Monica and Me

April 16 1998 3:30 AM

Monica and Me

Her contributions to the GDP--and to our polity--are not easily measured.

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Later, I thought the subject required more analysis. One had to separate the relationship, whatever it was, between Monica, et al., and the president before it hit the headlines from what happened afterward. I remember that some people complained President Eisenhower was distracted from the business of his office because he was out playing golf so much. But we were told, and I think most people accepted the explanation, that golf relaxed Ike from the stresses of his job and enabled him to perform better. A similar explanation was offered, but privately, to some in the press who were aware of President Kennedy's sexual conduct. Perhaps Clinton's relationships can be justified in the same way. That would assume, of course, that the president did not feel any psychological stress from realizing he was behaving in what many people regard as an immoral way. That apparently was no problem for Kennedy. About Clinton we don't know.

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After the alleged relationship became public property, the situation was different. Certainly there was much distraction at that point. What we have to ask, however, is whether that was a bad thing. Would it be better for the president, and the first lady too, for that matter, to be able to give their undivided attention to getting America across that bridge into the next millennium than it is to have them distracted by the Monica affair? I'm not sure.

Herbert Stein, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He is a member of the board of contributors at the Wall Street Journal.