Is the president a hound or, even worse, a lying hound? Is Monica Lewinsky a letch’s innocent prey or a delusional fatal attractor?
Kenneth Starr — diligent ferret of fact or mud-slinger who desparately needs to make something stick? And how about that Linda Tripp — with gossip-mongering, wire-wearing friends like that, who needs contact with the human race?
To these queries and the other zillion or so fighting for elbow room, the answer is “Who knows?” Cases of one person’s word against another’s are awfully hard to decide when nobody’s believable. At least Ms. Lewinsky admits, allegedly, on one of those, purported, audiotapes, that she’s always been a liar. Mr. Clinton, at the very least, often has a hard time giving a straight answer to a direct question. Truth isn’t just stranger than fiction in this administration, it’s a stranger. Period.
“Welcome to the theater of the absurd,” is how press secretary Michael McCurry opened his media session the other day, apparently oblivious to the fact that he, his co-workers and his boss not only built the theater, they sell the tickets and make the popcorn.
In the absence of credibility, the void is filled by the Four Horsemen of Scandal — speculation, rumor, innuendo and guessing. There hasn’t been this much talk about impeachment since Nixon wasn’t a crook.
So, in that Watergatian vein, the question of the day, in the Biblical sense, is: Who did the president know and when did he know her?
It’s time for the president to come clean, to `fess up. If not done, and soon, Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, which reportedly will stress the need to restore the citizenry’s trust in government, will be awfully hard to swallow.
While most Americans would prefer not to know what other consenting adults do behind closed doors, this has gone too far, the distractions too great and, worst of all, the hair-splitting, convoluted denials too aggravating.
The president should address the nation before Tuesday. If the sex and perjury claims are bogus, he should say so in simple, straightforward words, such as “no” and “never.” Presidential advisor Vernon Jordan did it the other day, using “unequivacal” and “in no uncertain terms” — and it sounded good.
If any of the allegations are true, the president should describe the extent and status of his extramarital affairs in the verb tense that best conveys the truth. He should offer assurances that no dalliance has had any effect upon his ability to carry out the duties of his office. He should clarify any past statements that may have been obfuscations. He should fully describe any actions that could be construed as attempts to buy or compel the silence of his paramours.
Americans are a forgiving, nonjudgmental people, and not all that prudish. They can handle the truth. Even the naked truth.