Fellow Americans

Conniff and Frum

Fellow Americans

Conniff and Frum

Fellow Americans
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Aug. 20 1998 3:55 PM

Conniff and Frum

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Dear David,

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I like how your Clinton apologizes to "you the American people" I think that's key. He shoulda done that. I think the Republicans in Congress would have preferred to see him snap, pull down his pants and run around on the White House lawn, or at least burst into tears like Jimmy Swaggart and prove he's completely unhinged. When they were asking for the truth, and to tell everything, they were looking for something like:

"Good Evening.

"My name is Bill Clinton and I am a sexaholic. Tonight, as I speak to you from the Map Room of the White House, I am throwing myself on your mercy and the mercy of God, since the Lord knows I cannot help myself. The American people deserve to know it all. In particular, you deserve to know that I have a penchant for oral sex, and that I masturbated on that dress.

"George Will has pointed out that the events of recent months confirm what a lot of Americans suspected about the Democratic Party: we're weird. Yes, it's true, the Democrats, all of us, are a bunch of kinky sex freaks. It's time the truth came out, and time I took a cue from the Party that eschews perversion. That's why I'm sending Congress a bill that will make adultery, oral sodomy, and masturbation federal crimes. Through this bipartisan effort, a new Federal Sex Inspector will be appointed, to enforce the standards of morality we as Americans hold so dear. I am taking it upon myself to nominate Kenneth Starr for that office. Working with the FBI, and using the new, expanded wiretapping authority I conferred on that agency last year, the Federal Sex Inspector and his staff will ferret out perversion all over our great land. Public officials and private citizens who fail to truthfully answer the Inspector's questions about their sex lives will be subjected to prosecution, exposure, and public flogging.

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"And now I ask that all of you at home join with me, Hillary, Chelsea, Monica, and my dear friend Ken Starr, as we join hands and kneel here on the floor of the Map Room, to sing a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God who has shown me the light. Thank you. Thank you. God bless America" [fade out with lingering shot of Clinton's upturned, tear-stained face].

No?

At least I think Clinton should have delayed a day, to get his temper under control after the inquisition, and then seized his moment. He could have really gone with the mood of the country, called a town meeting, and walked around in the audience, Oprah-style, like Liddy Dole did at the Republican Convention. Geraldo Rivera could have moderated.

Geraldo: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We're broadcasting live from the White House, where President Clinton has just completed several hours of historic testimony in the Ken Starr investigation, concerning his alleged affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. We are here in the Map Room, where the President has gathered a group of citizens, to discuss with them the investigation, and where he says he will finally tell the truth about the affair."

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Clinton: "Good evening, and thank you for being here tonight. Over the past seven months, I have avoided answering any direct questions about my affair with Monica Lewinsky. In fact, I publicly denied having a sexual relationship with her, and I denied it under oath in my deposition in the Paula Jones lawsuit. The whole matter is so personal, so embarrassing, so awful, that I sought to avoid ever having to confront it. But by avoiding questions, and then by lying to you about it, I have let you down. I have betrayed the trust of my wife and daughter, my friends and advisors, and of you [looking into camera] the American people."

[He walks away from the podium, taking microphone with him.] "I want you to know the truth, although it is very painful for me to tell it. I lied and covered up to try to protect myself, and to try to protect the people I loved. But I have done a very bad thing. I have conducted a clandestine love affair with a young woman under my supervision, and I have dragged the people around me and the whole country through a painful investigation that could have been ended immediately if I had just come forward with the truth.

"Tonight, I want to apologize. I want to ask you if you can forgive me. And I want to answer your questions, honestly, once and for all." [Geraldo runs to citizen in audience with mike.]

Abashed citizen: "Mr. President, Is it true that you had an affair with Monica Lewinsky?"

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Clinton [pausing, looking down, biting lip]: "Yes, it's true . . . I had a six-month [or insert actual timeline] affair with Miss Lewinsky. I am ashamed to admit it, and I am deeply sorry about it. I want to say here that I am sorry to my wife and daughter, and to Miss Lewinsky, who, given her age and position as an employee in the White House, cannot be held responsible."

Another citizen, sounding stern: "Mr. President, why did you lie?"

Clinton: "I lied to protect myself and my family from embarrassment. It was wrong, and I'm sorry. I think it often happens, when we are asked embarrassing personal questions, that our impulse is to lie. I'm not saying that's right. It's not. I'm just telling you what happened. This was the first time in history that a president has been asked such private questions. All I ask is that you forgive me, and believe me now that I am telling you the truth."

Another citizen: "Mr. President, can you still lead the country? And how can we trust you?"

Clinton: "I hope that you will believe that I can continue to do the work I've been doing, to lead us into the 21st century . . ."

Whoops! We interrupt this fictional report with the newsflash that we are now bombing Afghanistan and Sudan. Real-life Wag the Dog posting to follow . . .

RC

Ruth Conniff is Washington editor of Progressive magazine. David Frum is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard. He is the author of What's Right: The New Conservative Majority and the Remaking of America.