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Jewish World Review / August 20, 1998 / 28 Menachem-Av, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas That was no apology

COMPARED TO OTHER RECENT HIGH-PROFILE APOLOGIES -- Jimmy Swaggart's "I have sinned'' and Ted Kennedy's owning up to a lifetime of spring-break fever -- President Clinton's nationally televised statement Monday night fell short. It didn't even qualify as an apology.

Where was the repentance? Where was the promise not to have extramarital sexual relations of any kind again? The value of a confession decreases the closer one gets to being caught.

For seven months, the president delayed telling the truth and lied to the public and everyone close to him. His explanation for doing so was strictly political. All of those who swore they believed the president and who attacked his accusers ought to apologize for being co-conspirators in a grand cover-up.

The president spoke to the country only after he testified before a grand jury and finally admitted he lied about not having sex with Monica Lewinsky in his testimony under oath in the Paula Jones sexual harassment deposition. Whoever thought we would long for the quaintness of Jimmy Carter's promise, "I'll never lie to you.''

Bill Clinton has been a serial liar all his life. He lies about everything, from the innocuous to the important. Then, when caught, he employs biblical language and religious imagery to get himself off the hook. In his speech, he didn't even ask for the public's forgiveness, preferring the lower moral road of taking "full responsibility'' for an inappropriate relationship. This is the language of lawyers and spinners, not the words of one who feels conviction in his heart.

Those who still defend this man for political reasons now call on the public to forgive him, though he has not made the request himself. But forgiveness without repentance is cheap grace. It says that what he did to himself, his family and the nation is as acceptable as the behavior of those who remain faithful to their spouses and a good example to their children.

When what we used to call "sin'' is lightly tolerated, we get more of it. Like cancer, it must be detected early and dealt with or it will spread. Clinton's generation has indulged in and tolerated in others the most outrageous behavior, and so we get more of it. His generational contemporaries are reluctant to tell him he is a bum because they would have to confront their own immorality.

A truly repentant leader would emulate Israel's King David. In a delightful irony, American Movie Classics ran the film David and Bathsheba Sunday night on the eve of Clinton's grand jury testimony. When David was confronted by the prophet Nathan about David's inappropriate behavior with Bathsheba and his sending her husband to the front lines to be killed, David confessed his sin to God and to the world and repented. The most beautiful words of contrition ever written are found in the Psalms. Only dissembling words are found in Clinton's grudging admission. His continued attacks on Ken Starr, a duly authorized legal authority, are proof that his sole regret was getting caught.

It is the president, not his accusers, who has produced this blot on his presidency and his life. Now he demands that we leave the scene of the accident he's caused without further consequences. He must not be allowed to get away with hitting and running, no matter what some opinion polls say.

While Democratic National Committee Chairman Roy Romer, who has similarly admitted to an extramarital affair, was out apologizing for Clinton, his Republican counterpart, Jim Nicholson, was more to the point: "Tragically, America could have been spared this entire sad saga if the president had told the truth in the first place. His failure to do so has needlessly cost taxpayers millions, weakened the presidency and hurt a lot of innocent people.''

It will soon be up to the House of Representatives to decide if there's enough evidence to proceed with impeachment hearings. If members lightly regard the law, we will get more lawlessness in the future.


8/18/98: Big government's crab grab
8/14/98:Untruths, half-truths and anything but the truth
8/12/98: Lying under oath: past and present impeachable offenses
8/10/98: Endangered species
8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.