The Impeachment Whodunit

“This affair must all be unraveled from within.” Hercule Poirot tapped his forehead. “These little grey cells. It is up to them.”

–Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The long holiday weekend gave Chatterbox the uninterrupted leisure to put his little gray cells to work and try to unravel the Clinton Affair from within. Who was the arch fiend, the modern-day Moriarty who set this plot into motion? So many clues, so many suspects, so little clarity. Was it Ken Starr in the Conservatory with Tobacco Money? Or was it Lucianne Goldberg in the Library with a Gold-Digger’s Dagger?

But Chatterbox has learned from a lifetime of mystery reading not to be gulled by the usual suspects with their painfully obvious motives. If the Clinton Affair were a classic British locked-room puzzle, the tangled roots of this crime would date back to the distant past, perhaps even to the Arkansas days when the teen-aged Bill Clinton was acquiring his sax appeal in the high-school band. It’s all up those little gray cells. C’mon cerebral cortex, do your stuff.

Eureka! Chatterbox has figured it all out. So settle into your chairs before the roaring fire in the drawing room, and let the master detective elucidate his indisputable reasoning. For the Clinton Affair turns out to be a legendary case of legerdemain from beyond the grave.

In 1962, just two years before she died of cancer, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. That early environmental classic helped spawn the creation of the EPA in 1970, and the fateful banning of DDT and other pesticides in the 1970s. Then in 1978, these heavy-handed governmental regulations inspired a Sugar Land, Texas, bug-control magnate by the name of Tom DeLay to go into politics. (If there were any poetry in real life, DeLay would share a home town with another congressional power, former House Speaker Carl Albert, who was born in Bug Tussle, Okla.). As DeLay later complained to the Texas Monthly about Silent Spring, “That became a great cause. But there is no scientific evidence in the book. I refuse to base environmental policy on political motives or bad science.”

DeLay was, of course, the whip hand responsible for Clinton’s impeachment. But the Silent Spring scenario doesn’t stop here. For Rachel Carson’s secret plan requires one more step–for Clinton to be forced from office. Only with Al Gore as president can Carson’s ghost finally rest easy. As the vice president has written, “One of the books that we discussed around our family table was Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring, about pesticide abuse. As it did for millions around the world, Carson’s book helped awaken in me an understanding that our planet’s life is too precious to squander.”

So, in the end, poor Bill Clinton becomes the first president ever to be ruined by a book. Not his favorite gift, Leaves of Grass. But Silent Spring, the tract that radicalized both Tom DeLay and Al Gore.

Walter Shapiro