The Breakfast Table

Allen and Stein

Good Morning, Herb

Hosannahs to Sammy Sosa. I can’t pretend to care a whit about baseball, but he seems like such a nice fellow. Moreover he has succeeded in also knocking Monica off the top of the Washington Post’s front page and even nudging her over on the New York Times’. And good riddance to George Wallace. He spent the last decades of his life (the painfulness of which, I confess, often strengthened my belief in divine retribution) trying to convince pundits and history that his true legacy was to remind politicians of the importance of the common man. But for me, and I dare say for most people, he will be remembered as the sneering face of unrepentant segregationism.

But since she dominated the news all weekend, let’s get Monica out of the way first.

It looks to me as if the Dow called it right on Friday (having overreacted on Thursday): The Starr Report was an anticlimax when it arrived. Barring new disclosures, it’s all over but the snickering.

Not that the snickering is undeserved or without consequence. Who would want to have their daughter working for a boss like the slick-talking, fast-groping Mr. Clinton? (On the other hand, who would want to have a daughter like the star-struck, thong-underweared Miss Lewinsky? Truly they deserved each other.) All the legalistic hair-splitting aside–and David Maraniss had a wonderful piece in yesterday’s Washington Post describing Clinton’s unabashed bragging about how he plays fast and loose with words–obviously the president perjured himself. Just as obviously, he did his best, with the help of the esteemed Ms. Currie and other trusted public servants, to obstruct justice and tamper with witnesses. And likely not for the first time. When Clinton next sheds a tear or bites his lip or looks sincerely into the public’s eye, no one–including his much-abused staff–should feel obliged to suppress a smile. (And they should laugh out loud should Clinton again indulge in the sort of grandiose mendacity that led him to compare himself to the protagonist in Darkness at Noon , surrounded by “an oppressive force that is creating a lie about me.”)

But when all is said and censured, Congress is not going to impeach a president for what was, as the White House now stresses but once denied with equal force, a sexual peccadillo. Unless Starr can produce convincing evidence of presidential wrongdoing on matters such as the misused FBI files or the mistreated Travel Office employees or the much-favored Webster Hubbell, or other well-documented cases of witness intimidation or obstruction of justice (or even another intern or two), this president will serve out his term and await the judgment of history.

In that regard, I loved the idea from historian Douglas Brinkley in yesterday’s NewYork Times about how Clinton’s planned presidential library could deal with his bimbo-izing. Brinkley, says the Times, suggests it be made “part of an exhibition on the breakdown of family life in the latter half of the century, portraying the president as a ‘generational figure.’” Seems fitting. Gerry Seib argued last week in the Wall Street Journal that various “cultural indicators”–divorce, out-of-wedlock births, violent crime–suggest that America’s moral fiber has actually been strengthening during the Clinton years. But I wonder if most of that apparent improvement isn’t simply because things can only get so bad. Don’t I recall that a well-known sage once remarked that “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop’? Now who was it who said that?