So here we are, in the third week of the current Clinton crisis, and you’re in a deep panic. What am I talking about, you ask? Oh, c’mon. We both know the sad truth. You still haven’t been asked to voice your opinions on the Charlie Rose show … Or you’re aggravated-no, to be more exact, you’re humiliated, upset, embarrassed and annoyed-that Ken Starr still hasn’t called to ask whether or not you had an affair with the President.
On the face of it, I can understand why either one of these grievous insults to your social status would be good reason for your psychiatrist to start interviewing contractors about putting in a new tennis court at the house in Bridgehampton. But to make matters worse, there’s an even greater crisis looming on your personal event horizon.
You’ve been invited to a dinner party in Manhattan this week, and you don’t have a single new piece of Clinton information to put on the table. No new gossip, no new rumors, no leaked transcripts, no inside stories, no juicy little tidbits to serve up from a former college roommate who now works for the Justice Department. And let’s face it: Since we’ve all been glued to the same TV screens (“Damn! I go to bed at night humming the CNN crisis theme!” was the way you put it), you just can’t get away with mouthing the usual sound-bite conventional wisdom: The polls, the prognostications, the what-ifs, the what-thens, the spins, the counterspins, the basic issues, the critical evidence, the logical outcomes, the next steps, the big questions, the nagging doubts, the smoking guns, the personal vendettas and the potholes on the road to justice.
In short, I feel your pain. In this city, if you’re out of the loop, you’re not on the list.
Which is why, this week, in the interest of raising the level of public discourse-and maintaining your status as a desirable dinner guest in Manhattan-your diarist is pleased to provide a list of talking points to get you through the next spin cycle, guaranteed to raise eyebrows at the training tables of the chatterati.
(1) Contrary to the current rumor, the President has not asked the Justice Department to recast the Bill of Rights in order to more accurately reflect “the Rights of Bill.” At present, there are no legal plans afoot to introduce the new legal concept of non-indictable “petite perjury.”
(2) Sure, the President’s approval ratings are up right now. But so were Richard Nixon’s right after expressing his steadfast determination to get to the bottom of the Watergate break-in.
(3) Unlikely scenario No. 1: It’s midnight at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Hillary is asleep. Sam Donaldson no longer brays outside the West Wing windows. The interns have been turned out for the night; the Hollywood stars and the Chinese influence peddlers sleep soundly, and smugly, in the Lincoln Bedroom. Yet Bill C. is restless. He needs release from the tensions brought on by his job. Moving to the Oval Office, he considers calling Monica-but then remembers that her mother has installed caller-ID on their home phone. Frustrated, Bill dials the only other number he knows by heart: 1-900-BIG-HAIR.
“Hey,” he says doing his best Elvis.
“Who’s this?” the voice answers at the other end of the line.
“Bubba,” he replies.
“Hi, Bill,” she says.
He smiles. “So how’d you like the State of the Union address?”
She pauses. “Tell me, Bill. Were you wearing boxers or briefs?”
(4) Hillary Clinton was right all those years ago when she said “I’m not some kind of Tammy Wynette.” She is Tammy Wynette.
(5) Phone sex from the Oval Office is not a crime. The President was merely exploring the new frontiers of interactive communication.
(6) The idea that we’ve gone from “I cannot tell a lie” to “I cannot tell the truth” to “The American public doesn’t seem to give a damn either way” should be seen as progress in an enlightened society.
(7) “The producers would like to remind the audience that, word by word, line by line, legalism by legalism, the role played by Susan Estrich tonight was originally created and performed by Ron Ziegler.”
(8) Henceforth, Franklin Roosevelt’s belief that “The Presidency is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership” is no longer operative.
(9) As a “great American” once remarked: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, and you’ll never know what you’ll get.” Perhaps. But what he neglected to add is that if you drag $110 through a trailer park, you’ll definitely get the services of James Carville.
(10) Hillary Clinton may not be a congenital liar. But did she really expect us to believe her statement on the Today show that “the first time she heard about the scandal” was three days after Newsweek killed the article about Monica Lewinsky?
(11) “No. Really. I swear to God. Bill does respect women. He doesn’t think of all women as sex objects.”
“You’re right, the other categories are wives, mothers, daughters, contributors and plaintiffs.”
(12) Do members of the “vast right-wing conspiracy that’s determined to topple the Presidency” ride around in black helicopters? How do they relate to the cultural elite, the Eastern liberal media establishment, the silent majority, the nattering nabobs of negativism and the pinko-communist co-travelers who are eating away at the foundations of American society?
(13) Now that Mr. Clinton’s sex life has become source material for plot points in a plethora of movies and television shows, has it occurred to anyone that as Hollywood continues to schmooze (and fund) the President, it only reinforces his behavior, as if to say, “Nothing means anything today. There is no accountability, shame or consequence-it’s all just entertainment.”
(14) All-too-likely scenario No. 2: Jan. 21, 2002. Hillary divorces Bill. Moves to New York City. Announces “I’ve found enlightenment, self-actualization and empowerment.” Going on The Oprah Winfrey Show , she reveals, “I was the victim of an abusive marriage.” After cleaving with her newfound sisters Paula Jones and Gloria Steinem, she turns down a $2 million offer to appear naked in Penthouse, but takes $4 million from Random House for her book First Lady No More: One Woman’s Awakening and becomes an editor-at-large at The New Yorker .
Bill, meanwhile, joins the board of Revlon Inc. and moves out to Hollywood, where he produces a string of films that cast aging male movie stars in supposedly believable romances with 22-year-old starlets. As the movies all fail, Bill and the editors of Premiere magazine ask the relevant question: “Why did the American public buy it in the Oval Office, but not at the local cineplex?”
(15) Watchwords of our times. 1968: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” 1998: “We had to destroy the girl in order to save him.”