DOES PRINCIPLE MATTER?

Our President has told the truth from the beginning, he has been totally forthcoming, and we should let him alone so he can run the country and enforce the law he has taken an oath to uphold.

Can anyone in America still say that! One single person! Even Barney Frank! If not, why do the polls, taken God-knows where and with what people, show 90% of them do not want Mr. Clinton impeached? In retrospect, I suppose we must be fair: all he has done is perjure himself under oath to a grand jury; suborn at least one witness, Betty Currie; attempt to obstruct justice; and mislead his advisers and cabinet into functioning as advocates to carry off his prevarication. And, after all, it is entirely a private matter between himself, his wife, his daughter, and his God. Mr. Clinton's compassion and common touch allow people to overlook his actions, classifying them as peccadilloes rather than sins. As George Orwell wrote in his marvelous political allegory, Animal Farm, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

Of course, everyone knows the semen on Monica Lewinsky's dress that was found to be the president's through DNA testing, was stolen from his wife by the reactionary right and planted on its fabric. These rabid and fanatical anti-abortion right-to-lifers have been out to get him since he first ran for the Oval Office. It is their, and the zealot and sexual misfit, Kenneth Starr's fault, for persecuting Mr. Clinton and for showing the world America's president is a public liar. Nor all the boot-licking pomp and ceremony, snare drum rolls, stirring renditions of Hail To The Chief, salutes by a color guard, or the veneration afforded our highest elected official, can change that fact. From nearly a thousand years ago I quote the model for my previous sentence, a lovely line from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on; Nor all your piety or wit can lure it back or cancel half a line of it."

Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska once said, and was roundly criticized for saying of Mr. Clinton, "He is an exceptional liar." Kerrey, a former SEAL and Medal Of Honor winner who for a moment remembered his military background and comrades, later stammered, "I meant it as a compliment!"

Not caring much about dead Persian poets or Senator Kerrey's prescient candor, our limp Congress and Senate, carefully eyeing those polls, is going to give Mr. Clinton a slap on the wrist, call him a bad boy, and wish the whole sorry episode away. It seems fair to say the word principle no longer exists in American lexicon. None of our politicians is concerned that every person who henceforth takes an oath to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is going to say quietly to himself, "I'm going to be just as honest as our President was."

The ethical problem I have with Mr. Clinton is that he personifies expediency and artful, adroit lying. Worse, he is an example of the lifetime rewards that can be obtained by such behavior. Our president has effectively negated the biblical saying, "What ye sow, so shall ye reap." How can one argue against so great a success story?

Look at things another way. Long ago, I was a boy scout in a troop where each boy had to memorize and recite all twelve of the laws long form to become a member. It was no small feat, and took many hours. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Fifty five years later, those still came without recourse to a reference book, and I can recite the text to a few of them. The first law listed was trustworthy. Almost without exception, the boys did not lie. Later, after college, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy and went through officer's candidate school to obtain a commission. The straightforward, truthful, and honorable code of rules we were taught to live by reinforced what I'd learned as a boy scout. Decent men tell the truth, don't lie, and are as good as their word. As a navy frogman, we were too proud to lie to each other, though I'm sure some whoppers were told to the enemy and the shore patrol. In the military, when lives are at stake in an operation, truth is a necessity, not a luxury. Within that broad framework, I've always hated liars, and have no use for them. An officer or non-commissioned officer who is caught lying can be forced to leave the service. Should we ask any less of their Commander In Chief, the person sworn to uphold the nation's laws?

I have two grandsons. Matthew is seven, and Stephen will be five next month. My son, Brad, and I, their grandfather, are going to try to teach them to become decent, honorable men. They are bright, and curious in the questioning way children are curious. One day soon, I am going to tell Matthew that lying is wrong, that good men do not lie, and that truth is always the best way. And he is going to say, "Our president lied." I will answer yes. He will say, "Was he punished for it?" I will answer that his lie was detected and people were unhappy with him. He will ask, "He's still president, isn't he? What was his punishment?" I will answer that our Congress said it was bad for him to lie, and that it was wrong. Knowing Matthew, he will say, "Aren't they going to let him live as a famous man, pay him a big pension, and treat him with respect?" I will say yes. "Is that one lie the only time in his life he's not told the truth?" My only response will be, no. "Well, granddad, maybe there are other ways to live and become successful that don't always require telling the truth!" And I will have no answer.

Let Al Gore be president for a while.


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