We Told You So!
By Lloyd Grove
For President Clinton, it's been a cheerless month.
But for Clinton's enemies in the "vast right-wing conspiracy" as Hillary Clinton called them last January during the innocent early days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that now may end his presidency it's been a season in the sun.
Former California congressman Bob Dornan, who used to rail "Draft-dodging adulterer!" on the House floor, crowed into the telephone yesterday: "He has been caught to the tenth power! And I am vindicated to the tenth power!"
"It's very gratifying," gloated conservative activist Floyd Brown, whose group, Citizens United, scoured Arkansas during the 1992 campaign for evidence of sexual and financial indiscretions. "I'm one of the first people to call for his impeachment. I did it in the first term. But now we've seen the 'impeachment movement' come from being a secondary voice to being a mainstream movement."
"It's very satisfying to see that there's a case that can be made against him," said Capitol Hill operative turned talking head David Bossie, a Clinton nemesis since the 1992 campaign, when he worked as a gumshoe for Brown's group. "He has always been able to wiggle out of, stonewall and shortcut his way around previous investigations, but now it seems Judge Starr has been able to put together a rock-solid case."
While Starr's bill of particulars remained to be seen the prosecutor's 500-page report is expected to be published today on the Internet few could have predicted it would ever come to this for so agile and lucky a politician as Clinton. Not many guessed that Clinton's conservative attackers, increasingly enraged at his ability to elude their arrows, would finally pierce his Achilles, er, "heel."
"The thing is, Clinton came into the White House with his colors flying, and many people assumed that he probably cheats but probably wouldn't violate much more than sexual mores," said right-wing psychologist and Clinton antagonist Paul Cameron, chairman of the Colorado-based Family Research Institute. "But my experience as a clinical psychologist is that when a person is sexually dissolute, he doesn't confine himself to that. The middle managers I've dealt with usually manage to break tax laws and other laws as well."
In late 1993, when the right-wing American Spectator magazine published its notorious investigation of Clinton's alleged sexual adventures as governor of Arkansas, the mainstream media largely scoffed. In February 1994, when a mousy young woman named Paula Jones appeared at a conservative conference to accuse Clinton of exposing himself and asking for sex, many people jeered. When former FBI agent Gary Aldrich, who was detailed to the White House, wrote a book accusing Clinton of sexual misbehavior in office, senior presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos called him a "pathological liar."
Until now, the White House spin machine has hummed efficiently and effectively, shielding Clinton from every assault and successfully impugning his adversaries. But now the weather has changed abruptly. "Sow the wind reap the whirlwind," the venerable Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), one of a growing number of Democrats who have condemned the president's behavior, said this week on the Senate floor.
With Clinton on the ropes and Washington poised on the brink of crisis, some of the president's harshest critics are trying to sound positively statesmanlike.
"I think most patriotic conservatives have two feelings right now," said GOP media consultant Craig Shirley. "One is, we were right about this guy. But the other is, I hate to see my country go through all this. Because it's embarrassing, and he's our president, too. For the American people and the rest of the world to go through this excruciating public display doesn't really make you feel proud to be an American."
"I hope it doesn't strain credulity if I say I don't take any partisan pleasure in this," said possible Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, head of the influential Family Research Council (not to be confused with Cameron's institute). Bauer has been urging Clinton to resign since the Aug. 17 televised speech in which he admitted to an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. "This whole thing has been the equivalent of a cultural oil spill, except it's our kids who are covered with gunk instead of sea otters."
"I'm not pleased. I don't have feelings of jubilation or joy," said Aldrich, whose best-selling book, "Unlimited Access," was widely denounced as fiction, especially his account of the president hiding under a blanket in the back seat of a car to be driven to an assignation at a downtown hotel. "I'm not surprised by his recklessness. Bill Clinton will take his pleasure whenever and wherever he can, whether it's behind a hedge, at the Marriott Hotel or in the Oval Office."
"I'm not one who goes 'Nanny-nanny-nanny-poo,'‚" said Paula Jones's combative spokeswoman, Susan Carpenter McMillan, who called Clinton a "slimeball" in the months before Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit was dismissed. The suit resulted in the notorious deposition in which the president denied under oath a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.
"But I'm happy that the truth is out," Carpenter McMillan continued, "because Paula and everyone in her camp have taken incredible abuse for the last 4½ years. I don't need to feel vindicated, because I knew I was right from the beginning."
American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell published the article by David Brock that got the ball rolling until it became a boulder, then a rock slide, rumbling toward Clinton's head. The usually outrageous Tyrrell, though, was also restrained.
"This has gotten so serious that I don't want to make any jokes about it anymore," Tyrrell said. "As with German humor, this is no laughing matter."
Brock was ostracized from some conservative circles after he publicly announced his homosexuality and confessed to being a right-wing "hit man," vowing to change his ways. Yesterday he said he now believes it was a serious mistake to delve into the private sexual behavior of a public official.
"If this presidency is destroyed over this, I think it would be a really terrible thing," Brock said. "My article was about consensual sex, and I don't think I would pursue that today."
"I apologize," he added, tongue in cheek. "I regret it. I am deeply sorry."
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