The Breakfast Table

A Cheery Good Morning To You, Too

Well, don’t choke on your oatmeal, David, but no, not all of us to the left of Attila the Hun are card-carrying members of PETA. Some of my best friends even read the stock pages.

I will be going home to Wisconsin this weekend and for the rest of the month, to be among my friendly four-footed comrades when the President testifies. (Wisconsin, besides being full of cows, is the birthplace both of Joe McCarthy and of Bob LaFollette, who founded the Progressive party and the magazine I write for. It’s an interesting place politically, and has produced a string of reform-minded politicians in the prairie populist tradition. The best current example is Senator Russ Feingold, who won as the little guy vs. a much better-funded Republican incumbent, and is now pursuing bipartisan campaign finance reform. The view of the scandal from WI seems to me much saner than in D.C. The editor of the local weekly in Madison has been badgered to pursue nasty rumors about the personal life of our Republican governor. (Forget it, he said. Even if the rumors are true, who cares?)

I really can’t agree with you that high crimes or the future of the Republic are at stake in the Lewinsky probe. Illegally delving into FBI files and revolting campaign finance violations by this Administration would be far more worthy of Starr’s attention than attempting to trap the President into lying in his answer to embarrassing questions about sex. I agree with Nathan Lewis, Ed Meese’s lawyer, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times today suggesting that Clinton should respectfully state that he won’t answer questions about his private sex life, or the details of any consensual affair he may have had, which is none of the prosecutor’s business, but that he will fully and completely answer all questions about perjury and obstruction of justice. In the end, the Republican Congress won’t want to impeach Clinton, and it would be absurd to pursue a criminal charge against him for civil perjury once he’s out of office. So it seems to me it’s all a lot of noise.

Of course, the whole seamy mess does make everyone feel bad. It seems that partly because of the general sense of insecurity created by the scandal, things are looking gloomy for shareholders. Even the ever-bubbly Jim Glassman, syndicated columnist, American Enterprise Institute economic guru, and chief cheerleader for corporate predators (he’s given to delivering odes to Microsoft’s own Bill Gates) was a bit down in the mouth on Fox Cable News last night. When even he concedes that the stock market can’t go-go-go forever, it must be time to take note.

Hoping things are looking up for the beef farmer …