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Conspirator Throws Up a White Flag

Commentary | COLUMN RIGHT / DOUG GAMBLE

In the name of a good economy, Americans tolerate whatever tawdriness Clinton brings to the White House.

March 29, 1998|DOUG GAMBLE | Doug Gamble of Carmel, a humor writer for Presidents Reagan and Bush, now writes for other prominent Republicans

The mood was downright sullen at last night's meeting of my local chapter of the VRWC (Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy). One female conspirator was so distraught that I found it necessary to give her a kiss on the forehead and a hug to comfort her. She declined my offer of chicken soup.

The reason for our gloom? It's obvious now that we are not going to drive President Clinton from office. Our last best hope was Kathleen Willey, but as the attacks on her continue, it's clear that the president is emerging virtually unscathed from the gauntlet of her accusations. In our naive optimism, we believed a significant number of women supporters would abandon Clinton, but polls clearly show that more of them believe his denials than believe her charges.

The time has come for me and my fellow conspirators to face facts: If the seemingly credible Willey can't put a dent in Clinton's armor, nothing is going to. Waiting for some new revelation that will finally turn a majority of Americans against this president is a fool's game. It isn't going to happen.

The biggest waste of ink and airtime in the news media is speculation about how much a certain new development will embarrass or harm Clinton. The answer, for as long as his opponents nip at his heels, is zero. He will suffer no embarrassment, no harm, no how.

We in the VRWC have been left looking like a pathetic collection of cartoon characters. Every time the president escapes a new trap, the more we resemble the hapless Wile E. Coyote failing once again to snare the elusive Roadrunner. No matter how many Acme presidential traps we assemble and deploy, none of them is going to stop Bill Clinton. Beep-beep.

By allowing ourselves to get our hopes up again in the days leading up to the Willey "60 Minutes" interview, we were like Charlie Brown trying yet another time to run up and kick the football that Lucy held in place. The ball was yanked away again and we were left flat on our fannies.

And as it became increasingly apparent that Clinton's approval rating was either holding firm or actually increasing, you could almost hear the collective Homer Simpson-like "D'oh" from our dispirited ranks.

I've heard the argument from the more optimistic among my colleagues that at this stage in the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon's poll numbers were impressively high, so a lot can still happen to trip Clinton up, no pun intended. Dream on. Clinton is not Nixon. I'm not sure exactly what he is, but the word sorcerer comes to mind. How else to explain such luck as the timely apology to Clinton from David Brock, the reporter who broke the Paula Jones story; the refusal of Billy Graham to criticize Clinton's behavior ("the women are wild over him"), and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's nagging of Ken Starr to wrap up his probe quickly (before Lott was forced under pressure to spin backward.) Even something as formidable as the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy cannot combat such supernatural power, so I say it's time we stopped trying.

Waving the white flag of surrender does not mean I've turned soft on Clinton. It means I want off the roller coaster that takes me from the "gotcha this time" heights of the Willey interview to the depths of the resulting Clinton Houdini act. As someone honored to have worked for two commanders in chief back in the days when the words "president of the United States" and "penis" were not used in the same sentence, I think Bill Clinton has disgraced his office and should resign.

But I know he won't and I know he won't be forced out. The majority of the American people, drunk on a high-proof economy, tolerant of a Jerry Springer culture and unmindful of the serious damage being done to our institutions, have found and want to keep a soulmate of a leader. And not even a smoking gun will be allowed to spoil their party.

Meanwhile, as if the force isn't with Clinton already, I hear his attorneys will rally in his support on the Capitol Mall. It will be known as the Million Lawyers March.

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