White Flag Waving

Chatterbox knows when he’s licked. For months he’s been writing that Bill Clinton should resign–and possibly be impeached, if it can be done quickly. His writing, he maintains, has been much more nuanced than that of truly dyspeptic Clinton-haters like, say, Michael Kelly, but still, Chatterbox has more or less said Throw The Bum Out. Now, with the Democrats having picked up five seats in the House, and having very possibly held the line in the Senate (Nevada’s still too close to call), it’s clear Clinton isn’t going to resign, and probably won’t be ejected from office by Congress. (The House could still impeach, but it’s unlikely the Senate will convict.) So, okay: Chatterbox is going to get with the New Mandate and stop saying that Clinton should go.

A few caveats.

Chatterbox still thinks Clinton should go, and that his failure to go could still hurt the Democrats a lot. But Chatterbox can’t lead Al Gore’s life for him. If Gore doesn’t want to shove a pardon in Clinton’s hand and push him out the door, Chatterbox isn’t going to keep pestering him to do so. Chatterbox is even willing to open his mind to the possibility that Gore can still get himself elected president in 2000 without denouncing Clinton’s probable perjury in his Paula Jones deposition and grand jury testimony. On a less Machiavellian level, Chatterbox continues to believe that perjury ought to disqualify a person from being president.

Chatterbox also thinks that if the Democrats could pick up five seats in the House by mostly keeping mum about Clinton’s misbehavior, they might have picked up more if they had called for (and maybe achieved) his resignation. Chatterbox never thought the Democrats were going to lose big in this election because it was a bad year for challengers all around, mainly because of a red-hot economy. (I said this in the New Republic last summer, in a piece arguing, in part, that the parallels between the 1974 and 1998 congressional races were overstated.) Chatterbox doesn’t think the same voters who are repelled by House Republicans making political hay out of Clinton’s misfortune would have blamed Democrats for taking a nonpartisan stand against their party leader. To the contrary, they might have admired them for doing so.

Chatterbox reserves the right to keep writing about Flytrap. C’mon, it’s still a good story, and after all this is a gossip column.

BUT, Chatterbox will now attempt to avoid a moralizing tone when he writes about our president. He will attempt to forgive and forget, as the American People apparently have. He will attempt to be generous to Bill Clinton when circumstances warrant it. He does not promise to succeed at all this, but he will try.

–Timothy Noah