ANTHONY MARCIANO, a native of North Providence, Rhode Island, holds a masters degree in political science from Suffolk University. He has worked on various campaigns including current Rhode Island governor Lincoln Almond. Marciano lives in Boston, MA.
One of the things that has amazed me most since the reports of Clinton's "inappropriate relationship" with Monica Lewinski surfaced is the insistence by pundit's that "no one cares" about this scandal.
Well, the fact remains that while Americans say that they do not consider the President's "private sexual behavior" to have any bearing on his job performance, the fact that this issue is on the cover of nearly every magazine and newspaper indicates that there is interest in this story. Publishers are, at least in part, motivated by a desire to sell, and they would not focus so much attention on a story if it was really true that "no one cares".
More important than the question of whether or not the American people care is whether or not we ought to care. Clinton's defenders have tried to assert that this case is about nothing more that private sexual conduct between two consenting adults. First of all, if Clinton had been president of a major corporation, instead of president of the United States, he would already have faced disciplinary action for engaging in sexual activity with a subordinate while on company property.
On company property? Yes.
While the President lives in the White House, there are only certain sections that are his personal residence. The Oval Office is certainly not part of the President's personal residence, it is his workplace. It therefore belongs to his employer, which is the government of the United States. Thus, the President has misused government property for his own gratification. This behavior alone would warrant disciplinary action if done by a company president, even though it is "only" about "sexual relations between consenting adults".
However, this case is about more than that. It is about the obligation of a President to uphold the public trust. The President, when asked about his conduct, initially stated that he "did not have sexual relations with that women." According to the way that most Americans would define sexual relations, this statement was, at best, misleading. The fact that this President believes that it is acceptable to face the American people, and deliberately mislead them (while waving his finger for emphasis), is profoundly disturbing. The fact that he similarly mislead the attorneys for Paula Jones, while their civil suit was in effect, is not merely disturbing, it is potentially criminal.
When a president lies while under oath, it is not a "private matter between consenting adults", it is a breach of public trust. The fact that Clinton was re-elected indicated that Americans (or at least enough Americans to give him 49% of the vote) were willing to forgive his past indiscretions. However, this case is not about his past. It is about actions committed while he was in the White House. From his inability to answer a question about his past marijuana use (a question that both Vice-President Gore and Speaker Gingrich have answered forthrightly), to his obscuring of the efforts that he made to avoid service in Vietnam, to his attempts to mislead the independent counsel in the current investigation, we have seen that this is a President who has always had a problem with telling the truth. Now, he has put himself in a position where he may be forced to leave the office he always wanted to hold.
The House Judiciary Committee must not flinch from it's constitutional duty to fairly review the evidence against the President. The President's defenders have argued that the President has not had a chance to refute the evidence against him. The fact is that as President, he has as much of an opportunity as anyone to argue his position in the court of public opinion. He will also have an opportunity to defend himself against all of the allegations contained in the report from the independent counsel.
However, the evidence against him appears strong at this time, and in instances where a determination must be made if we should believe his word against that of another witness, there is no reason that the members of Congress ought to give him the benefit of the doubt. Out of respect for the process, they are obligated to give him a fair hearing, however, his inability to tell the truth in the past means that he is not entitled to receive the benefit of the doubt in the present.
The Clinton Presidency is in serious danger, and the blame lies squarely with the man at the top.
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PICTURE of Clinton copyright ©1998 AP/Doug Mills