By Bob Harris
NOW THAT Kenneth Starr has put his finishing strokes (cough) on his report concerning President Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, three cans of candied yams, a turnip, and a bag of elastic bands, stories about other politicians are now surfacing as well.
In fact, at least one, Sen. Dan Burton, has even pre-emptively released details of his personal life, just to ward off any future chance that his own interoffice mash notes might someday be released in paperback.
This is cool.
Something similar happened a few years ago when Washington went through a spasm of confessing past drug use. Clinton, as we all know, didn't inhale, although now we can reasonably assume we know why his breath was so short. Newt Gingrich also admitted to the demon weed, rationalizing it was merely a function of his presence on a 1960s college campus. Which is a weird thing for him to say, since that also rationalizes free love, protesting the war, and living in a VW microbus, all of which done at the same time would get kind of crowded. And a bunch of other politicians chimed in with their own confessions of drug use until suddenly no one cared much anymore.
A similar level of story burnout might happen with the sex thing. In the last couple of weeks, in addition to the president's tale of woe (and if you read footnote #210, it's more of a tale of whoa!) we've also been treated to sudden revelations about (a) the aforementioned Sen. Dan Burton, R-Ind., a story that ran in two columns on page A5 in many papers; (b) Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, an admission that got 200 words page A14; and (c) Sen. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., a story that was passed by 57 news organizations before Salon.com tackled it.
At this rate, in six months Al Gore could get caught having oral sex with an endangered tree-fowl, and it wouldn't even reach the papers.
Make up your own spotted owl jokes here.
Surveys indicate that while most of us certainly don't approve of making the Oval Office an erogenous zone, we also wish this media circus would just stop, one way or another. In short: Let's get Clinton resolved, and then let's get these tawdry sex scandals out of the front pages and back into the sports section where they belong.
Which means that maybe the best thing we can do to make this go away is to start confessing all of our own sexual transgressions.
So as a public service, here are mine. I confess: I have had sex with people other than myself; I am filled with remorse and I can only ask for your forgiveness. This is a very difficult time, both for me, and ... well, nobody else. But still, I hope I can now return to the important business of writing this commentary.
NOW THAT the Starr report is out in paperback, I wonder exactly in which section bookstores will stock the thing. Current Events and Politics would make the most sense, but really it could work in a lot of sections.
The White House staff would probably file it in the Horror and Mystery section, and a lot of Republicans would want it in True Crime, although it probably won't wind up in either.
With all the publicity, Performing Arts might be a little more likely. Or given the speedy nature of the interludes, the report might better belong in the business section under Time Management.
Then again, the cigar thing makes me think it really belongs more in the Hobbies section, but Clinton's long list of alleged girlfriends might also make the report appropriate to Collections.
Kramerbooks, the Washington, D.C., bookstore that got subpoenaed, probably stocks the report in Local Interest, and frankly I think Monica really ought to swing by and autograph a few copies, just as a thank-you for her own upcoming book deal.
My suggested title for Monica's new book: Gargling with History.
Hey, if they do a Books-on-Tape version of the Starr report, who's gonna narrate? The Democrats would probably want Woody Allen, whose delivery would suggest the sadly bumbling nature of the encounters--and whose presence would make Clinton look downright upright by example--but if you're a Republican, there's only one choice: James Earl Jones.
Imagine millions of people hearing the Starr text delivered in that Darth Vader Voice of Doom: "The president unbuttoned her blouse and touched her breasts without removing her bra. ..."
You can almost hear the audience recoiling in fear: He's a madman! Somebody stop him!
Then again, since (a) the sex scenes are less titillating than the personal ads in the back of most of the weekly papers that carry this column; and (b) the report barely mentions the serious stuff like Travelgate, Filegate, and Whitewater--all of which together got exactly two more mentions than my Aunt Treva, and she's never even been to the White House--maybe we can already guess where a lot of copies of the Starr report will ultimately wind up: the Bargain Bin.
At least I hope my Aunt Treva hasn't been to the White House.
From the September 24-30, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.