The Breakfast Table

From Monica Outrage to Elián Enormity

Can I speak up for Rudy? Our endlessly repeated slogan, “It’s not about sex, it’s about perjury,” is already fading away into the sepia trove of semi-forgotten American scandals, along with the little tin box of the Walker ring and Harry Truman’s Five Percenters. That said, it’s still true: None (well almost none) of the moralists in our circle was ever all that upset about Bill Clinton’s philandering. We all said dozens of times that the poor bloke with the misfortune to be married to That Woman could easily be excused for seeking solace elsewhere. As I recall, our women friends were even more emphatic on this point than our men friends.

In fact, Hizzoner’s behavior in this scandal points up one of the big differences between Our Guys and Their Guys. Our Guys have to begin from the presumption that the press will be inquisitive about and hostile to their foibles. That presumption isn’t always right, but it has always to be made. So not only did the mayor refrain from forswearing himself to conceal his affair–he refused even to issue a ritualistic false denial. Their Guys, on the other hand, take for granted (again not always correctly, but correctly enough) the complaisance and indulgence of the press. And that emboldens them to do things like … well like mastermind massive schemes of lawbreaking and obstruction of justice and then tell jokes about it at subsequent White House Correspondents’ dinners. (You went; I didn’t. So much for your disavowals of glamour.)

Still, as Jay Leno has observed, it’s Clinton’s method to distract our attention from one scandal with another scandal. Last year’s Monica outrage has to be packed up and placed in the attic to make room for this year’s Elián enormity. When the front page of the New York Post tells me that Rudy is sending heavily armed SWAT teams into unarmed homes in the early hours of the morning at the behest of Third World dictatorships, then I’ll truly begin worrying about the parallels between Ours and Theirs.

Fly safely and call me tonight for a real talk.