The Breakfast Table

The Short Haul

Good Morning Erik–

We have a late lift-off this morning because it’s raining. When it rains in New York cabs and delivery boys evaporate so the paper “plop” came well after C-span, Imus, and the Internet.

Just one comment on your late post yesterday before moving on to the news. Is my disgust at the current scandal personal? Abso-flipping-lutely–where else do strong opinions come from but directly from the heart? Do I want to rid the entire government of sexual adventurers? Too small a venue, my friend. I am one woman so I decided to start at the top. Perhaps values will trickle down.

Now … on the task at hand. The first thing that struck me this morning was the picture in several publications of the Old Liberal Don Uncle Walter Cronkite sailing off with the First Family. Perhaps a little fan-tail lecture following far out to sea occurred? Stagey but well thought out by McCurry and Crew.

The Washington Post front page off-lead goes with Dem Biggie Gephardt sending what must be an unpleasant frisson through the Democratic faithful. He wimped a bit by “refusing to rule out the possibility of impeachment if the facts warrant such action.” How many weasel words can one get into a statement. Richard Romer followed with an equally soft reproach. Perhaps these guys will tighten their grip when the days dwindle down to a perfect few–November, December.

The hurricane made all the front pages but then again–hurricanes always do. It means little to New Yorkers. Back in the 80s CNN so terrified us about Hurricane Gloria that people in Manhattan were actually X-ing their windows with masking tape. The sun relentlessly shown all day. Nothing happened so we stopped believing in hurricanes unless we had relatives vacationing in the outer banks of the Carolinas.

Oddly, the terrorist bombing (retaliation?) in South Africa made no front page. They blew up a Planet Hollywood. If you’ve ever eaten at one … well never mind. I shouldn’t joke about people bleeding in the street. Next month “21”?

The best column today is Michael Kelly’s (always a winner here in the heart of the VRWC). The headline (different in all papers) in the New York Post especially caught my eye after your argument yesterday concerning Monicagate. “Ifit is just about sex … ” I like Kelly’s lead: “… a question that hangs in the paws of August dog days.” I always like dog references. The defining graph and one I repeat to you rather than outright steal it for my argument is the following: “In the end, which looms, it will be understood that, even if it’s just about sex, it’s also about fitness to lead; about the exploitation of the vulnerable, about the abuse of office, about great and careless cruelty, about the sort of man who treats others as commodities to be used and abandoned and who then lies about what he has done.” Hear, hear, Mr. Kelly. I wish I had said that.

The redoubtable Maureen Dowd weighs in with a wonderful shrink-based construct characterizing Clinton as a Highchair King. When Dowd gets it she gets it perfectly and finds the telling detail in public behavior better than anyone writing today. When she finishes Clinton off as a big baby “banging his spoon and screaming, ‘Enable me or the Dow goes down to 500!’” she zeroes in on the exchange Madeleine Albright and Cokie Roberts had last Sunday when Cokie pressed the first female Secretary of State about whether Clinton’s affair with Monica was wrong. Dowd notes that Albright shut down. “Just more Clinton wreckage,” Dowd writes, “A role model for women forced to defend scrofulous behavior toward women. A woman who knew the pain of having a husband leave her for a younger woman forced to defend a man having a flight with a younger woman. A man married to her good friend Hillary.”

You are right, Erik, this is just about sex. I am not a public figure so my feelings are personal–as personal as all get out. And those personal feelings about public bad behavior, if felt by enough of us, will change the political direction of this country for all time.