The Breakfast Table

Freund and Masters

Good morning, Kim.

I send you weary greetings from Washington Babylon. Given our respective beats, our Breakfast Table mandate this week is no doubt a cultural one. But then, whose isn’t anymore? D.C. has become a center of post-historical power these days, with the result that ever more news-leading issues are neither political nor legal in their implications, but cultural instead. Byzantium after Rome must have been something like this (as was Rome after Carthage). Call me Procopius.

Elsewhere, people are said to suffer severe scandal fatigue. Here, where scandal begets scandal, it’s actually become a 24-7 format. And most of it–from Clinton to his buddy Larry Flynt–turns out to be extralegal. This week’s major scheduled event is ABC’s two-hour spectacular “I, Monica,” which will play out not only in the wake of the impeachment debacle but now also in the shadow of Juanita Broaddrick’s allegations last week to another network amanuensis. Indeed, the White House originally dismissed Lisa Myers’ Broaddrick interview as merely counter-programming against the Grammys. (Did you catch Susan Estrich comparing certain forms of ‘90s rape to ‘70s “bad sex”? London’s Telegraph, citing Internet reports, is already reporting unconfirmed rumors of another alleged incident of Clinton “bad sex,” this one in Britain, which come to think of it has a reputation for bad sex.)

At just this moment, Washington is preparing to dismantle the legislation behind the Office of Independent Counsel. Perfect timing. This is the capital’s chance to embrace its cultural destiny. It should combine the residual power of the OIC with the cultural role of the city’s poet laureate, a Library of Congress office whose function is largely ceremonial. The purpose of this new office of neo-arbiter elegantum would not be to investigate corruption but to assume it, and to chronicle it with appropriate post-histoire refinement. There must be a gatekeeper class with a taste for scandal but none for cable TV’s screaming heads. The new office (and its inevitable fat bureaucracy) could address the national scandal-fatigue emergency, a problem not likely to resolve itself as long as Clinton is in power. How’s this affecting work on your coast? I’m always interested to read about the Hollywood money pouring into Washington coffers, whether on its way to Clinton’s lawyers or to Al Gore or, now, to Bill Bradley. Are these really contributions, or should we start perceiving this as option money on future product?