Columns & Features:
CLINTON, YOU'RE NO CALIGULA
By Eric S. Margolis
Sept. 20, 1998
Watching President Clinton both humiliate himself and torture the nation has made me think a great deal about the Roman Republic. So have others. This week the `Wall Street Journal' titled a slashing column about Clinton `American Caligula.' A nifty headline, but not really accurate.
Roman Emperor Caligula was a demented monster whose grotesque sexual depravities knew no bounds. Clinton is merely an artful liar, and a very clever knave.
Exposure of his clumsy, college dorm sexual antics befouled the White House and brought shame on the presidency. But to compare Clinton's small-time smut to the towering infamies of gloriously wicked Caligula is to gravely defame the ignoblest Roman of them all.
Still, remembering Rome at this time of constitutional and moral crisis is certainly à propos. The American Constitution is the greatest political achievement in mankind's history. Its issue, the American Republic, is the freest, most democratic, and successful nation ever created.
America's founding fathers patterned their majestic creation upon the ancient Roman Republic. The United States was to be the New Rome, wherein citizens of outstanding civic, moral and intellectual virtue would guide the nation's course. That is why the coat of arms of the Roman Republic hangs proudly on the wall of the US Senate, and why Washington is a city of neo-classical buildings with doric columns and Latin inscriptions.
And that brings me to Regulus. As the Clintons continues to spew lies and evasions, we should recall not Caligula, but Marcus Atilius Regulus.
During the Roman Republic, the Senate would elect man of the highest ability, character, dignity and respect to be consul, a position that combined military and political leadership. The American presidency is directly based on the Roman consular office.
During the First Punic War, a Roman army, led by the Consul Regulus, was forced to surrender in 255 BC by superior Carthaginian forces. They temporarily freed Regulus to return to Rome in hopes he would negotiate a peace favorable to Carthage. If he failed, the Carthagians warned, he would be tortured to death. Regulus gave his word he would return.
Upon reaching Rome, Regulus advised the Senate not to make peace with Carthage, but to pursue the war with vigor. Then, heedless of the pleas of the Senate and his family, he returned to the cruel Carthaginians. A Roman's word was his bond, said Regulus, and must not be violated. His honor, and that of the Republic, required him to keep the pledge. Regulus was tortured to death.
Great Regulus would not lie. Clinton cannot tell the truth. His mendacity and double-talk is not only an affront to American's intelligence, it is undermining the Republic. The American presidency, tightly circumscribed by Congress and an independent judiciary, depends on public good will and support for its limited powers. A popular, respected president, like Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, or Reagan, can do wonders from his `bully pulpit.' A president who loses respect and moral authority is not only powerless, he unbalances America's governmental triumverate and weakens its foreign policy.
That is what Europeans and Canadians don't understand, when they sneeringly ask how Americans can be so naïve and puritanical as to persecute Clinton over a minor sex scandal - what Democrats are now calling, in a wonderfully misleading slogan, `sexual McCarthyism.'
Clinton's crisis is not about sex. It is about the political and moral integrity of the American Republic. The president of the United States wears four hats: he is an elected political leader; he is commander-in-chief of the armed forces; chief law enforcement officer; and head of state, the embodiment of the nation and its honor.
In the first role, personal shenanigans and even Lewinsky-strength scandals may be tolerated.
But they are intolerable for a commander-in-chief. And, let me add, as a US Army vet and member of the American Legion, Clinton, who dodged the draft in wartime, so that better men could face death in his place, is unfit to command America's armed forces. I want to throw up every time I see him snap a fake military salute.
As chief law-enforcement officer, Clinton's obvious perjury and obstruction of justice are grounds for immediate resignation or impeachment.
America's head of state is a position demanding dignity, gravitas, and a flawless reputation. The position demands a higher standard of deportment than that of ordinary politicians. Making repeated, bare-faced lies to the public is alone grounds for impeachment.
Clinton foolishly accepted sexual servicing from an ambitious, indiscreet young girl who was trying to first use, then blackmail him to advance her career. Feminists please note: sexual enticement is the flip-side of sexual harassment. Lewinsky is no helpless victim but a predatory fellatrice determined to liposuction her way to a no-work, high-pay job in New York. She and Clinton, two unprincipled users, richly deserve each other.
Mussolini used to have adoring women brought to his office daily. He wouldn't even bother to drop his pants; he'd merely unzip his fly, have sex `a pronto,' zip up, and resume work without a word as the lady was led out. Europeans consider such recreation the just due of powerful, busy men who need sex. But the unwritten rule in Europe is: don't get caught. If you do, resign.
Instead of saving Americans months more anguish by having the decency to resign, Clinton has gone on the attack. He's been shamelessly and relentlessly groveling and whining on TV about sinning and contrition. Good ol'Reverend Jimmy Swaggert did this act much better when caught in a fleabag motel with a $25 hooker, wailing, all sweaty and tearful, `Jesus save me for I've sinned...my flesh was weak...yes lord, weak! Amen!'
Clinton, while loudly repenting his sins and waving the good book, was busy leaking FBI secret files criminally obtained by his White House to smear and intimidate opponents. Under Clinton's new `scorched earth policy,' Three Republicans involved in possible impeachment hearings were targeted this week. Vast sums of taxpayer money are being burned up to defend Clinton's preposterous claim he lied, but didn't lie. And had sex, but didn't. He's praying Judge Starr won't come up with new charges over Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate or illegal fund-raising that could put the kibosh for good on the Liar-In-Chief.
Americans, particularly women, still love Bill Clinton's version of Seinfeld. He will probably get his own TV talk show after he leaves office. They don't seem to care their head of state has been exposed as a serial liar. Clinton and his backers in Hollywood have so demagnetized America's moral compass, so clouded the nation's sense of right and wrong, that anything goes...as long as the stock market stays up they get free mammograms.
So what if Clinton made America a laughingstock around the world; surrounded himself and filled his administration with crooks; intimidated witnesses; that Mrs Clinton avidly accepted payoffs from Tyson Foods? Or that Clinton directed illegal fund-raising that helped steal the 1996 election; or accepted huge cash bribes by Asian businessmen. So long as Clinton charms women, keeps food stamps coming, and the Dow stays up, a majority of TV-sedated Americans want their totem president to stay in office. Most think the sordid crisis in Washington is merely more Beltway mud-slinging.
It's far more than that. America is heading into crisis - and with it, the world. My no-nonsense chief of staff, Patricia Kinnaird, summed up this mess with razor-sharp simplicity: `If the Pope were caught in the Vatican with a nun, he'd have to resign immediately. End of story.'
Copyright: Eric Margolis, 1998. Published by Sound Vision with permission.