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Jewish World Review March 5, 1999 /17 Adar 5759

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg
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Law and disorder

( IT MUST BE ANOTHER RECORD for this administration: Not just one, but two Cabinet officials now have been held in contempt by a federal judge.

In his 76-page citation, Judge Royce Lamberth chastised the secretary of the interior (Bruce Babbitt) and, for good measure, found the secretary of the treasury (Robert Rubin) in contempt, too.

It seems that after being told two years ago to provide some records to a trust fund for American Indians, the two of them together couldn't come up with the specified documents. Surely they will now.

It was enough to bring back the strange case of Hillary Clinton's disappearing and reappearing billing records.

Meanwhile, another federal judge in Little Rock -- Susan Webber Wright -- is mulling a contempt citation against their boss on the basis of his oh-so-sworn testimony in Clinton v. Jones.

Why does it not surprise that a couple of Cabinet secretaries in this administration would simultaneously be found in contempt of a court?

Maybe because in government, as in the military or team sports or corporate life, the head of the outfit sets the example.

Jane Doe No. 5 (they long ago had to be numbered) now has a name: Juanita Broaddrick. Anyone who watched her on television might find the lady credible enough. It's the little details in her story that inflame, like a 1970s-model Bill Clinton adjusting his sunglasses afterward like Mr. Cool, and telling her, "You'd better put some ice on that.''

But vas you der, Chollie? No one but an eyewitness would know what happened in that room. And even eyewitnesses have been known to differ.

Only this much is clear: If Bill Clinton isn't guilty, he acts like it. Can you imagine an innocent man accused of so violent, so sordid, so base a crime failing to deny it in the most heated way? Instead, William Jefferson Clinton issues the now-routine denial through his lawyer.

Juanita Broaddrick doesn't even rate the clenched-teeth, lip-quivering, finger-waving, nationally televised lie. ("I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time. Never. These allegations are false.'') Instead, Jane Doe No. 5 gets the brush -- not just from the president, but from the public and press.

The president of the United States is accused of a sexual assault 20 years ago, and his response is to hand it over to his usual attorney. Well, why not?

Accusations of perjury, obstruction of justice and contempt of court have become so routine in this administration, they might as well be parking tickets. And in this post-impeachment atmosphere, what were once serious charges seem to elicit about as much interest from the American people.

Maybe it's the law of supply and demand: There have been so many Clinton Scandals by now, the public may have lost all interest in what trouble the boy will be in next. We're all just plumb out of outrage at this stage. It's not as if his character were a surprise by now.

His attorney's response was the usual, too: Juanita Broaddrick's story, David Kendall assures all, is "absolutely false.'' Does that mean Bill Clinton never knew her, or just never met her in that hotel room, or had only a consensual encounter with the lady, instead of sexually assaulting her, or never apologized and asked what he could do to make it up to her, or just bit her lower, instead of upper lip? Or just what?

Is the president's attorney saying that all the elements of Juanita Broaddrick story are false, or that if even one can't be checked out, her account is rendered "absolutely false?'' Sometimes you can't see the forest for the clinton clauses.

The president himself isn't talking. He never does until obliged to by press or subpoena, and then his testimony is dubious. So what's the use of pursuing still another such story? William Jefferson Clinton has finally worn down even the American people's interest in the vulgar.

When H. L. Mencken said that nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public, he could not have foreseen that one day its interest in the salacious would just bottom out, exhausted. By now most Americans just shrug their shoulders. At last the country has a president who is below suspicion.

The Clinton Defense isn't confined to law or politics or public relations. It eats away at the general tone of society. Did you hear the first reaction to the Broaddrick story of a senator from Vermont, James Jeffords? He called it a private affair.

"I don't know why it wouldn't be a private matter,'' he said. "If something that happened 21 years ago with a woman who invited, at least under her story, the president to her hotel room and she was not happy with what happened, I don't know why that's not a private matter.`

Have you ever heard a more offhand defense of general swinishness? Sexual assault is now a private matter.

When he realized the import of his words, the senator apologized. Possibly it occurred to him just what he was condoning. Or possibly it occurred to the women of Vermont, their fathers and brothers. Let's hope so.

One can't help wondering if the senator would have been so quick to withdraw his words if the woman in question had not been an obvious lady, soft-voiced and genteel, but a working girl with big hair. Yes, the Clinton Defense (formerly the She-Asked-For-It Defense) has only begun to percolate through American society, reinforcing all kinds of double standards.

Even a contested 20-year-old story can have a moral: Every daddy needs to teach his daughter, early, to scream. Slap, kick and yell. Don't pretend it didn't happen. Get help. Call 911. Seek counsel. And medical attention. Press charges. Don't lie. Don't file a false affidavit. DON'T LET HIM GET AWAY WITH IT.

Or else, 20 years of bad memories later, when a sadder and wiser woman does finally tell her story, nobody may much care. That's the moral of this story. And by telling it, Juanita Broaddrick may have done many a young woman a service.


2/26/99:King Richard's revenge
2/25/99:Open season on the fetus, and a good word for the pagans
2/23/99: It never ends: Here comes the judge
2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99:Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99:Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99:Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
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

©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate