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A Bill of Goods

By Joel Achenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 16, 1998; Page F01

(Herewith some talking points I have prepared for the exclusive use of the president. I'm just trying to be helpful.)

My fellow Americans:

Today I come before you to set the record straight in the matter under investigation by the independent counsel, Mr. Starr. I have wanted for many months to give my side of the story, but as you know it would be against the law for a completely innocent man to defend himself while an investigation was still in progress.

Indeed my attorneys have asked me not to discuss the case even with them. They clap their hands over their ears the moment I open my mouth. My closest aides now flee the moment they see me coming their way. The other night I was wandering the White House, feeling sorry for myself, and I began speaking to the portraits of past presidents, only to notice that all of them had been turned to face the wall. You, the American people, my constituents, are all I have left. For the record, I'm not busy later.

The independent counsel's investigation began four years ago and I would like to point out that not once in that time have I been formally indicted by his office, nor have I been impeached by the Congress. The fact that I am still president should be considered strong evidence that I have done nothing wrong. If what they say about me were true, it would be hard to imagine that anyone could still respect this presidency.

Now, in recent days, Mr. Starr has sought testimony from that woman, Miss Lewinsky, who is in no position to comment comprehensively on my personal proclivities. I want everyone to listen to what I'm about to say next: What that woman doesn't know about me could fill an encyclopedia. I could tell you hair-raising stories about things I did before that girl was even born. And yet they say she is an "eyewitness." Trust me, she hasn't a clue.

I have previously acknowledged, as you know, that in the past I have caused pain in my marriage. I think the American people know what "pain in my marriage" means. It means that in a subtle way I am blaming my wife for her overly harsh and pathetic reaction to activities she should never have learned about in the first place.

I would be the first person to utter the words "I did something wrong" were I ever to feel that way about myself. Let me remind you that there's no way a person can truly be a narcissist if he is, in fact, a perfect human being.

Let me add something else. Anyone could stand up here and just start denying things, over and over, deny, deny, deny, until the cows come home. That is not my style. That's the easy way out. The harder task, the real challenge, is to deny things to oneself. I'm willing to go that extra mile.

When this latest round of allegations surfaced earlier this year, I said very vehemently that I had not had sexual relations with Miss Lewinsky. That is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, narrowly and technically construed. Each person has to define for himself or herself the meaning of the term "sexual relations." For some people it might merely be a passionate kiss. For others it requires actual fertilization of the egg.

In my case I have always drawn a very clear and distinct line: At no point will I do anything that the average American would define as a normal sexual act.

Don't get me wrong, there've been moments of temptation. I'll never forget a conversation I had the very first week I was in office. One of my deputies was running through a series of hypothetical problems. He said, "Mr. President, let's suppose a young lady on your staff shows a romantic interest in you. Let's say you realize that she is available for improper nocturnal activities. But let's say you also realize that anything that might happen between the two of you would endanger your presidency, embarrass your staff and allies, hurt your family, and threaten to trigger a constitutional crisis. What are you gonna do?"

And so I said what any man would say. I said, "What does she look like?" Apparently this was the wrong answer, because my staffers immediately put heavy deadbolts on the doors of the Oval Office. I could not help but notice that they were on the outside of the doors.

Some of you may have heard tawdry tabloid rumors about what supposedly went on between me and Miss Lewinsky. Let me address this specifically. These tabloid reports are erroneous and slanderous. The guy Mr. Starr ought to be investigating, if you ask me, is Bruce Willis. Did you hear about him and the Spice Girl? My heart goes out to Demi Moore and her children. If you're listening to this, Bruce, let me urge you to clean up your act. Please, Bruce, get help.

To my horror there has been much talk about alleged forms of sex of an oral nature, to wit, "oral sex." I would like to know what, precisely, my enemies mean by this term. It is extremely vague and I believe it has no legal weight. Talking is an oral activity, and are we prepared to say that's wrong? If talking is wrong, lock me up!

My wife said the other day that our enemies would not be doing this if we weren't from Arkansas. She is exactly right. People hate us simply because we come from a state where, if you have a high school diploma, everyone calls you "professor." Just because we are from Arkansas does not mean we are somehow corrupt or backward or dishonest. Those characteristics transcend geography.

I want to tell you a story. When I was a boy growing up in Arkansas, I used to like to go down to a creek and dip my hand in the water and scoop out tadpoles. Some of the tadpoles would be well on their way to turning into frogs. They'd have these little legs sticking out under their tails. One day I found a little tadpole that had a leg sticking out on only one side. He was a freaky little thing. I took him home, put him in a bowl and called him Jasper. I loved that tadpole. Then one day he finished turning into a frog and hopped out of the bowl and right on out the door. With that one leg he must not have been very spry, because as soon as he reached the street he got run over by a car. To retrieve my little buddy I had to use a spatula. That night my mom came home from the track and we all went down to a little barbecue joint called Slim's and ate some spareribs.

Now you may be wondering why I'm telling you this story, and the answer is simple: because I'm paralyzing you with excess information. It's something I've discovered about the American people: The more information you receive on any given subject, the dumber you get. There are millions of you who say you're "withholding judgment" until all the facts come in. Man alive, you'd withhold judgment if you saw a video with professional lighting and subtitles explaining what was going on. That's why I luv ya!

Thank you and good night.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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