For the week of September 2 thru September 8, 1998  

Seducing a nation

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Every mother since Creation has sighed in exasperation at their young.

"What’s this next generation coming to?" elders wail, as they watch youth sink to new lows in respect, discipline, taste and public civility.

There’s an aphorism that fits:

"What this generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace."

And so it is: adults tell pollsters they’ll tolerate a liar, scoundrel, sexual predator, and snake oil salesman who betrayed their trust from the grandest, most powerful political office in the world.

If the public shrugs off Bill Clinton’s latest lechery and failed cover-up – one in a long string dating back to early days of his marriage – what, then, will tomorrow’s generation accept?

Might a future President drag down the presidency even lower by stashing mistresses nearby for amusement, then asking forgiveness for weakness of his flesh?

Worse than Bill Clinton is the scandalous gullibility of those who support him because of his illusory job performance.

They regard him as a mystic, a miracle worker with incalculable and magical skills indispensable to the Republic.

Such nonsense.

American presidents come and go, usually every four years, occasionally every eight. Some presidents are brilliant, even historic. Others are feckless seat warmers in the Oval Office.

Even with the sudden wartime death of the venerated, three-term Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and ascendancy of the much-reviled Missouri bumpkin, Harry S. Truman, the country survived. In fact, historians regard Truman as one of the greats.

And the Union will survive if Bill Clinton takes a premature, one-way Air Force One ride back to Little Rock, voluntarily or otherwise.

Those of us who voted originally for Clinton were alarmed by what we saw early on when Clinton quickly, unapologetically broke his thematic promise of the 1992 campaign – that he’d end Washington’s wanton ways and breathe virtue into government.

Not only did he not change Washington’s ways, he cheapened them. He installed in his Cabinet men of devious, doubtful ethics and trustworthiness – Housing secretary Cisneros, Commerce secretary Brown, Agriculture secretary Espy.

As No. 2 lawyer in Justice, he brought in palsy-walsy Web Hubbell, a liar and embezzler, and later a jail bird.

While talking campaign finance reform, the man from Arkansas and his Veep from Tennessee were grubbing gobs of cash from suspect overseas donors.

Meanwhile, slick lawyers helped Clinton dodge criminal action resulting from abuse of 900 FBI files, wheeling and dealing in the White House travel office, "lost" records from the First Lady’s days as an Arkansas lawyer, and the smelly Whitewater real estate shenanigans.

The "healing" that President Clinton and the First Lady supposedly attempted on vacation also is more cynical Clinton claptrap: Hillary Clinton has been through Clinton’s pathological sexual adventures enough times –Flowers, Jones, Willey, Lewinsky – to have been "healed" over and over.

The Clintons’ aim is not personal reconciliation, but concocting ploys to save him from losing the office he so cherishes, but is willing to soil. Hypnotizing the public into believing he’s indispensable, if not truthful, is the plan.

Worse is yet to come. This president (whose lies go beyond sex to his draft status and marijuana) and his administration is riddled with deceit, lawyer double-talk and self-obsession. Monicagate is a hint of deeper evils.

Comparing Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon is inadequate.

A far more accurate comparison is Burt Lancaster’s film portrayal of Elmer Gantry, the immoral, womanizing 1920s promoter who transforms himself into a cynical, Bible-thumping evangelist of seducing gullible country folks with his contrived virtue and histrionic appeals for God’s forgiveness.

Pat Murphy is a past publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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