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Opinion: Power, Outrage and Hypocrisy in America in the wake of the Starr Report

This article was written in 1998 and has not been edited or revised since then. In light of events in recent years, I think it makes an interesting read. It's easy to assume that the world has changed completely, and yet so much is still the same...

September 28, 1998

The Independent Counsel's Report to Congress, better known as the Starr report, published a fortnight ago, exposed a sordid tale of 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors', 'inappropriate intimate relationships', and cigars lurking in the corridors and ante-rooms of one of the world's most hallowed institutions.

The holder of the United States' Presidency is the leader of the last remaining superpower, and arguably the most powerful man in the world. Whatever the rights and wrongs in Clinton's case, the story of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the cover-up, lies and attempted perversion of the course of justice which alledgedly followed it, is nothing new. Kennedy, Nixon, Stalin, Thatcher, Napoleon and many others, democrats and despots alike, believed that their position in some way entitled them to behave unacceptably.

There often seems to be a trade off between position and integrity, as if power and abuse of power are, at some deep level, inextricably linked.

Middle America is outraged by it's President's behavior, and yet their outrage is tinted with hypocrisy. Many see his dishonesty excused, at least in part, by the state of the US economy. Two years ago, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Whitewater were already household names. America knew, when it re-elected Clinton to a second term, that it was choosing as the nation's figurehead a womanising, draft-dodgeing, dope-smoking carreer politician with a dubious financial history and a gift for verbal contortion. Now, so embarrased are they by their high-profile collective lack of moral backbone that Clinton's political head may have to roll.

Lord Acton, the Victorian historian, once observed that:

'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are, almost always, bad men.'

What will, in the end, be decided by the impeachment hearings will not be whether what he did was fundamentally wrong, or even whether it constituted 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' under the definition of the Constitution, but rather whether or not Clinton was a great enough man to be allowed to get away with it.

November 5, 1998

The American electorate, in their infinite wisdom, seem to have decided that they rather like their 'non-stick President' after all. Did I hear someone say that the last time the President's party had gained seats in the sixth congressional election of his term was under Monroe (c.1880)? Miracles will never cease...

Now, all we can do is sit and wait...

January 12, 1999

It all rather looks as if he's going to get away with it, doesn't it...

May the Americans take truth and faith into their hearts and do the right thing. I have to be joking, but you can but dream.


Link to:
Read the Starr Report in Full

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