Monday, September 14, 1998 by Dave Winer.
First a warning. There are some people who don't want to read about the US moral crisis. If you're one of those people, please tune out now. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, I just want to discuss what I see. Most people don't seem to have a problem, but if you do, it's totally OK to not read this piece.
About Thursday's piece, Really Being There, there were a few responses, some very sweet, from former children struggling to be adults. Welcome to the club, it's always good to hear from other people who want to transform from being a helpless child to being a powerful adult. I'm in that struggle myself, every adult is, I'm sure of it.
So we know that Clinton is a human being. That means he's a child in an adult body, dealing with the struggles of his past. No conscious adult would do what he did, have sex with a woman who's not his wife when the chance of getting caught was virtual certainty. He wasn't acting as an adult when he got involved or when he lied to cover it up.
The problem isn't with Clinton, the problem is with us, the adult electorate of the US. He gave us clear signals that this is who he is. On CNN last night they ran tapes of Bill Clinton's contrition over the years, going back to a humbled twenty-something Clinton with black hair saying almost exactly what he said at the prayer breakfast on Friday.
They also showed the famous 60 Minutes interview when he said that sexual infidelity was part of his past, that he understands how serious the Presidency is, and it's all behind him. Hillary holding his hand, providing confirmation that it's behind both of them.
The best clip they showed was Clinton on Friday, his head bowed in humility, a somber look on his face. But in a second, he lifts his eyes and looks right into the camera. An indescribable look in his eyes, an awareness of the camera, betraying that even this is an act.
Clinton speaks deliberately. We have to read between the lines because he is never direct with the truth. We had all the evidence we needed to make a decision when he was just a candidate, but we voted for him anyway. Now some of the truth is out in the open, and Clinton is doing what he does, he's trying to pave it over, air-brush it, give the appearance of it being dealt with, so we can get back to business as usual. He calls the Starr Report a smear job. He didn't say he didn't do those things, typically slippery Bill. Divert the attention. Same old same old. He's never going to learn!
I find it disgusting that he's hiring new lawyers to defend against the perjury charges. It means it's all going to be dragged out. There are several hundred million Americans, and one of them is making sure he gets the majority of the attention. Where is his shame? His repentence? A truly humble man, at this stage, would throw his fate on the mercy of the people, not legally split hairs over what is and isn't perjury.
Let's be adults, and let's take responsibility for this country.
Read the Constitution, he works for us, he isn't us. If the country is doing well that's because we're doing well. It's not about Clinton.
As a member of the US electorate, here's what I want Clinton to do. First, stop arguing about whether or not the testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case was perjury. Give it up. It doesn't matter because he lied in every other venue, even if he didn't commit a crime. He looked into the camera and lied. He lied to our employees, Cabinet members and White House staff. And he lied to us, his employers.
But the lies weren't his biggest sin, making himself the issue is the big one. It's so selfish, so childish, and it continues, in ever-bigger ways.
An adult looking at this situation would say it has gone far enough. If Clinton won't put his personal interests behind those of the country, we must do it for him, no matter how much pain we feel doing it. Make a deal that allows us to go forward. After Clinton resigns, no prosecution. He gets his life and we get back the presidency and hopefully we have learned to demand plain straight talk from our elected leaders. This used to be an American value, a good one. Let's bring it back.
Sometimes I think we're a nation of children, wanting to be told a good bedtime story.
This stuff doesn't belong on TV, some say, but is it because it's so private, or is it because it's so true?
In its Saturday editorial, the NY Times said: "Truth is on the loose now, spinning rampantly, and where it will lead us in beyond the arts of prediction."
What would the world be like if TV told the truth?
We're learning this now.
In the air-brushed staged world of TV, Mark McGwire hits #62, hugs everyone, and then the cameras go elsewhere, and in the meantime, a man who Hollywood would never cast as the inheritor of Babe Ruth's and Roger Maris's legacy, proceeds to match McGwire, playing on a team with a real chance of post-season play.
Go Sammy go! I prefer my hero to be from the Dominican Republic, a black man with crossed eyes, who hits home runs for a team with a chance of winning. This year I'm rooting for the Cubs and for Sammy Sosa.
I'm anti-Hollywood, anti-air-brush, anti-bedtime stories. Let's live real lives, individually and collectively, and let's have the courage to seek out and tell the truth.
To the people who say the Starr Report is all about sex, it's not. To me it's about integrity and standards. The president of the United States is a symbolic figure, a role model, even more than a baseball player. Ask a kid if you don't believe. Children have an incomplete understanding of what it means to be an adult. Some of the truth comes out. They ask questions. They fill in the blanks.
A little girl looks at this situation. Who is her role model? Monica Lewinsky or Hillary Clinton? If you were the parent of a daughter, what would you say to the little girl? Would you encourage her to give her heart to an unavailable man, or to stand by a man who humiliates her in public?
A little boy wonders if his father lives the lifestyle of Bill Clinton. Will I do that when I grow to be a man? Clinton looks like a role model. Is this what adult men do?
Children don't know what it's like to be an adult, but they are obsessed with desire to understand. People don't know what to say to the children.
How about telling them the truth?
Clinton is acting like a child who did something wrong and then lied about it and now wants to blame other people for his mistakes. A lot of adults do that.
You might add a wish that when they grow up they'll be more responsible with their sexuality, take their family and work committments more seriously than Clinton did.
Prepare them for adulthood, and give them the honest truth that a lot of adults act like children, but they don't have to, adults can and often do act responsibly.
Do you blame TV for telling the truth or do you blame the adults for acting like children?
Any adult would know the answer to that question.