June 21, 2004,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece appeared in the October 26, 1998, issue of National Review in Kate O'Beirne's regular "Bread & Circuses" spot.
The congressional inquiry to determine whether Bill Clinton committed impeachable acts could be neatly short-circuited by declaring Clinton's presidency unconstitutional. The Starr Report provides convincing evidence, drawn from the President's reckless adolescent behavior, that he does not meet Article II's minimum age requirement. He certainly lacks the maturity, judgment, and self-control that the Founders hoped to ensure by mandating that the President be at least 35 years old.
Throughout the Starr Report, Bill Clinton's disturbing arrested development is on full display. Those who defensively insist that the nature of the President's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky is not relevant to his ability to govern are wrong. The President has proved himself unfit for office not just with the felonies he committed to hide his squalid behavior but with the disordered, exploitative relationship itself.
The President lacked the discretion to slip off to a hotel for illicit assignations with a grown woman. Instead, he preyed upon a young employee, at his and her very public place of employment, with the door ajar, no less. Columnist Mona Charen recently noted the exhibitionist quality to the President's behavior and concluded, "The use of Monica Lewinsky as a sex toy during work hours in the hallowed halls of the West Wing reveals a man with no sense of the office."
In fact, the President behaved like a seventh-grader who is allowed to act as principal for a day and who giddily scribbles an obscenity on the school's official stationery. In order to engage in his degrading behavior with a young employee, the Leader of the Free World snuck around to avoid the watchful eye of the grownups in the White House Ferris Bueller does the West Wing.
Following their first encounter, the President knew that Monica Lewinsky's pink intern pass posed a problem, because it limited her access to the West Wing. Once Monica became a permanent White House staffer, she could deliver folders and oral sex whenever the President called.
To avoid the suspicions of the adults (Monica's "meanies"), the President designed "accidental" meetings with her. Once he asked her to lurk in the hallway outside the White House theater so that he could spontaneously invite her to join him and his guests. The poor guy just wanted to take his girl to the movies, but a more cautious Monica declined.
On another occasion, the President enjoyed a guilty thrill as Monica performed a sex act on him during his phone conversation about deploying troops to Bosnia. U.S. Army Col. (ret.) James R. McDonough, who commanded those troops in 1995, gave the best analysis for a President's gravest responsibility. As McDonough wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "All human beings, if they are to remain in balance, must go through alternating cycles of work and relaxation. In this case, however, the act of casual sex at a moment of great importance smacks of callous indifference, sophomoric arrogance, and reckless disregard of the sanctity of U.S. soldiers' lives."
When the grownups became suspicious, Monica was banished to the Pentagon. During a visit on Easter Sunday, 1996, she told the President that she had been transferred. He responded with the helplessness of a grounded teenager: "Why do they have to take you away from me?"
Monica clearly sensed that she was involved with someone emotionally her own age. (Monica to Bill: "I love you, Butthead.") Over the course of their relationship, they talked on the phone approximately fifty times. On ten of those occasions they engaged in phone sex. During the other conversations, they talked about their childhoods, shared stories about work, told jokes, and argued like dating teenagers.
Monica: "And then he started yelling, and I yelled more, and he yelled more, and then he finally-"
Linda: "Did he ever say, 'Do you know who you're talking to?"
That the President had enough in common with a vacuous twenty-something to converse in this vein for hours is as disturbing as their dirty talk.
After a sexual encounter in March 1997, the President told Monica he suspected that an unnamed foreign embassy was tapping his phones. The President proposed an astonishingly juvenile response. He advised her that if anyone asked about phone sex, she was to explain that they knew they were being monitored and so were pretending to be sexually intimate. Pretending! National security is threatened, and the President proposed a plan that wouldn't fool a nearsighted, hearing-impaired frat mother?
Since Paula Jones's allegations became public in 1994, Bill Clinton's defenders have dismissed them as delusional, on the grounds that the charming governor would never have dropped his pants and requested oral sex within minutes of meeting a young woman. Well, Monica Lewinsky testified that President Bill Clinton did exactly that during their first encounter.
Trooper Danny Ferguson told the Los Angeles Times that Gov. Clinton thought Paula Jones had a "come hither" look when he spotted her in the lobby of the Excelsior Hotel.
Apparently, Clinton mistook Paula Jones's look, whereas he didn't mistake Monica Lewinsky's flashing of her thong underwear. But in both case Clinton had exactly the same response. Talk about a "pattern of conduct." If he isn't impeached, he should at least be grounded.