The Breakfast Table

Al’s Troubles

Dear Ruth,

You know, I’m beginning to understand why you Progressives get so paranoid. Still: I’m not even a citizen but I am ready to rally dutifully around the flag and take the President at his word that the bombing has nothing to do with politics, and that this expatriate Saudi whom nobody had ever heard of three days ago is indeed the country’s new enemy. Even so, I can’t help thinking that Clinton must be awfully glad to be cutting short this particular vacation …

You win our parlor game. Not your first draft–shame on you for buying the Carville line that the only reason that Ken Starr is offended by is because he’s some prunefaced podsnap–but your second. A town meeting! How perfect! The only thing missing is a half-way compliment to Monica Lewinsky: not enough to irk Mrs. C., but something for her to think about as she toddles back before the grand jury.

This was supposed to have been Canadian content day. The big story here is that the Supreme Court of Canada has said that Quebec cannot legally secede. What a chance to introduce you and the six or seven Slate readers who didn’t come to a screeching halt at the mention of “Canada” to the complex subtleties of our constitutional dilemmas, and in two languages too. Alas, duty calls: there’s another Clinton administration scandal on the front page of the Times, and by the time I get through cackling over it (oh sorry: thinking how dreadful it is for the Republic), it’ll be cocktail hour here in Wellington, at which lateness is absolutely forbidden.

It seems that somebody has taken notes suggesting that not only was Al Gore lying when he denied having raised money illegally; he was lying when he denied knowing that his illegally raised money had been illegally spent. Now let me confess something here: despite his mad environmental ideas, his sanctimonious tone, and his considerable responsibility for the transformation of the once-great New Republic into a fanzine, I’ve always had sort of a soft spot for Gore. And no, it’s not because he introduced the world to Willy Horton. It’s because the 60s generation will be divided for ever between freaks and squares. I root for the squares, and they don’t get any squarer than Al. I feel sorry for him too because I think he is at bottom an honest and honorable man.

But a friend of mine who has closely studied the Italian mafia observes that whenever anyone honest drifts into the orbit of a mafia clan, the first thing they do is dirty him up. It’s dangerous to have someone in the inner circle who fancies that he can escape if the law should catch up. That I think is what the Clinton people did to Gore. They dirtied him. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they dirtied him so effectively that, when all is over, it will be easier to prove that he broke the law than that Clinton did. After all, people who think themselves honest don’t keep careful track of precisely where the line between the legal and the illegal falls so that they can remain always an inch or two on the weather side. The Clintons have always done their best to take those precautions.

Week 1:

Mon., 8/10; Tues., 8/11; Wed., 8/12; Thurs., 8/13; Fri., 8/14

Week 2:

Mon., 8/17; Tues., 8/18; Wed., 8/19; Thurs., 8/20; Fri., 8/21

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