President Fuck-up

By Jonathan Wallace

By 1970, I was unable to watch President Nixon on television. Something about his unique combination of mendacity and anxiety, the lip-licking, Freudian slips and shifty eyes, made it unbearable.

I now find myself unable to watch President Clinton for similar reasons. He is a much more personable fellow than Nixon, but his dishonesty is about as deep.

In Nixon's case, I had the sense of a man about to go off the deep end at any moment. With Clinton, there is a different feeling: that of watching a charming liar who will apologize endlessly but never change.

The words "I'm sorry" are meaningless unless they stand for the following: "I take responsibility for my actions and will not repeat them." They are a currency easily devalued, if spent over and over for the same thing. On the second, not later than the third apology for a repetition of the same wrong, they become meaningless. This is Bill Clinton's situation.

While I would aspire to live by the old saw that "nothing human is alien to me," I'm having a hard time with President Fuck-up. You would think that a man who sincerely wanted to be president would have the self-control to keep his dick in his pocket for eight years. That after Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, the president would be particularly sensitive to the consequences of one more allegation of harassment or sexual hijinks.

Bill Clinton's paragraph in the history books will involve a minor, scandal-ridden administration. With time and perspective, these eight years will be just a few lines between more significant developments. But today, they look like something far worse: a massively wasted opportunity to carry on the business of government with liberal, Democratic goals and ideals. An opportunity which, as a result of Bill Clinton's immense bungling, we may not see again for decades.