25th January 1998

Uncontrollable urges of a presidency

By Rajpal Abeynayake

Its a nice diversion to be able talk about the tra vails of the American President, particularly because the subject is of no import to us. Clinton is by any reckoning small beer compared to, say, John F Kennedy for example.

When Clinton was first gaining in the polls when he challenged incumbent President George Bush as President, his handlers are said to have divulged the details of the President's small beginnings in Arkansas. The American people apparently thought that the Clinton's were from a Kennedy like super rich American family. . The reality was that Clinton hailed from a family of almost poor circumstances. The handlers wanted the American people to know that.

Almost by sheer luck, Clinton, a hard working but not particularly a brilliant man became the American President. Now, the Presidency is being assailed by shock revelations that the President behaved badly in the White house, had an affair, and then, worst of all, prevailed on the other party to desist from making a deposition at a hearing on a sexual harassment case.

Somebody has said that sex is imbued with the death instinct.

For Clinton, sex could mean the death of his Presidency, though it is too early to tell.

Almost 90 per cent of the Americans, it is said, believe that Clinton is an adulterer, but they couldn't care less. That statistic may have however probably emboldened the American President. The Gennifer Flowers scandal was in full bloom when he was about to secure the Democratic nomination, but despite that, the American people seemed perfectly willing to accept the President's past, probably because they thought that if his wife doesn't care, there is no reason for them as voters to get particularly concerned.

As far as the Clinton story goes, it appears that its almost impossible that all the stories about Clinton's aggressive sex life can be false. Though it is true that his detractors from the Republican right have done their best to inflict political damage on the President, they probably couldn't go so far if there wasn't a modicum of truth that was attached to the President's alleged involvements.

There are other curious but interesting questions which the American press is loathe to talk about. Why, for instance, has an otherwise very fiercely liberated lady such as Hillary Clinton tolerated the sexual peccadilloes of her husband, if it is fairly clear that the President is an adulterer. Somehow, womanising inside the White House seems to be also looked upon as a greater crime than womanising outside of it even if the same man did it. So what is it about incumbency that is so sanitising?

There is always the argument that the President can compromise national security etc., but the tone and the tenor of the jokes and the reports now emanating about the President's latest sex scandal is such that it appears to be more of a moral issue than a national security issue. The Americans fornicate as they might just do not want their President doing it in the Lincoln bedroom. Now that may be a crude way of putting it, but it seems there is so much the Americans are willing to tolerate by way of tarnishing that air of history and heritage that hangs about the White house.

What's also striking, among other things is that there is some transparency about President Clinton's denial that he had an affair with a White House intern. Though the President has denied the affair, it is almost as if the denial was not made outright. By using very calculated language, it appeared as if the President was protecting himself against any future eventuality. But, what's apparent is that by doing so, he was giving a very prevaricating tone to his statements. For instance, he says "I did not ask anyone to tell anything other than the truth." Does that mean that he has indeed asked this lady to tell something? If so why? If he had no relationship with her, why not just say "I didn't'' and be done with it instead of saying that he didn't ask anyone to say anything other than the truth. The language, "anything other than the truth'' doesn't it smack of artifice, an artificial guardedness.?

All this is very interesting, perhaps except to the man in the predicament. On the one hand, the discomfiture of the President borders on the comic. After all, here is the President of the world's only superpower, and then, why is he behaving like a schoolboy who has just being caught playing truant by the headmaster? There are a lot of things that can be said about that, but suffice to say that its a hallmark of the Clinton Presidency that everything appears to be mediocre, even denials of his own transgressions even when he tries to protect his character. But there is one thing that goes for him nobody will want to kill Clinton because he doesn't arouse that kind of adversarial passion. They'd be quite satisfied assassinating his character.

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