A Requiem for Democracy?
[Governor Willie Stark to his "investigator" Jack
"There is always something."
And I [Burden] said, "Maybe not on the
And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in
corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the
stench of the shroud. There is always something."
And he told me to dig it out, dig it up, the dead cat
with the patches of fur still clinging to the tight,
swollen, dove-gray hide. It was the proper job for me, for,
as I have said, I was once a student of history. A student
of history does not care what he digs out of the ash pile,
the midden, the sublunary dung heap, which is the human
past. He doesn't care whether it is the dead pussy or the
Robert Penn Warren
All the King's Men.
Ask the Republicans, "what is President Clinton's primary
offense," and they will tell you, "perjury and obstruction of
Ask the Democrats, and they will reply, "it's just about
They are both wrong!
Clinton's offense was that he won a fair and honest election. This
was an offense which the losers were determined to have undone,
whatever the cost. And for this offense, the offender would pay
dearly - as he has. For starters, over six million in legal fees, and
added to that quite possibly his office, and surely his historical
Don't get us wrong: We won't hesitate to tell all who ask (and
many who won't) that Clinton's behavior was outrageous and
inexcusable. It was personally immoral, and politically reckless
But who can believe, for a moment, that if all conditions were the
same - "Whitewater," "file-gate," "travelgate," "zippergate" - save
that the President were a Republican, that any of this
travesty would have even reached first base, or, for that matter,
found itself in the political lineup. If you believe that a
Republican similarly situated would never be subject to such abuse,
then you must concede that this witch-hunt is purely political.
(Still unconvinced? Then ask yourself, what penalty did Newt Gingrich
pay for his damned lies to Congress. Never heard about that? We rest
For four years, at the cost of tens of millions of dollars, the
"Special Persecutor" raked through bales of Clinton checks, receipts,
bank records, transcripts, etc., apparently with no result, until
"ordinary mom," Linda Tripp, rushed over to the SP's office, illegal
tapes in hand, just ahead of Clinton's deposition, and just in time
for SP to lay a perjury trap for the unsuspecting and unprepared Big
And bear in mind that, until the moment Clinton gave his Jones
deposition, he was (apparently) innocent of any of the malfeasance
that was so diligently sought out by the Starr's investigators. He
was, in short, entrapped into lying on a non-material matter in a
civil suit later tossed out of court. Whether or not this was
"perjury" in the legal sense is still to be determined. However, the
offense was less than Nixonian --it fell a trifle short of ordering
burglaries, IRS harassments, and the bombing of a neutral
But never mind all that. The inquisition has, at length,
accomplished its purpose: the disgrace and immobilization of the
President, and thus an effective nullification of the 1996
Even so, Clinton's burden of culpability is enormous. For months,
while under investigation by the Paula Jones morality police and the
SP, the Prez carried on this reckless dalliance, virtually asking for
a disastrous comeuppance. Meanwhile, his staff innocently conveyed
his lies to the press and public, and acquired enormous legal debts.
Clinton deserves what has happened to him.
But we, the American public, do not!
We have been deprived
of the leadership of the gifted but flawed man we elected to the
Presidency. The domestic program that Clinton presented to the public
in the election, and then to the Congress in his well-regarded State
of the Union addresses has been effectively derailed by a Congress
with no positive agenda of its own. Amidst the threats of
international terrorism and economic dissolution, the
US government has been effectively decapitated.
It is the task of most prosecutors, upon
determination of a crime, to find and convict the suspect who, in a
court of law, is afforded the presumption of innocence. In this case,
our tradition of law and fair play was reversed. Here the suspect
(the President) was identified at the outset, and the prosecutor was
told to go out and find a crime. The ever-diligent and resourceful
Starr did even better: he staged the crime. And in the process, he
seriously eroded traditions of family confidence, weakened the Secret
Service protection of the President, deprived the President of
confidential advice and counsel, interrogated without
cross-examination a crowd of witnesses and suspects who he deprived
of legal counsel, and he selectively leaked Grand Jury testimony to
the press -- in a word, Kenneth Starr carried on an inquisition. And
now that all of this has manifestly been done to the President of the
United States, none of us is safe.
Starr, who piously denounces those who "defile the temple of
justice," does just that as he uses the letter of the law, and the
considerable legal powers and resources put at his disposal, as means
to serve his political ends. All the while this corruption of justice
is cheered on by the same so-called "conservatives" who have
persistently warned us of the threats of "government interferences"
with our liberties and independence.
Gone is our tradition of politics as "the art of compromise," as
we enter a new era of "politics as war by other means." (When James
Carville said, last January, that "this is WAH!" -- that
remark was as much an observation as it was a declaration. The "war"
was launched by those who set up the Starr Chamber). When, at the
GOP convention, Pat Buchanan announced a "holy war" against the
liberals, he wasn't kidding, and neither, it seems, was his audience.
This is a war that takes no prisoners. Political opponents are no
longer "the loyal opposition;" they are regarded as the "locus of
evil," deserving the financial ruin and character assassination that
might be visited upon them if they dare to run for high public
The Media: Can anyone who is following this scandal still
credit the "myth of the liberal media?" Let those who can, identify
the alleged "media liberals." Where is the outrage against this
coup d'etat masquerading as a moral crusade? Who in the press
now writes in defense of the presidency, and of the voters decision
in 1996? Ed Murrow, where are you now that we need you!
Pay close attention to the commentary of the "punditocracy," and
every now and then a revealing insight escapes between the lines.
Item: During a discussion of public opinion on CNN's
"Reliable Sources," (August 22 -- or possibly it was another panel
show), the pundits noted that, despite Clinton's confession to the
nation, his "job performance" ratings remained constant, above
60%. However, we were assured, in the face of constant editorial
and op-ed criticism, the public is eventually bound to "wise up"
and to see the error of its collective ways. Then Clinton will be
a goner. The media as self-appointed leaders of public opinion!
What arrogance! Is it not possible that the admittedly remarkable
discrepancy between public approval of Clinton's performance, and
disapproval of his conduct, conveys a public rebuke of both Starr and the
media (the approval rating of both Starr and the Media being just slightly
above that of Saddam Hussein)
Item: On ABC's "This Week" (August 23), George
Stephanopolous correctly observed that, because of Clinton's legal
troubles, there was no prospect that the Congress would act on
tobacco legislation, HMO regulation, campaign finance reform,
or Social Security legislation. "Neo-Conservative" William Kristol
snapped back, "what's wrong with that!"
The New Anarchism:
Kristol's remark reveals the dirty
secret: the Congressional branch of our national government is in the
control of individuals who do not believe in government. Echoing the
line of their sponsors, the tobacco industry, they pretend that
smoking is a free choice by the individual, not a public health
menace aggressively promoted by a multi-billion ad campaign.
Furthermore, they tell us that if HMOs are systematically organized
and economically motivated to deny health care, that's a problem for
the patients, not the government. Campaign finance reform? Get
Real! "What do you suppose got us here in the first place!"
Meanwhile, they invite corporate lobbyists into their caucuses to
draft emasculations of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. These are
individuals who believe, as they tell us repeatedly, that there is,
in effect, no "public interest" apart from the blind and mysterious
workings of "the free market" -- the outcome of countless personal
and private "utility maximizing" decisions. Never mind that history
has decisively refuted this strange dogma. (We have spelled out and
defended these bold claims in "Kill the
Umpire!," "With Liberty and Justice for
Some" and "Environmental Justice and Shared
Fate" in this website).
The key that unlocks the mystery of Clinton's downfall is the
realization that it was motivated and carried out by
anarchists. They call themselves "conservatives," but clearly
they are not, for they are actively involved in the destruction of
the long-standing principles of justice, liberty, equality, and
community that our founding documents and our government were
established to protect. There is another word that describes
precisely, those who are dedicated to the destruction of government:
that word is anarchism.
Does this sound extreme? Just consider: in "the Contract with
America," the 104th Congress published its clear intention to abolish
or to radically reduce federal government involvement in the
promotion of the arts and sciences, in education, and in the
protection of the environment. The exception was "corporate welfare,"
realized primarily through Defense appropriations. This program of
government dismantlement was stymied by the President's veto pen, and
by an outpouring of public protest. Whereupon, with their legislative
program blocked, the Congress held up appropriations and shut down
the government -- a stunt which dramatically backfired. (Remember the
"conservatives" joke at the time? "The government has been shut down
-- has anybody noticed?" The public noticed). The third attempt to
cripple the federal government is with us today: the punishment and
disgrace of the President who dared to defeat the anarchists in a
fair and legal national election.
This erosion of democracy is accomplished and sustained by the
simple device of utilizing the media to so discredit our government
and its institutions that the majority of citizens stay at home while
the few "true believers" in such irrelevancies as "Christian family
values" faithfully cast their ballots.
And so, as we all (including the anarchists) discover that, in the
face of international terrorism and economic emergency, we need a
Head of State, we find that our elected leader has been immobilized.
Who would have thought...
Clinton's confession has brought out an array
of "misleading statements" (i.e., lies) from both national
parties. Prominent GOP politicians demand that Clinton resign or that
he be impeached and removed from office. They don't mean it, of
course. Their "best case" is an incapacitated and disgraced Clinton
in office, all the way to the year 2000 election. They have little
interest in facing an incumbent President Gore in that election, with
Clinton's peccadilloes a fading memory.
For their part, the Democrat loyalists insist that Clinton stay on
and fight. And yet, for the very same reasons, they know that their
best option is to send Bubba on his way, "sooner better than
The Gadfly, holding no public office or prospect of same, sides
with the public statements of the GOP and the private sentiments of
the Dems. He has to go!
To revive an old, but apt, phrase, this "inappropriate
relationship" with Ms. Lewinsky has become "a cancer on the
presidency" requiring radical surgery. A Clintonectomy. This
entire nasty mess, which Clinton brought upon himself and his office,
can be neatly and decisively excised by his departure. Al Gore fully
endorses Clinton's platform (the environmental plank, much more
enthusiastically), and carries none of Clinton's character baggage --
Bubba as Eagle Scout! True, the anarchists are trying mightily to sic
another SP, "Son-of -Starr," on Gore. (Something to do with telephone
calls, we are told. Would you believe?) But we suspect that
the public will have none of this, and that President Gore will be
able to brush it aside. Then we can proceed with the long struggle to
take back our government.
Early resignation would be an extraordinarily courageous and
appropriate act on the part of Clinton -- an act placing loyalty to
his office and to his political agenda above his personal ambitions.
It would be an act of high moral integrity, and for this very reason,
we suspect that it is beyond Bill Clinton's capacity.
The best hope, it seems, is for the voters to get off their duffs
next November, and to toss the anarchists out of the public offices
that they don't really believe in. But that is a long shot.
Perhaps, instead, we will all have to learn anew, through a
painful object lesson, what our founding fathers knew so well: That
no civilized society can endure without a government. And thus,
We, the People of the United States, in
Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure
domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote
the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to
ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this
Constitution for the United States of America.
The wise men who wrote that Preamble, having tried and rejected
anarchy, gave us a government that was and is the envy of the
It did not come with a guarantee.
"Eternal vigilance," wrote Thomas Jefferson, "is the price of
Copyright 1998 by Ernest Partridge