Beyond the Spin Doctors’ Control

by Patrick J. Buchanan – March 16, 1998

Republicans will have to deal with impeachment because the Lewinsky affair has moved beyond charges of moral misbehavior to the realm of high crimes and misdemeanors. Ken Starr is building a case that the president, through serial perjury, violated his oath to see that the laws of the land were faithfully executed…

Republicans on Capitol Hill have been praying that the cup of impeachment would pass away; now they may have to drink from it.

Kathleen Willey has testified that when she went in desperation to the president, her family bankrupt and husband in disgrace, Bill Clinton took advantage of her anguish to fondle her.

The War Room will have a hard time spinning this one.

Willey is no political groupie, scorned woman or volunteer playmate. A married lady, Democratic loyalist and “good friend” of Bill, she believes she was abused at her most vulnerable moment by a man in whom she placed her trust.

Why did Kathleen Willey tell her story? “Too many lies are being told,” she said. “Too many lives are being destroyed. And I think it’s time for the truth to come out.” Yes, Mrs. Willey, it is.

Some of us have argued that though private lives testify to moral character, it is not the press’ business to invade those lives. There is no “public’s right to know” the private sins of public figures. While sanctity is desirable in politicians, it is rarely to be found there. And were adultery a disqualification for the White House, not a few GOP presidents, and every Democrat since the Civil War save Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter, would have faced impeachment. It was said of the second Mrs. Wilson that when Woodrow at long last proposed, she was so astounded she fell out of bed.

Why, then, can this city and the GOP not dodge the issue?

First, fairness and justice. John Tower was rejected as defense secretary for alleged infidelities. Clarence Thomas was hung out to dry for unproven charges of smutty talk. Bob Packwood was run out of town for sophomoric attempts to kiss female friends. How can Clinton be given absolution for alleged offenses that make those of Tower, Thomas and Packwood look like a game of Spin the Bottle?

Republicans will have to deal with impeachment because the Lewinsky affair has moved beyond charges of moral misbehavior to the realm of high crimes and misdemeanors. Ken Starr is building a case that the president, through serial perjury, violated his oath to see that the laws of the land were faithfully executed.

Anticipating Starr’s case, Human Events went through reports of Clinton’s deposition in the Paula Jones case and found 10 points at which his testimony is contradicted under oath. Examples:

Clinton testified he cannot recall being alone with Monica Lewinsky and never had sexual contact. In her proffer to Ken Starr, Lewinsky has offered to swear that Clinton lied both times. The president says he made no sexual advances to Willey. She calls this perjury. The president admits to one encounter with Gennifer Flowers 21 years ago; she alleges a 12-year affair. He says state troopers never procured women; they say they did. Clinton says it was Betty Currie’s idea to find Monica a job. She told Linda Tripp it was his idea. Clinton is vague about meeting Paula Jones. Trooper Danny Ferguson says he took her up to see the governor.

Not anxious to draw the sword of regicide, Republicans have said they will not consider perjury about adultery an impeachable offense. After all, there is a tradition that holds it to be dishonorable for men, even Lotharios, to brag of their conquests.

Clinton’s spin doctors have appealed to this tradition. Unfortunately, this has ceased to be a matter only of sex. If Willey told the truth, the president saw in the anguish of a woman pleading for help a golden opportunity for personal gratification.

Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning et al. are apparently willing to accept War Room assaults and see their dirty linen hung out in the most public trial in history, if the truth, as they see it, can be known: that President Clinton, champion of women’s rights, is an exploiter of women who uses his office to seduce them, and then lies and urges others to lie to cover up.

As Willey never formally protested and stayed on at the White House, Clinton’s behavior that day in the Oval Office is for the American people to judge. But charges of perjury, subornation of perjury, tampering with witnesses and obstruction of justice are for Starr and Congress to judge.

Watching Willey on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” one had the sense that this time the Artful Dodger may not make it. For eight weeks, like some great fish, Clinton has been thrashing, leaping and diving, dragging the boat along. Now, the boat is dragging him.