- My dear Mr. President:
- Certainly it is now permissible to be
as blunt with you as you were with the American people when you squared
your jaw, pointed your finger and, in intimidating fashion as if you were
our sergeant, headmaster, or jailer, commanded us to listen. Even had you
not, by your own admission, lied thereafter, this was unforgivable. Presidents
do not speak to Americans with such seething disrespect. And for you it
wasn't the first time. In 1994, you accused the country of being unworthy
of your wife, when you said, "If everybody in this country had a character
half as strong as hers, we wouldn't have the problems we've got today."
- It is she, after all, who stated to a
(by necessity) wretched South American audience that "I'm grateful
for the love of the people," and she who alleges vast right-wing conspiracies
against you as well as general conspiracies against Arkansas, and she whose
fingerprints were on the magically appearing billing records, and she who
parlayed nothing into $100,000 allegedly by being attentive to the wisdom
of this newspaper.
- Be attentive, then, sir, to the following.
You and she have an extraconstitutional bent: she in encouraging rather
than discouraging the fools who believed that, by their vaporous wishing,
they had created a co-presidency; and you in your predilection for vaulting
over the strictures of the law by the manipulation of mass opinion. This
has been and is the core of your defense, and every ounce of effort that
you put into it is a strike against the constitutional precepts of a government
of laws and a strike for the kind of government in which a strongman stays
at the top by exploiting with great agility and false pretense the most
electric and volatile currents of public sentiment. This is the stuff of
dictators and bad kings, who pit against custom and procedure the rumbling
siege engine of their own grievances and grandiosity.
- Though you may believe that recent events
mark the end of the beginning, they mark the beginning of the end. It does
not take a Stonewall Jackson to see that your strategy is unsound. The
reflexive lie cannot overcome stubborn scrutiny. Anyone can tell a lie
or two and get away with it, and a president, because he is chief of a
vast apparatus and has more assistants than Humpty Dumpty, can tell a hundred
lies. Perhaps he can tell so many lies that he himself is no longer able
to distinguish lies from truth. But he cannot tell an unending number of
lies, a lie with every breath and thought. Not even a president can do
that, not in a democracy with a free press.
- The enemy against which you fight is
the actuality of things and the way they fit together seamlessly to refute
your version of events. The house against which you have staked your bets
is the truth. Your approach has been to suppress, obfuscate, and obstruct
the natural flow of this truth, but the natural flow of truth is a force
of nature. You may spend all your energy in attempting to stanch it, but
like water spilling over a levee once bravely tended it will attack from
a hundred thousand places at once. You are not the first president to set
yourself against this force of nature, but only the latest. And what great
champions have you assigned to such a herculean task?
- Trust me, even Sidney Blumenthal, Lanny
Davis, and James Carville do not have the power to backtrack the natural
tendencies of the universe. The only exception may be in Mr. Blumenthal's
attempt to portray you as a kind of thinking man's Tawana Brawley, the
victim of a rogue prosecutor, for you are indeed a kind of thinking man's
Tawana Brawley in that, no matter how lurid the assertions, you are not
the victim of a rogue prosecutor.
- Your not-so-brilliant lawyers have interpreted
the law as something miraculously brought into being long before your birth
so it could be bent into a shield to protect you when you broke it. Their
contortions and convolutions are unwittingly like the text of Swift or
Lewis Carroll, and give the term lawyer a new meaning even more pregnant
than the old. And then, of course, you are a lawyer, and an inventive one,
responsible for notable legal doctrines such as "not guilty by reason
of being Bill Clinton," "10,000 strikes and you're out,"
and "sexual relations are deemed to be sexual relations only when
they result in the birth of an elephant."
- When last week you struck at Osama bin
Laden, the first impulse of your critics was to suspect an artificial diversion
from your self-inflicted agony. Then, remembering that striking at terrorists
is what they consistently recommend, they pulled back as if they had put
their hands on a red-hot griddle. Sen. Arlen Specter, in particular, was
very french-fried. They are politicians, whose freedom of expression is
constricted by their ambition, so allow me.
