By John Kelly
Never promise a lot if you can deliver only a little. Every salesman knows that adage. The Ken Starr spin doctors should have remembered it before they contrived to put on the world’s most extraordinary TV show. The public interrogation of President Clinton came across to the majority of Irish people as a persecution rather than a prosecution. So far as they were concerned, especially those who had the time to watch it in its entirety, the telecast was generally perceived to be a huge flop accompanied by an equally large yawn.
Surprisingly, it is still the women who are most sympathetic toward the beleaguered president. They really do seem to perceive something that leaves the puzzled males of the species standing.
Is it the fact that Clinton, even in possible disgrace, is regarded as being something of a hunk? Or is that women really do regard the possession of power as being something of an aphrodisiac? Is it the manifestation of a similar mass emotion that turned an entire generation into bobby-soxers and launched an urchin like Frank Sinatra into the biggest pop star ever?
Or is it the perception that few men possess the moral strength to resist the blandishments of a besotted young woman who is determined to put it on, to use a common expression?
That seems to be the most general view among the ranks of Mna na hEireann.
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In one golf club, one woman confidently proclaimed, "There isn’t a man in this clubhouse who would say no in the same situation."
Irish men fortunate enough to be among women, on the other hand, were frequently reticent to discuss the subject. Perhaps they did not want to confess their feelings while recognizing that the women already knew precisely how they would react in a similar situation. Even in these much-vaunted days of liberalism and permissiveness, members of both sexes are rarely honest with each other.
Whatever about the deeper sexist-psychological aspects of the Starr Report, the most amazing feature was the elaborate spin doctoring. Never was so much promised about so little.
Before the release of the tapes, to the accompaniment of incredibly pompous ceremonials, Irish news organs, in tandem with the rest of the world, were filled with predictions to the effect that President Clinton would be revealed to the world as the emperor without clothes, a disheveled, evasive liar who had to angrily leave the room to avoid the probing.
What a load of rubbish.
Clinton has been described as being a consummate actor. He gave his best stage performance ever during the grand jury hearing. He was superb, absolutely in control of himself, while having to answer intimate questions from faceless interlocutors that few men have ever been asked. And when he did walk out, as any person would during a four-hour questioning bout, it was presumably so that he could go to the bathroom.
Those who set out to damage him politically, as they no doubt did, scored an own goal instead. They lost their campaign.
As the president continued to insist throughout, it is patently a political vendetta that is being waged against him. It had nothing to do with justice and even less to do with impeachment. Although the Starr team endlessly leaked alleged facts to the press, which they claimed would force Congress to impeach, it was soon revealed that there was no case to answer.
The question as to whether it has damaged the United States internationally was firmly answered at the United Nations building in New York.
Even as the grand jury tapes were being relayed to the world, delegates stood to give the American president a standing ovation as he prepared to address the representatives of the nations of the earth. It was a rare sight indeed.
What they were saying with their applause is that regardless of the personal sins of a mortal man, President Clinton had done the world a mighty power of good. Clearly, as in Ireland, they hoped that America would allow him to continue to do so for the next two years.
It is a very understandable aspiration because great territories of planet earth are in absolute turmoil.
Now that the Cold War has finished, now that nations no longer divide on opposite sides of a failed dialect, the world’s democracies recognize that they require the support of the U.S.
It is a fact that many Americans might not wish to have to acknowledge. Isolationist America may cater very well to its own citizens but external conflicts have always intervened, even to the extent of forcing the U.S. into two world wars. It is better for the American people to prevent war rather than to have to enjoin them.
As Russia continues to crumble with admissions from leaders that international monetary funds, totaling millions, have been misappropriated, to put in its most polite form, as the Middle East stumbles back to the bad old days, as African nations collide violently, and as the savagery of the former Yugoslavia continues to astound Europe, the most astonishing fact so far as the majority of Irish people are concerned is that the greatest nation on earth seems to be in turmoil because its president is revealed to have feet of clay — just like everyone else.
So far as the people of Ireland is concerned, there is no doubt about the enormous contribution Bill Clinton and his administration has made to the peace agreement. There is also some fear about its future if, by some evil miracle, he may yet be impeached. The Irish people recognize, as they displayed during his recent visit, that no other American president has ever managed to involve the U.S. government to such an extent and with such great benefit in Irish affairs.
Even people of the stature of the late President Eamon de Valera attempted to accomplish such goals but failed, invariably because of the attitude of the British government toward any American involvement in the domestic affairs of the United Kingdom.
Even now, there are major problems to be overcome.