Late last year, it was poignantly reported that President Clinton was wondering about his place in history. He has now answered his own question: he will be remembered, if at all, as one of the screw-up presidents, like Grant and Nixon.
Bill Clinton has always had a talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Whitewater and other early scandals indicated that the President is a man of easy morality, who ran Arkansas as if it were a family car dealership and arrived in Washington ready to run the U.S. the same way. The health care debacle, his difficulty appointing an attorney general, his failure to back appointees such as Lani Guinier in a crunch, waffling on gays in the military, backing the Communications Decency Act and numerous other events all illustrate that Clinton is a weak-willed man whose principles are easily compromised. He will back things in which he doesn't believe, and when he does hit on a good idea he ruins it with a bad implementation.
Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and a host of other stories indicate that the President is weak-willed in another way. Just imagine the following cost-benefit analysis: "On the one hand, I love extramarital adventures, risk and danger. On the other, I'm president of the United States....Maybe I should remain faithful to my spouse for the next eight years." Clinton's inability to pursue this obvious course throws everything else in question about him. Old-fashioned and narrow-minded as it sounds, I believe with Ross Perot that a man who will cheat on his wife will lie to anyone else about anything.
The problem is not chiefly the sex (though the prospect of a fifty-year-old man fondling a 21 year old intern is grossly inconsistent with his status as moral example and as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.) Its the lies. If it is established--as it all but seems to be today-- that the President lied under oath about his contact with Monica Lewinsky and urged her to do the same, his way is clear: he should purely and simply resign.
An old saying is, "Never bet the devil your head." Clinton, instead, bet independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the Republican party another body part. Now he is completely in their power, and they will do everything they need to do to collect. As we saw happen in the Watergate era, no business will get done between now and the swearing-in of a new President on January 1, 2000, other than subpoenas and tapes, special prosecutors and senate investigations. Only Clinton's resignation will allow the country to get on with business as usual.
Such a resolution is not only ethical, it is also practical. If he has any desire to see the eventual triumph of the Democratic policy goals which he served so badly, President Clinton should give Al Gore a chance to be president for the next two years. Even that would give the Democrats only a narrow chance of retaining the Presidency at the next election; but hanging on guarantees a Republican president in 2000 and for who knows how many years after.
If the President has an unegotistical bone in his body, it should be telling him just to go, go quietly, go now.