Perhaps we all owe Monica Lewinsky a word of thanks.
Who would have thought a half-wit in a beret could have waddled into our lives and taught us so much about the people we've sent to Washington to represent us?
She's taught us much about Bill Clinton, of course, not the least of which is the fact that he could simultaneously carry on a telephone conversation with a congressman, keep an eye on the Oval Office door, and be serviced by a half-wit in a beret. (Makes you long for the days of Gerald Ford struggling to walk and chew gum at the same time, doesn't it?)
Our education didn't stop with Clinton, though. Monica also has taught us plenty about the other cases of arrested development who've been stomping gleefully through our nation's capital.
It was Monica who, indirectly, showed us the folly of sending Pee Wee Herman into obscurity for visiting a privately-funded peep show, then lifting Kenneth Starr from obscurity to create a publicly-funded one.
It was Monica who, indirectly, informed us that House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde considers what he did in his 40s--fooling around on his wife and breaking up another family--to be "youthful indiscretions."
It was Monica who, indirectly, filled us in on the extracurricular activities of Now-He's-Speaker-Now-He-Isn't Robert Livingston.
And it was Monica, indirectly, who pulled the sheets off Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia.
Lott and Barr, as you may have read in a few -- and I do mean, few -- places, have been exposed as the sort of men who frequent one of the more loathsome gathering places in late 20th century politics -- the Council of Conservative Citizens.
The council is a white supremacist group. It is the 1990s heir of the White Citizens Councils, a network of racists who put on airs of respectability in their nasty, brutish battle against integration in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, the Council of Conservative Citizens professes to fight for the rights of whites who, despite holding the vast majority of positions of political and corporate power in this nation, are somehow supposed to be downtrodden and victimized. Criminy, we can't even get them to quit being frat boys long enough to focus on the nation's business. This is oppression?
I'm a white guy, and I just don't see it. What I do see is a group of people who would have little of value to say to the 19th century, much less this one. How on Earth do they hold the attention of men as powerful as Lott and Barr?
Lott and Barr, who've both spoken at CCC gatherings in recent years, claim they didn't know all of what the group stood for. They were incensed by media reports of their ties to the group and claimed it was part of a smear campaign waged by Clinton supporters.
Barr rather petulantly said, "It's a sad day in our country when a member of Congress cannot speak before a group without subjecting them to an exhaustive investigation."
Exhaustive, indeed. A quick trip around the Web is enough to give anyone a clear picture of what the Council of Conservative Citizens stands for and what it's been up to. Readers can visit http://www.cofcc.org and supplement that information by looking up the CCC on major search engines.
The group's Web site contains the predictable screeds against interracial marriage and the supposedly learned treatises on the supposed difference in black and white intelligence. There's also quite a bit of attention devoted to what a reprobate Abraham Lincoln was. "Space does not permit even a summary of L.'s apparent mental aberrations," one piece laments. Not even a summary? My, my.
My favorite part of the CCC site is the helpful link it provides to the Crown Rights Book Company, which is said to offer a "fine list of anti-Lincoln and pro-Confederate reprints."
Here is that company's summary of "Liberty and Slavery," a book written in 1856 by one Albert Taylor Bledsoe: "Was Southern slavery at odds with true liberty? Did it violate the Law of God in denying liberty to some men? To the contrary, the eminent Dr. Bledsoe clearly shows in this outstanding treatise that Southern slavery as it existed in the nineteenth-century went a long way toward preserving the fragile social order by denying liberty to those who were not yet ready to make proper use of it."
The summary continues: "As the author wrote, 'If no one would talk about liberty except those who had taken the pains to understand it, then would a perfect calm be restored, and peace once more bless a happy people.' Indeed, the tragic War of 1861-1865 might have been avoided if the radicals of the North would had taken the time to calmly consider the contents of books such as this. The same may be said of the racial tensions that are still being stirred up today by the 'politically correct' ideological descendants of the Abolitionists--the far-left 'Liberals.' "
Sen. Lott once told a CCC gathering, "The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy." He now says, through a spokesman, that he had "no firsthand knowledge of the group's views."
One would think, however, that there were plenty of folks in the GOP hierarchy who did have firsthand knowledge of the CCC's views.
--In 1995, former Ku Klux Klan wizard and Republican wannabe David Duke spoke to the group and called for "a white revolution in America." Are we to believe that Republican leaders, who try to distance themselves with Duke and undoubtedly keep abreast of his activities, were unaware of what the CCC stands for?
--In 1996, in a widely publicized and embarrasing move, GOP presidential Pat Buchanan ousted William Carter from his steering committee in South Carolina because of his ties to Kluxer David Duke. Carter was state chairman for Duke's 1992 presidential campaign and -- you guessed it -- chairman of the South Carolina Council of Conservative Citizens. Are we to believe the CCC has never been on the radar screen of the Republican leadership, at least enough to warn Lott not to meet with its representatives in Washington in 1997 or to advise Barr not to attend their national gathering in 1998?
Even Monica Lewinsky isn't that clueless.