Thanks, Bill, for all the sleazy details

Tuesday, September 22, 1998

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

As I watched the president of the United States in his role of First Witness, I confess to some inappropriate thoughts about him. Nothing sexual, of course.

At least not by my definition.

My definition of sexual behavior sounds a lot like what was going on between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. People kissing and fondling and zippers unzipping.

By inappropriate, I guess I mean disrespectful.

For instance, I wanted to laugh like a hyena when he debated the definitions of is and alone.

And I wanted to groan when he could remember when he'd had a pizza from Monica Lewinsky, but his recollections turned hazy when he was asked to remember deliveries of a more personal nature.

It's a geezer thing

Maybe he really couldn't remember times and dates. As we baby boomers make our way to geezerhood, we can tell you exactly when ground chuck cost 23 cents a pound, but we can't remember what we had for breakfast. As the four hours wore on, he began to look his age and then some. The world -- including those nutjobs who prey on weakness -- had the opportunity to see a diminished and impotent leader. George Stephanopoulos, a former aide, says, "I saw for the first time a scared President Clinton. I'd never seen that before."

Neither had the rest of us, and it was not pretty.

He was decidedly unpresidential.

And laughable.

And not very likable.

At least he didn't cry, bite his lip or tell us he is feeling our pain. At least he spared us that.

And he didn't appear to lose his temper, go into one of his famous purple rages. In fact, his testimony was curiously dispassionate, much like his "inappropriate relationship."

Considering that he has jeopardized his presidency and violated the trust of his wife and employees and the people who elected him, it might have been reassuring to hear him speak of his relationship with the White House intern in somewhat fonder tones. As if she meant something to him and was not merely an appliance. A human sexual device.

Feeling our pain

Didn't he notice that she was a kid, a recovering fat girl, that she may have had, as they say at Renaissance Weekend, some "issues"? That maybe this was not in her best interests? Didn't he think maybe she might get hurt?

Didn't he feel her pain?

When she displayed her underwear on their second encounter, why didn't he run for cover? He said he did his best to "be a friend and counselor" to Monica Lewinsky. That's when I wanted to slap him.

Inappropriate, I know.

But, still, in the words of the president himself, it's an embarrassing and personally painful thing.

For everybody.

Speaking about the lawyers in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, the president said, "I deplored the innocent people they were tormenting and traumatizing."

And one apparently guilty person.

Once the gears of the special prosecutor were engaged, there really was only one person who could have stopped it. The president himself. He could have spared Betty Currie and Vernon Jordan. The Secret Service agents. He might even have spared his wife and the rest of us the sleazy details if he'd told the truth. Sooner rather than later.

Or even better if he hadn't done anything he thought he had to lie about.

I should be thinking about his address to the United Nations. I should be wondering whether he has a handle on the economy. I should be thinking about what he will do about Malaysia. Or terrorism. Instead, I am having inappropriate thoughts.

Disrespectful and inappropriate.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her book, I Beg to Differ, is available at bookstores and from the publisher at (800) 852-9332. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com

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