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Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 1999/17 Teves, 5759

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg The year of Moronica

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) THERE'S STILL TIME for a few year-end honors, always a difficult editorial decision. For example, it wasn't easy choosing the biggest boor, and bore, of 1998.

There were so many candidates to choose from in those related and often identical categories:

Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, Lucianne Goldberg, Bob Barr, James Carville, Geraldo Rivera, Chris Matthews, Ira Magaziner, Sidney Blumenthal, Bob Barr, Jerry Springer (a perennial favorite), Marcia Clark, Bob Barr and half the House Judiciary Committee. And you, Gentle Reader, doubtless have your own nominee. But the winner is ... the envelope please ....

William Ginsburg, Esq.ˇ

Of course.

The choice is inescapable once you think about it -- once you're forced to think about it again. Yes, Monica Lewinsky's once and definitely former lawyer, who first appeared so convincing, and then did nothing but appear, And appear. And appear. Bill Ginsburg became the very epitome of the celebrity, someone famous for being famous but not much else.

Counselor Ginsburg came to represent in his own weird way the profound superficiality, the utter Californiazation of this Year of Moronica.

This l'Affaire Lewinsky, this whole maybe medium-high crime and misdemeanor, or whatever it is, now has ensnared the country for a year and threatens to go on approximately forever.

Quick, stop it before it bores more.

Looking back, it's easy to pick the most vilified, the most maligned, indeed the most successfully demonized character in this whole, improbable story: none other than mild-mannered Kenneth Starr.

A sober, distinguished, nitpicking jurist assigned to follow the trail wherever it led, he was nerdy enough to do just that.

Naturally enough, Washington was shocked, and the War Room soon saw to it that the country was.

Result: Mister Peepers came across as Torquemada. That he was as warm and fuzzy as a courtroom bannister didn't help, especially when he tried to fake congeniality. He came off like a bank clerk saying Have a Nice Day.

Yes, a lot of innocent people were caught up with the guilty in Ken Starr's wide net, as they often are in criminal investigations. But lest we forget, a lot of the guilty were just plain caught. One conviction has followed another, including that of a governor of Arkansas.

Why? Because nothing was too zany a possibility for this all-too-independent counsel to explore, and some of the zaniest proved all too true.

It's easy enough to second-guess a few of his more speculative decisions (I certainly did), but who would've thought there really existed a stained blue dress before it materialized?

Yes, all this might have been nothing but a nice, inconclusive He Said, She Said case before spoilsport Science intervened. To quote David Schippers, majority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, it was a wonderful world before they found that blue dress.

Judge Starr's record in court may have been close to 100 percent, but his standing in the polls fell closer to zero. His great sin, for which reflexive clintonoids will never forgive him, is that, appointed to pursue a case, he did.

If individual honors must go to Ken Starr in this demonization derby, the whole group most maligned in this umpteen-act drama was easy to spot, too: Hillary Clinton's Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, aka the Radical Right, or the Religious Right. It's a fairly amorphous category, like the Illuminati or the Elders of Zion, but can be expanded to include your favorite scapegoat of the moment.

To quote Alan Dershowitz, that font of moderation on the Harvard law faculty: "A vote against impeachment is not a vote for Bill Clinton. It is a vote against bigotry. It's a vote against fundamentalism. It's a vote against anti-environmentalism. It's a vote against the right-to-life movement. It's a vote against the Radical Right.'' It's a vote, the (hopping) mad professor concluded, against "the forces of evil, evil, genuine evil.''

Any questions? If so, keep 'em to yourself. This is the kind of intellectual discourse that gave Harvard the reputation it's got.

Excruciatingly endless as l'affaire Lewinsky has been, it has had its hilarious moments. After all, this is an American scandal, and must have its comic interludes. Indeed, there have been more interludes than coherent plot. It's all been more Marx Brothers than Brothers Karamazov. Or as an Austrian general once described a military predicament: The situation is desperate but not serious.

One thing just led to another, as lies inevitably will. The result was a year of sheer Moronica. I thought it would never end. And it still hasn't.


1/04/99:Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate