Sobran Column -- Clinton"s "Mistake"
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Clinton’s “Mistake”

December 16, 1999

The time-honored custom of killing the bearer of bad news has been slightly modified by modern civilization. So though the Democrats can’t take Linda Tripp out and lynch her, they are doing the next best thing: Maryland’s Democratic state prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli, is prosecuting her for illegally taping her phone calls with Monica Lewinsky.

Thanks to Mrs. Tripp, we know that Bill Clinton not only got his jollies in the Oval Office but committed and encouraged perjury to cover up the fact, which would otherwise have become evidence in Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit. This revelation led to others, as Kathleen Willey reluctantly testified that Clinton had also groped her in the Oval Office and Juanita Broaddrick, in obvious anguish, told an interviewer that Clinton, as attorney general of Arkansas, had raped her.

Clinton’s allies — Democrats, liberals, feminists — are the sort of people who consider sexual harassment endemic in American society, a problem so grave and urgent that it must be fought with all the resources of government. They also assume that the culprits are most likely to be their ideological opponents, so they were ready to credit Anita Hill’s charges against Clarence Thomas. Hillary Clinton even praised Miss Hill for raising the nation’s consciousness about the problem.

So the Clintonites were caught off-balance when their own man was accused. Instead of adhering to their own teaching that harassers and rapists can be found anywhere, and that women who bring charges deserve to be taken seriously, they switched to an ad hoc pro-Clinton line: Paula Jones was “trailer trash,” seeking only money. And when the Monica story exploded, they were still willing to accept Clinton’s denials.

Thanks to the infamous dress, Clinton was forced to make a vague retraction of his denials, referring even questions about the rape charge to his lawyers. His supporters could no longer deny that he committed such deeds; there is no such thing as a character witness for Bill Clinton, unless you count the corpulent cretin Larry Flynt. They merely said, in chorus, that sexual crimes and perjury about them didn’t “rise to the level” of impeachable offenses. Nor did they repudiate such Clinton hatchet men as James Carville and Bob Bennett, who were clearly following the boss’s instructions.

The moral indignation that Clinton escaped was redirected, with vindictive fury, to Linda Tripp and Kenneth Starr. It was forgivable to commit Clinton’s crimes and betrayals, but unforgivable to expose them. Linda Tripp had “stabbed her friend in the back,” as Clinton himself put it, after stabbing that same friend in the back by circulating the shameless lie that she was a “stalker.”

Even Monica seems to want to avenge herself on Mrs. Tripp for betraying confidences rather than on the contemptible rat who tried to scapegoat her with slanders. Clinton also betrayed his family and those among his supporters who were gullible enough to believe his facile denials.

Forgiveness? As Shakespeare says, “May one be pardoned and retain the offense?” Clinton still enjoys the fruits of his crimes, chiefly the presidency. And his circle of friends hasn’t shrunk appreciably; as soon as he partially admitted that his behavior with Miss Lewinsky was “not appropriate,” with a few other glib gestures of contrition, those Democrats who had previously professed to believe in his innocence instantly extended mercy and plenary indulgence. Forgiving Tripp and Starr was another matter.

So now the Maryland state prosecutor has made himself one more accessory after the fact to Clinton’s crimes by bringing the majesty of the law to bear against Linda Tripp. If only she had informed on a Republican!

Is there no justice? Yes, there is. Clinton’s presidency will be remembered as the apotheosis of white trash — an unprecedented defilement of the nation’s highest office. He is still struggling to leave a “legacy” that will supersede the memory of his character, but it can’t be done. Instead of acknowledging that character, he speaks of having made “a mistake” — clearly hoping to equate a long record of treachery and public corruption with a single, isolated act.

Asked whether he believes Clinton raped Mrs. Broaddrick, Vice President Gore could only stammer about “mistakes made in his personal life.” Even he thinks Clinton is capable of such a “mistake.”

Joseph Sobran

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