"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 23 February 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Inversion of Privacy


[new system for getting me out of bed-]

For all the criticism that Bill

Clinton receives for changing

his stance on political issues

to match the latest poll result,

no one can question his

passionate, longstanding take on

one of the most fundamental

issues of personal privacy. The

president's unwavering position

was in clear evidence in spring

1997 after Air Force General

Joseph Ralston, Clinton's

nominee to chair the Joint

Chiefs of Staff, was hit with

reports that he had cheated on

his wife 13 years before. "We

must respect an individual's

privacy," Clinton declared

during an impassioned press

conference in the White House

rose garden. "A husband's

faithfulness is an issue that

concerns no one but his own

family. My only concern is that

General Ralston does the best

work he can do in his role as a

general officer. He has done

precisely that, and I insist on

his confirmation to the post for

which he has been appointed."


Later, when Clinton advisor Dick

Morris was caught cheating on

his wife with a high-priced

prostitute, Clinton again stood

by his old friend, blasting

media critics who wrote about

the consultant's adultery.

Defying critics, the president

kept Morris on board through the

1996 election, counting on the

maturity of the American

electorate to carry him through

a scandal he termed "contrived

and salacious."


But Clinton hasn't just defended

generals and expensive political

fixers in the arena of sexual

privacy. When Air Force

investigators dug into the sex

life of Lieutenant Kelly Flinn,

seeking to prove that she had

engaged in a sexual relationship

with a married civilian and then

lied about it, the

commander-in-chief called them

off, personally telephoning the

captain in charge to order an

end to the criminal probe.


More recently, the president

took his unwavering belief in

the purely personal nature of

sexual relationships a step

further. After learning that

Navy investigators had called

America Online to learn the

identity of an AOL member who

described himself, in an online

profile, as gay - a phone call

that led to administrative

discharge proceedings, on

charges of homosexuality,

against the unfortunately named

Senior Chief Petty Officer Tim

McVeigh - Clinton signed an

executive order strictly

forbidding military

investigators from digging into

the sex lives of ...


[1) roomate rubs cat on carpet, getting him nice and staticy]

Oh, never mind. We were

beginning to wonder how much

longer we could go on like this

with a straight face. All of the

above is half-true, of course:

real people, and real scandals,

with only one thing changed.

We'll leave it to you to figure

out what that is. The reality of

Bill Clinton's political stance

on all things sexual - in fact,

on most things personal and

private, and we're biting our

lip to keep from mentioning

V-chips and the War on Drugs -

is no accident.


Consider the next fact very

carefully, and hold onto it:

Clinton won re-election in 1996

with higher support among

evangelical Christians than any

Democratic nominee since the

deeply religious Jimmy Carter.

In fact, Clinton peeled all

kinds of traditionally

Republican voters away from his

corpselike opponent, winning

extraordinary levels of

endorsement among, for example,

suburban married couples.

(Remember all that talk about

"soccer moms" during campaign



Here's why. A Los Angeles Times

reporter following Clinton

around in Alabama a few days

before the election got this

quote from a woman wearing a

large cross around her neck: "I

have thought of him as a social

liberal. But today he talked

more traditional values."


[2) cat thrown into my room]

And that's exactly right; he did

talk more traditional values,

following a very carefully

crafted script. Alongside him,

while her husband waxed

familial, Hillary "I don't bake

cookies" Clinton bought a softer

hairdo and more traditional

wifewear, even "writing" a book

on the critical importance of

families. ("Yes, it takes a

village," she said, in a

nationally televised speech

during the Democratic

Convention. "And it takes a

president.... It takes a

president who not only holds

those beliefs but acts on them.

It takes Bill Clinton.") The

family-above-all strategy was

crafted, amusingly enough, by

foot-fetishist Dick Morris, and

it worked beautifully. Clinton's

campaign was probably even

strong enough to have carried

him to victory above a

Republican candidate who was

still sentient, should one have

been found.


Although the next race for the

presidency is still two years

away, another round of elections

is coming up, and politicians

across the country - candidates

for governor, state senator,

city councilperson, what have you -

are going before the cameras to

declare their candidacies.

Excepting the faces, the images

of those press conferences and

kick-off rallies are absolutely,

unwaveringly the very same: The

candidate stands before the

camera, looking off into the

future, while his - or, less

often, her - family stands

behind and slightly to the side,

gazing up lovingly at their

devoted patriarch. Then the

speech is over, and the family

moves forward; they embrace the

candidate, smiling, warm, close;

flashbulbs pop.


[3) when cat touches my nose -as he always does- i will get an amazing shock, thus propelling me out of bed]

This image was repeated,

recently, with a few strange

twists. The politician was

Colorado Governor Roy Romer, who

also runs the Democratic

National Committee and isn't in

the running for another term in

the statehouse. At a press

conference, Romer admitted that

his relationship with a former

staff member had long since

become, get this, "very

affectionate." The admission

followed the publication, in a

Washington magazine, of pictures

showing Romer pretty much

shoving his tongue down the

former staffer's throat while

they sat in the front seat of a

car. The picture was, by the

way, a still from a video that

showed the kiss going on for six



Romer turned the coming-clean

session into a lecture, charging

that the news media was holding

public figures - meaning, in

this instance, both himself and

the highest elected official in

his own political party, Bill

Clinton - to a "higher

standard," creating a sexual

"litmus test" for politicians.

Mirroring a line much-peddled by

Clinton's paid media spinners,

Romer argued that a man's sexual

choices are between him and his

family. And family is private,

is no one else's business.


As he spoke, Romer's wife and

daughter stood nearby - stood,

to be precise, behind and

slightly to the side. Where the

cameras would capture them in

the frame.

courtesy of Ambrose Beers