A Presidency in Ruin

by Patrick J. Buchanan – July 21, 1998

Of all the myths out of which the Republic was born … none was more hopeful than the crowning myth of the Presidency — that the people, in their shared wisdom, would be able to choose the best man to lead them.

From this came a derivative myth — that the Presidency … would make noble any man who held its responsibility. The Office would burn the dross from his character; his duties would, by their very weight, make him a superior man … ”

So wrote Theodore H. White, famed chronicler of presidential campaigns. To White, Richard Nixon’s “Breach of Faith” was that he destroyed the myth that held us together.

Yet Nixon was less an architect of Watergate than a passive accomplice. He did not know about the break-in; he did not order it; he was appalled at its stupidity — but he did approve of the plans of panicked aides, trying to cover up for dolts at the campaign.

In brief, Richard Nixon’s involvement in Watergate came of misplaced loyalty. He was trying to protect his people. In Clinton’s case, the reverse is true. His aides, to a man, were innocent of any culpability in this squalid Monicagate matter when it broke. It is Clinton who is dragging everyone in and everyone down. Nixon’s aides brought him down; Clinton is bringing his own people down.

To see Secret Service agents, men and women of honor, proud of their willingness to stand between the president and a gunman, forced to tattle on a president they protect is appalling. But full blame for this outrage rests with William Jefferson Clinton.

Lest we forget, Ken Starr’s investigation was assigned to him by Janet Reno and three federal judges. His job? Find the answer to one question: Did the president attempt to fix a civil trial, in which he was accused of sexual misconduct, by committing serial perjury and conspiring with others to lie under oath?

The president knows the answer. But rather than call Starr over to the White House, rather than walk over to the grand jury, Clinton is dragging down his family, friends, lawyers, staff, Secret Service and anyone else who can serve as a temporary roadblock between himself and the truth.

So that Bill Clinton will never have to face up to whether he and the little tart had a “relationship” he denied under oath, look at who and what is being sacrificed — and soiled.

The president’s humiliated wife is forced to make a fool of herself by acting as though the Monica mess is the work of “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” Friend Vernon Jordan was forced to go to the edge of the law, perhaps over, to bail him out. Secret Service agents have been forced into grand juries to snitch on a president it is their sworn duty to defend.

White House aides, once part of one of the most impressive political teams this city has ever seen, are behaving like hacks, digging up dirt on Starr’s people, shoveling it out on anyone and everyone who dares suggest the president is not telling the truth.

What did Joe McCarthy ever do to Owen Lattimore to compare with what these thugs are doing to Ken Starr and Linda Tripp? Yet, the people disgracing themselves do not even themselves believe Clinton has told the truth. Lawyers, for whom White House service was to be a crowning moment, are on nightly TV, evading, dodging, dissembling like night-court shysters. They are destroying their own reputations, impugning their own integrity. Why? So that Bill Clinton will never have to be held accountable for what he did.

Consider how far we have come. In August of 1974, when Nixon’s aides at Camp David learned the tapes showed he had not been telling the truth about Watergate, to a man they said he must resign. A president cannot break faith with his people and ask his people to trust him again.

But Clinton’s defenders assure us that even if he committed perjury, even if he lied flagrantly to the American people, it is of no consequence because it was, after all, “only about sex.” But perjury is a felony punishable by prison, and loss of voting rights and the right to hold public office. Are presidents above this law?

Do not let sunlight in upon magic, Bagehot warned. It was the “expletives deleted” of Nixon’s tapes that finally snapped the bonds between him and his people. Yet the Tripp tapes apparently make Nixon’s sound like a recording of high tea at Buckingham Palace.

Understandably, Clinton’s partisans do not want to lose, do not want their right-wing enemies gloating over their defeat. But they ought to ask themselves: Is it worth sacrificing their own integrity to prevent the truth from coming out about Bill Clinton’s?