Modern Maturity

But, whether he's technically right or not, he's still a liar. Because, last January, he declared, "I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Unless he can tell us how you can get a blowjob from someone and not have sexual relations with them--a platonic blowjob, in effect--he's a liar.

And we, the American public, know it. And he knows we know it. What he doesn't know is that we don't care.

That's why he's trying to manufacture a war. It's why he ordered armed strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan, supposedly because these countries were harboring terrorists. How he knows this has not, as I write this column, been revealed. Nor has he explained why, if he's such a hardass, he has allowed Saddam Hussein to laugh in the face of the United Nations, refusing to allow weapons inspections.

These military attacks are simply an attempt to reinvent himself as a tough war leader (minus any actual war), and make us forget the Lewinsky business. It's a tactic that works. It worked nearly two decades ago for then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, whose popularity was at an all-time low. Knowing she was close to being kicked out of office, Thatcher started an armed conflict with Argentina over ownership of the Falkland Islands, some insignificant scraps of land that no one had ever cared about. She drummed up so much gung-ho nationalistic fervor that the voters forgot that she'd destroyed the mining industry and had four million people on the dole.

It worked for Thatcher with the Falklands. It worked for Reagan with Libya. And it would work for Clinton now . . .

Except that it doesn't have to. He doesn't need to regain popularity--because he hasn't really lost it. If there was an election today, Clinton would get voted back in.

It's not that people have fallen for his lies. They haven't. They know he's a liar. They know he cheats on his wife, and they know he shows no loyalty to the women he has affairs with, dumping them and turning against them when things get hot for him.

He's a sleaze. The American people know that, and they don't care. All they care about is that they think he's a good president.

That is a good thing.
And it's why this whole farce has been worthwhile. Because the public response tells us that America as a country is now an adult, and not the acne-scarred, sniggering adolescent it used to be regarding matters sexual.

During the past seven months, we have seen the adolescent America lose to the adult America. Kenneth Starr, and the minority of close-minded, hypocritical finger pointers who share his mindset, are the adolescent. Their chosen method of discourse is to yell, "Look at him! He's dirty!" It's clear that they are becoming anachronistic.

At one time, their tactics would have worked. You could have ruined a politician by revealing his sexual indiscretions, even if most of us had been guilty of the same indiscretions at some time in our lives.

But not anymore. It looks like we're all grown up now. We know JFK cheated on his wife. We know he was doing Marilyn Monroe, and we're (guiltily) excited by the idea. We know that people in power have tempting sexual opportunities, and we know that they often fail to resist the temptation. For the first time, we have a president admitting to it.

And it makes no difference to us. Some of us enjoy the story as it unfolds. Others are bored by it. But all we care about in the end is whether the guy is good at his job. As a society, we think he is (even if I don't). And we don't care what he does in the privacy of his bedroom, or, in Clinton's case, his office.

In the '60s, talk of a sexual revolution was premature. What America has undergone is not a revolution, but an evolution. Although the Clinton debacle has given us cause to be pessimistic about the quality of the leaders we elect, we have much greater cause for optimism about our societal maturity.

Contact Barry Graham at his online address: bgraham@newtimes.com

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