- Why have you stepped almost entirely
out of character? For six years you assiduously avoided attacking terrorist
bases, knowing no doubt that to do so would risk a protracted and painful
war. During the Cold War you probably observed that a nation's involvement
in such a struggle is mesmerizing and all-consuming. Now you say, "It's
high time that those who traffic in terror learn they, too, are vulnerable,"
but why suddenly now?
- For six years you shied away from this--despite
the World Trade Center bombings, the CIA shootings, the Somalia massacre,
Khobar Towers, etc.--and now, mirabile dictu, you have embraced it. Pray
tell, what accounts for your change of heart? Pray tell, why did you do
it as you did, sticking the stick into the hornets' nest just enough to
stir them up but not enough to shock or discourage them into inaction?
Had you mounted a real raid, taken out Mr. bin Laden and his entire apparatus,
struck harder, more widely, and at supportive governments as well, committing
troops, actually gutting infrastructure, your message would have been less
like an effete slap with a soft glove. What options were presented to you
by your military advisers? How many levels of more vigorous response did
- In the language of war, Mr. President,
you have sent an invitation. A war against terrorism would captivate the
country and the world, and its timing would be coincident with your battle
to remain in office. The essence of this decision deserves more than just
a retraction from a french-fried senator.
- Although in your campaign to retain your
perquisites (long ago, you sold your politics for a mess of pottage) your
strategies are ever-changing and ad hoc, they now rest on a single support,
that your "inappropriate" relationship with Monica Lewinsky is
both a minor and private matter, and that as this is the heart of the case
against you, the case is insubstantial.
- Just as liberals of a certain stripe
find themselves, at cocktail parties, defending human sacrifice on the
grounds of cultural relativism, your loyalists have been flummoxed (by
you) into defending systematic perjury and obstruction of justice, because
"the Paula Jones case was dismissed," or "it's just about
sex." What all this comes down to is the blind, barbaric, totally
unprincipled defense of one's own sort--my country right or wrong writ
small. The sex dismissal tack is now common ground for your committed partisans,
who know what they're doing, and the nation's morons, who don't. But the
nation's morons will learn, and then they will be smarter than your supporters,
or maybe they already are. What a spectacle: James Carville--he of the
menacing fatwa, the charismatic love child of Danny DeVito and Mr. Clean--at
the head of slow-witted legions who think that you have been disciplined
enough to limit your malfeasance to sex.
- Although your advisers already have hinted
that they will sexually blackmail selected members of Congress (the 900
FBI files?) it's too late. For too long your defense has been that the
charges against you are frivolous. What will you do, then, when the charges
move beyond mere perjury, witness and evidence tampering, conspiracy, and
obstruction of justice? What will you do when they expand to other instances
of perjury, to fraud, conversion of government property, misuse of FBI
files, influence peddling, illegal fund-raising, coverup and obstruction
of justice, and, most importantly, the solicitation and reception of funds
from agents of a foreign power in exchange for favorable consideration?
- The heart of the matter, Mr. President,
is your conduct in regard to China. It is not technically treason, for
we are not at war with the Chinese, but it is an isotope of treason, a
metaphor of treason, a semblance of treason, the spitting image of treason.
For good reason your Justice Department suppresses the facts of this case
more even than it suppresses the facts of the others. But what will you
do if and when Congress awakens--as it must--merely to honor its most elementary
obligations, and with the power entrusted to it by the Constitution breaks
open the stiff shell of obstruction you and your surrogates have secreted?
- What will you do when the data are made
public, the hearings are held, the witnesses abandon the Fifth and come
back from abroad? What will you do when your promise to the American people
that nothing is amiss other than Miss Lewinsky is seen to be yet another
lie? What will you do when the truth proves to have been indestructible?
What will you do when you yourself begin to realize that you have betrayed
your family, your party, and your country?
- What will you do? I will tell you, sir,
what you will do. You will resign.