Speak Truth to Power

The purpose of this satirical essay is to analyze the causes and consequences of President Clinton's actions which led to his impeachment in 1998 including recommending a simple, poetic punishment not previously discussed in public. The punishment recommended here anticipated the failure of impeachment and it is still applicable. An old friend, Rick Gaber, liked this essay so well that he put it up on his web site in 1998 making it my first essay "published" on the internet.


Speak Truth to Power

by Donald M. Parrish, Jr.

There he is, the made-for-TV President with the easy charm, the well-tuned soundbite, the everyman empathy, the painstaking appearance of sincerity and the believable baby face. Although twice elected President, he never won a majority of the male vote. Clinton is popular with the gullible whom he considers his legal prey. One of his core beliefs is that he can talk his way out of anything. Objective reality is subordinated to spin. He is a spinmeister. He parses words until syllables groan. He is, to use President Truman's phrase, "a prismatic prevaricator -- a liar any way you look at him." A charming & shameless deceiver.

So let's look at Clinton from different points of view using some imagination. Let's pretend we could "get inside the heads" of a Democratic Insider, Emily Etiquette, a Philanderer, a Feminist, a Psychologist and a Historian whom we've invited to participate in a roundtable discussion of Clinton. Note we aren't seeking any input from that lowlife weasel, Dick Morris, to whom President Clinton turns for operational advice when he is in trouble.

A Democratic Insider: "Clinton has lied to us so many times we gave up counting. Because of him, we lost both houses of Congress. Can't understand the utter recklessness of an affair with an intern while he was being sued by Paula Jones, pursued by the Special Prosecutor and monitored by Hillary. Then that whole thing with the cigar . . It was like 'I didn't inhale' again. Give me a break. When Bill hauled in his secretary, Betty Currie on a Sunday to coach her to suborn perjury ('I was never alone with Monica, right?'), that was really ugly. Still it has been fun watching the Republicans squirm and self destruct. As long as he can raise money, Bill's our boy, but we gotta be real careful."

Emily Etiquette: "I pointed out to the President that having your organ of generation ministered to whilst communicating on the telephone is a breach of propriety and protocol. He challenged me to cite the reference in one of my books. I explained that this is common sense. He shot back that depends on what you mean by common sense. He is such a good debater. And so handsome."

Professional Feminist Organizer: "Clinton did put us in a box. We drove Bob Packwood out of the Senate for grabbing a few women and kissing them. We had a holy jihad over Clarence Thomas using our strongest allegation of the pubic hair on the coke can. What Clinton did was textbook sexual harassment. This was no love affair; he treated Monica like a sex slave. We were disgusted at the tawdry details, but we supported Clinton in public because we want Federal funding. What's more important than money?"

The Philanderer: "Clinton is such a disappointment. So sloppy. He left semen everywhere: on tissues, on the side of the bathtub and the dress. Hired help talks after they clean up! He should get a vasectomy to avoid leaving DNA evidence next time. He totally flubbed the Kathleen Willey seduction. It was inexcusable. He had his eye on her for years. She and her husband had given him $50,000 for his campaign during the good times. But when she came to the Oval Office that day, she was desperate for a job (Remember her husband was committing suicide on the same day over finances). Did Clinton read her a poem and tell her he admired her beauty? No, he grabbed her crotch! This is not the technique for a refined, poised woman like Mrs. Willey! Doesn't he know anything about seduction? It served him right that she fled the Oval Office almost running into Linda Tripp. . . Another thing, why does he get involved with nut cases like Monica who has a compulsion to talk. Let him pick women in the private sector next time."

The Historian: "The Pilgrim ideal was the civil society. The key to the civil society is personal honesty and trust between people. During their exile in Holland from 1608 to 1620, the Dutch never failed to loan any Pilgrim money because their word was their bond. American civilization is built on this bedrock of personal honesty. For example, one reason Thomas Jefferson selected Meriwether Lewis to led the expedition to the Pacific was because he possessed 'fidelity to truth so scrupulous that whatever he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves.' The whole legal system of the United States is based on ascertaining the truth, i.e. in the words of the majestic phrase: 'the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' No one is above the law. The theme of American history is 'speaking Truth to Power,' not submitting to it."

