Bruce Hughes on Clinton
Wednesday, September 16, 1998 by Dave Winer.
First a humorous note.
The last piece, Adult Talk was automatically removed by a lot of people's email filters because its title contained the word adult.
In American English of the late twentieth century, the a-word indicates that the message contains material that's offensive to many people.
This message also contains adult content. As do all DaveNets, hopefully.
I've gotten a series of rebuttals in a common theme.
They all pose a question -- which was worse, Iran-Contra or the way Clinton handled the truth in the Lewinsky affair? What about Chile, The Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, the bombing of Cambodia?
Reaching the heart of this question: "Was FDR a liar because he deceived the country about the extent of his disability?"
These are interesting questions because they reveal a sleight of hand, a bit of tricky logic. My inner-mother asks "If they all jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?"
Public values shift over time. Perhaps the electorate is becoming more adult, and less likely to overlook blatant dishonesty and abuse of power. Or it could be that we collectively elected Clinton so we could examine our own opinions about integrity and truthfulness.
Maybe in the Age of TV a man like FDR couldn't have been elected?
I don't think we can come to any conclusions, the subject we're analyzing, the electorate, is a moving target.
In any case, it doesn't matter. What is is. For whatever reason, enough people care about what's going on with Clinton to make it a public issue. It's impossible to say how it would have gone if this had happened in the thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies or eighties. Different times, different people, different results.
The most powerful message I got was from Bruce Hughes. Here's what he said.
Dave, I read your piece, and thought about it. I have to disagree with your recommendation of making a deal to not prosecute Clinton for perjury if he resigns.
The reason I disagree is that I believe what I heard Howard Baker, who was on the Watergate Select Committee (remember, "What did the President know, and when did he know it?") say in a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft last Sunday. Roughly, here's what he said. "There is a process laid out in the Constitution for dealing with this situation, and we should follow it. If Clinton resigns, we will have had two Presidents this century resign under threat of impeachment, and that would move our country much closer to a parliamentary form of government, where the President serves at popular whim. I don't think that would be good, and I don't think it would be consistent with the character of the American people."
I am a lifelong Democrat, and I hate what Clinton has done to embarrass and humiliate the progressive political forces in this country. I have flirted with the thought that it might be better for the Democrats (and, in my view, the country) if Clinton were to resign and give Gore a chance to show what he can do. But I don't think so. We looked Clinton in the eye, and voted him into office anyway. Now that choice has consequences for the American people, and we need to face them and live through them. Otherwise, we will forego the opportunity of learning from our mistake.
Let Congress do its job, tell your representatives what you think, but let each of them vote his or her conscience. Let Clinton fight for what he undoubtedly considers his survival. Let's do it in public, air out all the dirty laundry, open the wounds, wash the pus out, and, after it is all over, try to get ourselves clean.
I think Bruce is onto something.
Certainly if public opinion polls are any indication, Clinton will remain in office thru his term, and will probably end up totally hating his job. In every press conference he'll be asked if he's lying or telling the truth. He'll deserve it, and so will we. In the next two years we'll learn a lot about the importance of truth-telling. Who knows, maybe in 2000 we'll elect a president, like Jimmy Carter, who admits that he lies in his heart.
There has been a great range of comment, definitely worth reading:
See you there!