legal 5.09

Sex Scandal Rocks Washington: A Nation Yawns

Oh mercy, the blue-nosed ball-busters are irritable these days. It seems that the President of these United States may have gotten laid. And instead of demanding his immediate resignation, a nation turns its head and walks away, hey, hey, hey. Our indifference to this high-level debauchery in the nation’s capitol proves beyond a doubt that our handcart ride to Hell has gathered a full head of steam.

I have always had my own worries about the sex life of presidents. I worry that the Commander in Chief, the man with the briefcase of doomsday missile codes, might not be getting any, and that he may get so horny and frustrated that he vaporizes Uzbekistan. And then, ya know, there goes the neighborhood. (Those of you who remember Nixon will agree that this is not a frivolous concern.) It’s like the air traffic controller’s strike of the early 80’s: the controllers said, “it’s a stressful job, we aren’t sleeping well, we’re unhappy.” I would cheerfully have paid taxpayer dollars to buy them hookers, steak dinners, whatever, as long as I didn’t become a midair fireball over Omaha.

There’s another aspect of the story that twists the knickers of the national press. If he cheats on his wife, doesn’t that mean he might lie to the American people? Well, golly, smack me for a goober. Do you seriously want a President who has no talent for deception? I prefer somebody who has a chance of emerging from complex trade negotiations with a firm grip on the national wallet. Call it “bluffing ability” instead of “skill at lying” if it makes you happy, but I want the president to have some of it.

So the news that Bill may have been getting some on the side did not strike me as grounds for excess fretting. What I think is odd is the fact that, from the beginning, the press and the country, myself included, have assumed that despite the denials, President Saxophone did, in fact, get blown by the Harmonica. We can’t seem to believe that some little homewrecker, out of Beverly Hills by way of Portland, might be lying about who she slept with. This in a country whose citizens generally profess a belief that virgins can give birth.

So, if the country, as a whole, based on experience and probability, believes that he cheated on the Little Woman, and the country, as a whole, rewards him for it with approval ratings that would make Eisenhower blush, are the right-wingers right? Does this indicate a major shift in the public’s view of private lives? Should Gary Hart start dreaming of reviving his career? And does that signal a national willingness, finally, to grant us all some privacy in the bedroom, and grant the sex industry a little slack?

Fat squawking chance it does. The “porno causes violence” crowd is as hot and heavy as ever. Barnes and Noble bookstores got indicted down south this week for selling museum reproductions that had, nekkid children in `em. No bookstore owner, no bartender, dance club proprietor, or dancer can expect anything from the Powers that Be except nagging and harassment. Local law enforcement will be looking for people to “make an example of” any time, day or night, for the foreseeable future.

So what does it all mean? Simple. It means the nation doesn’t want to sit through endless, tooth-grinding impeachment hearings if all it’s about is sex, lies, and audiotape. We did it once, when a president tried to ice an election with bribery, slush funds, and hired hoods. But not again; at least, not over sleeping around. The voters signal their desire the only way they can: by shrugging the whole thing off. The fact that we know there’s a difference between “Tricky Dick” and Bill the Babe-magnet shows maturity, but it doesn’t mean we’ve grown up yet. It just means we’re gunshy about anything that might mean inviting a Senate Special Investigating Committee into the living room for the rest of the century.

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