This morning my wife asked me if I’d like some toast. “Depends,” I said, “on what you mean by toast.” Needless to say, I made my own breakfast. Impressive as it is in President Clinton’s hands, this technique is not going to work for everyone. Some of us have been worried about the trickledown from the president’s sexual behavior, when we might be more rightly concerned about the possibility that we may never, again, be able to pin anything on our children: “Nora, did you bite Ellie?” “Depends on what you mean by bited (sic).” History itself will have to be rewritten–Croesus: “Depends on what you mean by rich”; Gen. Sherman: “Depends on what you mean by Atlanta”; JFK: “Depends on what you mean by ein Berliner.” Watching the president’s dazzling performance, slam-dunking three prosecutors in turn by remote control, a growing feeling of empathy for Roger Clinton began to fill me: Roger, who must have been blamed for everything he did and for everything Bill had covered, and was, thus, driven into a life of drugs and light entertainment.
I did go down to the University of Wisconsin Student Union, where, in front of the communal RCA, I had once stood among hundreds of my peers shouting down, rejoining, and hurling abuse at LBJ, Nixon, and Gens. Westmoreland and Hershey, only to find about eight kids doing their homework beneath the beams of a projection television in the Stiftskeller. There was only one general sneer line where heads looked up, eyes locked momentarily, and smiles were exchanged, and that was when the President said he had left the door of the Oval Office partly open when Monica was in there with him. I’m only guessing, but I bet that one hit home with kids who probably could do pretty much what they wanted in their rooms as long as the door was cracked. (Perhaps, instead of impeachment or censure, the president should be forced to observe a “three feet on the floor” rule while in the Oval Office.) One girl looked up with mild interest when the president described Monica as “basically a good young person” with some family problems, thinking, perhaps, that he could have been describing her. I went home thinking Madison had become the hotbed of student rest but, in fairness, oral sex with a middle-age guy may not be the flashpoint that drinking in the dorms is.
The networks immediately fanned out to interview workers in steel fabricating plants, insurance offices, and diners across the country, but I would have sent a crew to the prisons, where men in cellblocks across the country (many there on less evidence) must have had their tongues hanging out watching the Yoda himself, and thinking, “If only I had said ‘depends on what you mean by bludgeoned to death with a blunt instrument.’ “
Talk to you tomorrow.