Psychologist: "Bill Clinton grew up in a home where the father was an alcoholic. Billy learned to compartmentalize what went on at home from his school life and present his home life as if everything was fine to his schoolmates. Bill has a photographic memory; he can read 20 pages of text once and repeat it word for word. The old saw is true: 'Liars should have good memories'. Bill could keep track of the various 'realities'. He learned early on to manipulate people skillfully. Later he used focus groups and polls to refine 'the spin of the day'. Clinically, I've never seen anyone with the compulsion to have it both ways like Bill Clinton does. He is a black belt in bullshit."

Now that we have heard from the "experts", it's time to analyze the situation. We have the "Come Back Kid", a creature of the TV age supremely confident that he can talk his way out of any situation. He is a practicing heterosexual who likes to practice. He takes bigger and bigger chances and becomes sloppy. Plays the hare to Ken Starr's tortoise. Starr, a sheep in sheep's clothing, does not look like much of a threat. According to Hillary (at that time), on the January morning that the Monica Lewinsky affair became public, the President told her: "Look at this story in the newspaper; you're not going to believe it." Hillary dismissed the whole affair as an invention of a "right wing conspiracy." Clinton personally assured cabinet officers, Democratic senators, etc., that the whole thing was a lie. He wagged his finger at the TV: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Clinton did not simply lie and deny. He ordered the attack dogs to destroy anyone who stood up to his Power and told the Truth. It was vicious. It would have worked, but the liberal press was getting wise to him, Monica saved the dress, and Ken Starr, the plodding Patriot, pursued the Perjurer. Clinton was impeached.

Technology has become the nemesis of the politically powerful, just the opposite of the projections from the novels Brave New World and 1984. Audio tape, video tape, DNA screening, excel spreadsheets (Monica was a modern girl who kept track of her sexual activity on the computer!) ... were all instrumental in Clinton's undoing. His lies were exposed. You can't have it both ways on video tape.

The whole story of 1998 is a Morality Play. In each scene, the President is offered the chance to tell the truth and end the play. But each time, he tells a lie and the play continues. How many scenes are left to go? The usual explanation that he lied to cover embarrassment over a sexual affair totally misses the point. He lied in the Paula Jones suit in order to avoid losing several million dollars. He lied to the Grand Jury when everyone knew about the affair. He made a farce of the investigation by claiming under oath: "Monica had sex with me, but I did not have sex with her." Starr even told the President about the blue dress weeks before he testified. Still the President lied to the Grand Jury, and the play continued.

How will the play end? Many have called for Clinton to resign. Clinton stated that Power is his highest value and he would serve to the last hour of the last day of his term. It would be very manipulative for him to resign since that would be the action of an honorable man. Besides Hillary would never allow him to do it.

Another possible ending: Presidents Carter and Ford proposed a tidy censure package deal which would have avoided putting the Senate in an awkward situation. In return for admitting that he lied under oath, President Clinton would be allowed to complete his term, avoid a trial in the Senate and not be prosecuted for perjury after his term ends. Still the Come Back Kid thinks he can avoid an admission of lying. Facts are stubborn things; reality is real, and so the Morality Play continues.

The Senate might surprise us all by impartially analyzing the evidence, convicting President Clinton of high crimes and removing him from office. If they cut a censure deal with Clinton, there is talk of a $1,000,000 fine. This is no punishment. One phone call is sufficient for Clinton to raise that much money. Even $10M is no problem for him to raise. Domestic sources or foreign. A few calls. No problem. He can "rent out" the Lincoln bedroom again.

The punishment should fit the crime. Since President Clinton has dishonored his name, he needs to be denied an honored place in history. My proposal is that part of any punishment package should include a stipulation that no public building, military base, weapons system, home for unwed mothers, street, park, airport, dam, hospital, law school, scholarship, etc., be named for him. Nothing. Further, no federal funds should be used for his Presidential Library (in a trailer park?). To emphasize the lesson, let's name something after Kenneth Starr.

There is only one other possible ending. This is extremely far-fetched, but by writing about it, I hope to preclude it. If Clinton committed suicide or was assassinated, then the tables would be turned on his enemies. They would be viewed as heartless and cruel. It would be Saint William Jefferson Clinton. His name would be plastered indiscriminately on everything. As a stunned nation watched, President Gore would pick as his Vice President, Hillary Clinton.

President Clinton, you are in the same spot that Richard Nixon was. You have the Power to destroy the earth, but not to avoid the Truth. How long is it going to take you to figure this out and admit to your lies under oath?