The Breakfast Table

Six Degrees of St. Augustine

Blessed Daughter Kim,

You’re forgiven. Go thou and sin no more. But be sure to say two hours of Hail Monicas tonight, from 9 to 11 p.m. EST. After all, Monica carries the name of St. Augustine’s mother; Augustine was a man who not only struggled with the flesh but was to invent the confessional form that Ms. Lewinsky takes a bath in tonight. In fact, Augustine had a long, unconsecrated relationship with the woman who bore his son (he got rid of her at the behest of mother Monica, I think). And here’s what all this has to do with Clinton: Lewinsky actually described the president to Barbara Walters in remarkably Augustinian terms: as “a very sensual man who has a lot of sensual feelings” that conflict with his deep religious beliefs. And there you are: Six Degrees of St. Augustine.

I can’t promise that that Monica snippet will actually air. I’ve lifted it from an account of the interview that appeared in yesterday’s New York Daily News, which ran a lot of Monica-to-Barbara quotes. The paper got its quotes from a raw audiotape of one hour of the unedited interview, so there’s no telling if they got used in the final cut.

Among the worthy “highlights” in the News account is the Thong moment. It doesn’t quite address your thoughts on porn, but it addresses something I don’t want to think about. “When Walters asked Lewinsky where she got ‘the nerve’ to perform the now-infamous presidential thong flash,” writes the News, “the ex-intern dismissed it as ‘a small, subtle flirtatious gesture.’ “

Does Walters then ask Lewinsky to explain the art of thong-flashing with subtlety, and to contrast it with the usual, less refined approach that commonly occurs in offices? I like the question, but I don’t want to risk either hearing or seeing the answer.

There’s actually one Monica subject I would like to hear more about: Clinton’s concern that their hours of phone sex were taped by a foreign embassy. Lewinsky has said that Clinton concocted a cover story, should such tapes ever surface: She was supposed to pretend that they knew all along they were being taped, and that they were putting everybody on. That’s got to be the lamest cover story in the history of the alibi.

This curious episode remains an unresolved mystery of the scandal. Did Clinton say that? If so, what did he mean? Are there national security implications? A British journalist has a book coming out next week that claims to answer these questions (it implicates the Mossad), and it would be nice if Clinton addressed this, even if nobody can believe anything he says anymore. Or is David Kendall supposed to do another one-sentence stand-up?

If people here are having Monica-watching parties, I’m afraid they haven’t invited me. But I guess I’ll have to do my TV duty, at least for as long as I can stand it.

In dread,