WAGGING OR NOT? Here’s my problem: I’m not sure the President deliberately bombed Iraq to stave off the impeachment vote. The Washington Times makes a pretty devastating case that Clinton knew he was going to launch days before the Administration contends. The Times reports that the Wag the Dog scenario is openly and derisively discussed inside the Pentagon. Whistleblowing UN Israeli spokesman Aviv Bushinsky says Clinton discussed the bombing with Netanyahu while he was in Israel, contradicting the White House’s version. Inspector Scott Ritter, in today’s New York Post, says that Chief Inspector Richard Butler’s report was largely dictated by political appointees in the White House. The mind floods with skeptical questions. Why was Clinton so calm all week about his deteriorating impeachment chances? Why now? Why did Gephardt come out of the blocks saying the impeachment vote must wait until the bombing stops? This would essentially kill the impeachment drive.
But I take my cue from William Safire in today’s New York Times. I find it painful to believe that any President would risk American lives just to pull his butt out of the fire. More importantly, the Joint Chiefs and the Cabinet are not Clinton clones. I have to assume that someone in there would have the honor to resign rather be a party to something like this.
But there’s the real problem. The bombing was the right thing to do. That fact is the key. After all, he couldn’t bomb France (shouldn’t is an open question). The Wag the Dog scenario offered in the Robert De Niro movie is not realistic. Gone are the days when a President can orchestrate a war with a country that isn’t asking for it. And in the movie they didn’t even do that. The movie war never even took place. No, you have to arrange it so that circumstances dictate you do the “presidential thing.” That’s the brilliance of this ploy (again, if it is a ploy). Clinton is doing exactly what his critics say he should have done for a long time. So the question of “Why?” is neutralized. The only salient question is “Why now?” and that’s a tougher one to prove.
There are numerous examples of Clinton politically calculating while life and death was on the line. Remember when Bill Clinton flew home in 1992 to personally oversee the execution of the mentally impaired African-American Ricky Ray Rector? That was a political coup because it established him as a new Democrat, but it was also the right thing to do. Back then the Left said “Why Now?” But they really meant “Why?” They argued that Clinton killed someone unjustly for political gain. Now, that Left supports him as he bombs Iraq. And speaking of Iraq, remember it was Bill Clinton who said he would have voted with the majority but he agreed with the minority, prior to the first Gulf War.
But forget the conspiracy theories, for now. Give the President the benefit of the doubt for a moment, if only a moment. The fact remains that he cannot lead. Ken Starr was vilified for months about his “conflicts of interest.” Starr’s private clients and people he knew from cocktail parties somehow disqualified him for any job above dog catcher. Even though this was really just McCarthy-style guilt by association, it highlighted a central fact of public life. The appearance of a conflict can be just as devastating as the real thing. Cabinet secretaries lose their jobs and judges don’t get confirmed because of apparent conflicts. This is extremely unfair, but that’s why they call it life.
The President has a conflict of interest that cannot be settled. Bill Clinton is a man with zero credibility. He has been proven to be a liar to a greater extent than any President in history, including Richard Nixon. Fair or not, every action he takes will be viewed cynically by a substantial portion of society. He has violated the public trust and therefore people don’t trust him. The mere fact that people in bars and barbershops across America — let alone the Congressional and Senate leadership — can openly question the Commander-in-Chief’s motives for sending American troops into battle is all the evidence necessary.
HOLLYWOOD LOVES A COUP Yesterday Hollywood held a rally in defense of the President. There were the usual rantings (see yesterday’s file). From the media reports it seems that virtually every hollywood liberal thinks this is a coup. Norman Lear called it “an old fashioned palace coup.” Barbra Streisand thinks it’s a coup, too. Coup, coup, coup, that’s all we hear. But I don’t get the analogy. Coups are usually perpetrated by the party who will actually gain power through the takeover, right? That’s why you have them. What’s the point otherwise? First, Gore would replace Clinton if he were removed, not Dole. This would make it more likely that Democrats will stay in power in the White House. Second, they also say that this Right-Wing-Christian-Coalition grab for power will cause a backlash in 2000 and cost the Republicans the House and Senate. That can’t be good for the RWCC, can it? Where’s the motive? I mean if it’s a coup, how come we don’t get Newt Gingrich on the throne, Ralph Reed in the grey robes behind him, and me in some cushy ambassadorship?
BOBBY DUVAL, MENSCH From today’s “Page Six” in the New York Post:
WHILE his Hollywood colleagues are lobbying the wavering members of the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Horndog-in-Chief, Robert Duvall stands alone in opposition. “I’m not a big Barbra Streisand fan. She said if George Bush were re-elected she’d move to England,” he tells George magazine. “Well, let her move. Let her move! Fast! . . . I always find that there is a catch with people like her, some form of hypocrisy. Barbra Streisand won’t go to Colorado because they passed a law that was prejudicial to gays, but I’ll bet she’ll go to Havana, Cuba, where they quarantine gays.”
GOLDBERG AGONISTES I know yesterday I promised Greta-bashing and an exploration of the White House campaign against Tom The Hammer DeLay. Alas, my heart isn’t in it today (though the drooling e-mails I’ve gotten make it clear some of my more rabid readers are looking forward to it). The Iraq thing has put me in a pretty solemn mood and I’m not sure I can dredge up the requisite bile. Hopefully, this is temporary and I will be able to drink my way through this bout of solemnity. The weekend edition is always the biggest anyway.