THE ORR POLL: WHO WILL SIT IN THE OVAL OFFICE!

As distressing as it may be, and despite my vow to write nothing more than I did seven months ago on the sexual affair Monica Lewinsky alleges happened between herself and President Clinton, I am going to break my word. At the time the information first surfaced, I was unaware Linda Tripp had 18 hours of audio tape of conversations between herself and Monica, nor did I know a navy blue dress Monica wore during one of their encounters would be presented to the independent counsel. The dress was purported to have the president's semen on it, something tangible the FBI lab could test for a DNA match. It was the only shred of evidence beyond the tapes that carried the case beyond a he says/she says dispute the president was likely to win. The stains on the dress did match Mr. Clinton's DNA, with an estimated possibility for error of one in seven trillion.

Consequently, the president made a grudging admission that he had conducted a "Not appropriate" relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, but still insists that he neither perjured himself nor had a sexual relationship within the definition provided him by the court for the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

With this update in mind, where do we go from here? There are several ways to look at it. The first is to side with more than 60 percent of poll respondents and say the president is doing a good job, his private life is no-one's business except those in his immediate family, Ken Starr has intruded into areas of personal behavior for which he had no authorization, and to simply forget the matter and get on with the people's work. The second, and I have heard it expressed just this way, is to say we have a lying bastard in the White House, and to get him out of there.

I noted with disbelief that the ABC, CBS, and NBC poll respondents felt the president should, at most, be censured and permitted to carry on his work. Many of them were willing to just forget the whole matter. Part of my own routine is to spend a few hours in an Air Force Base gym most days, and I thought up a question I would ask people with military backgrounds or who were actually serving in our armed forces. To keep it simple, I asked whether they thought the president should remain in office or leave. I did not specify resignation or impeachment, but merely if they wanted him to continue as commander-in-chief.

This straw poll of nine people found that eight of them felt he should leave office. One, who was the widow of a naval aviator, said that if his departure caused the value of her stocks to drop significantly, she'd rather have him remain in office. She qualified her answer by saying if it wouldn't reduce the assets she had to live on, she'd rather have him go. Many of these military people said that there should not be two standards for acceptable behavior. Lieutenant Kelly Flinn was forced out of the service for lying to her commanding officer, for disobeying an order, and for adultery. Air Force general Joseph Ralston, tentatively selected by Mr. Clinton to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was removed from the list because he had a decade earlier been involved in an affair while married, even though at the time he was legally separated from his wife. On the other hand, many of the nine prefaced their remarks by saying that the president had done a good job in office, and they felt he was able. Nevertheless, they felt he should go. If I add my own feelings, it is nine out of ten who want Mr. Clinton to leave office.

Let me try to summarize my thoughts and feelings on the matter. I voted for Mr. Clinton the first time, and would have done so again but for Bob Dole, whose life and recovery dating from being wounded in battle during WWII caused me to select him. To me, he represented a different ethics and morality, a sense of willingness to sacrifice himself for his country, and I had to honor that and vote for him.

On the other hand, it has lately been shown Mr. Clinton functions under the premise that ethics exists only as an impediment for the other fellow, and at times he seems to lack sufficient judgment to select a village postmaster. Personal honor is a concept foreign to him, though he is not the only politician who has little or none of it. For all the president's piety, his operative God is expediency, not the Jehovah of the bible. He lied convincingly to the American public, and indeed the world, last January, because he's lied all his life, and it always worked. I've concluded the semen stain on Monica's dress finally trapped him. It may be uncharitable of me, but I believe without that DNA check as hard, indisputable physical evidence, he'd be lying yet. The only rational conclusion at which I can arrive is for him to resign, and if he had an iota of honor he would. Japanese fall on their swords for less, and admiral Boorda, the navy's CNO, took his own life two years ago from fear of exposure that he wore two V's for valor he hadn't earned on a ribbon he had earned. The alternative to resignation would be impeachment proceedings, which would be divisive to our country. Untold millions of dollars would be squandered on Democratic media spinning, Republican slandering, and attempts to both keep him in and legislate him out of his job. No sane species would even contemplate such waste.

People may ask just why I am being so hard on our president. We all sin, they say, and almost none of us is guiltless. He has publicly apologized for his deception, showed contrition, and should be permitted to hold the office to which we elected him. My answer is straightforward.

Few knocks are harder to live with than being a public liar, and Mr. Starr's thorough investigation has documented that beyond all doubt. President Clinton is a bright, talented, articulate man with an unusual common touch. He's also exceptionally skilled at avoiding the truth, which is one of the reasons he is a very able politician. But now that he's made himself the object of universal ridicule and scorn, Mr. Clinton has lost the ability to function on the necessary macro-scale in the job to which he was elected. The poor judgment he exhibited in trifling with a young girl's feelings, the repulsive manner in which he did so, and the presidential seal he left on her dress have for eternity branded a scarlet "A" on his forehead. When they play Hail To The Chief, salute him, and the entire Congress rises to greet him, it will be with secret contempt. I don't think anyone branded a public liar and sexual buffoon can man the bully pulpit, work effectively with Congress, and negotiate meaningfully with foreign leaders. I would not trust a man with such poor judgment and impulsive recklessness to negotiate treaties with foreign governments? Does anyone think those governments would take his word? As distasteful and disgusting as his restricted sexual liaison was, it was the lying and being caught at it that signifies the end of the game. Let me use a baseball analogy: the batter has been called out on strikes. He's out of there. Play ball, and get a new batter in the box.

So much for my thoughts on this private matter that has become a titillating public spectacle. While the country undergoes a multitude of polls that are intended to guide Congress on censure or possible impeachment proceedings, I want to look beyond the visible disturbance. What bothers me is not the president's plight, the stock market's possible reaction, Republican concerns that an incumbent Mr. Gore would be harder to defeat in 2,000 than a vice-president tarnished by implications of illegal foreign campaign contributions, or having a mortally wounded chief executive in office who is not capable of governing the country. In truth, the country can get along nicely with Messrs. Greenspan and Rubin looking after the economy, the Congress passing necessary legislation, and our lean domestic companies watching their revenues and earnings. Mr. Gore can reside in the White House, since the president really doesn't have much to do with all that. The system set up by our Founding Fathers will survive the excesses of this particular man. No, I am worried about the big picture: why is it the polls taken from a body of average citizens differ so greatly from that of my little straw poll of military people?

After considerable thought, I've concluded military people operate in a realm of direct accountability and personal responsibility. They live by a written as well as an unspoken code of honor. Civilians, in general, are unaware of or indifferent to these obligations. In addition, lying has become so endemic to our culture that it isn't regarded as particularly serious, not even when done under oath.

America has reached the point where an almost total disconnect exists between commercial business practices and the rules under which a military organization has to function. Perhaps my conclusion that the president should leave office is wrong: certainly, it is at odds with the will of the majority. But deep down, I believe honor, a man's word, and truth are fundamental values required for government to function. Without them, there is no trust, the lubricant of compromise. What does the future hold if cynicism and spin can be ruthlessly used to manipulate and control public opinion? Can a country populated by citizens whose primary concern is their own pocketbooks survive as a democracy? These are the serious questions and political realities America must face, and we have chosen to ignore them.


Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)