinton's impeachment would lead to the next Inquisition. The American people are too tough in the neck for that. On the contrary, there is a Tsunamic backlash building in the land. Republicans might make short-term gains if they chose to grandstand this issue. But given that only about a third of the people favor bouncing Clinton, the Tsunami awaits those who insist on flouting the public will. Even so the fear of privacy infringement is not frivolous. Better to be fearful before you lose a right than after.

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6) Is criminal dishonesty in the executive branch an atrocity against the constitution? Well, yes. But it must be found to be criminal and the people must believe and have faith in the finding. The Starr technique has shaken the public faith in the investigation. The Clintonites certainly blasted Starr whenever possible. But for Pete's sake, Starr handed them the grenades!

What counts as an abridgment of the Constitution varies with the social climate--and what the people are willing to accept at any given moment.

7) On flogging people with The End of Outrage. I don't know you from Adam Dave, and did not mean to imply that you were the Torquemada. But Bennett seems to view the American people as unindicted co-conspirators in Monicagate. A lot of people feel insulted by his tone. I am one of them.

All Best,

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).