Pig Tales

Conniff and Frum

Pig Tales

Conniff and Frum

Pig Tales
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Aug. 14 1998 11:20 AM

Conniff and Frum

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Good morning David,

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I hate to say it, but I agree with you almost 100 percent. Give me Johnson over Clinton. The prospect of Clinton issuing the weasel defense--"Oh is that what you meant by sexual relations?"--is beyond revolting. Who can respect him anymore?

On the other hand, Ken Starr and his right-wing supporters are taking a page from Lyndon Johnson's political handbook. My late editor, Erwin Knoll, who covered the Johnson Administration for Newhouse, used to love to repeat Johnson's anecdote about an early state race in Texas. Johnson told him to put out the story that his opponent had been having intimate relations with a pig. His staff, taken aback, asked if he had any proof. Johnson cackled--"No, but let's make the sonofabitch deny it."

This in, essence, is what the Starr investigation is about--except that Clinton may not even deny it. It's pure politics. Pursuing the issue of whether Clinton gave a complete account of the sex he did or didn¹t have, and what kind, and where, and how often, is not about obstruction of justice. Who can believe it's an abuse of our legal system for the President to hold out on us about these mortifying details? If he does try to beat the perjury rap by quibbling over what kind of sex he was obligated to disclose, he will only be following the twisted path Starr has set out for him. There's a great editorial in the New Yorker this week about the sanctimonious protests from Starr's supporters that this investigation is "not about sex." "It's about the Constitution," one of them says. Ridiculous. It's all about sex. It's embarrassing and pitiful and small--a way of destroying the President politically by closely examining the grotesque details of his sex life. He and his interrogators should all be set adrift together on a small raft, to discuss this for as long as they can survive each other, far from human civilization.

As for the Clinton Administration manipulating the weapons inspections in Iraq--it is, indeed, disgusting hypocrisy. But it is really not worse than the Commerce Department approving and promoting arms sales around the globe, so our troops, not to mention local civilian populations, can deal with the disasters later. Or, here's another example from Iraq--the Bush Administration giving a tacit green light to Hussein to invade Kuwait, and then launching the Gulf War against him.

Especially if the Administration is going to be so dishonest about its real goals in eliminating Hussein's weapons, it's time to lift the sanctions and stop making the Iraqi people suffer. Let's have international arms inspections, which is what our international weapons treaties call for anyway, and deal with the global problem of the weapons market, instead of picking an enemy of the month and pursuing an endless, fickle policy of destabilization.

yrs, Ruth

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.