Letter: Clinton at bay

Sir: What is so puzzling about the Clinton affair is the scale of the legal/constitutional response to what essentially has been a private sexual matter, involving a prior civil case of sexual harassment which was thrown out by the courts anyway.

In 1974 Nixon would have been impeached for the Watergate "cover-up", but for his resignation. This involved public misdemeanour way beyond Clinton's offence. But, perhaps more significantly, Lawrence Walsh, who acted as the special independent counsel investigating the Iran-Contra Nicaraguan arms scandal, which had the effect of abrogating the Constitution, was unable to lay a glove on President Reagan because of the President's "loss of memory", although one or two officials took the rap.

Walsh concluded in his book Firewall as follows: "What set Iran- Contra apart from previous scandals was the fact that a cover-up engineered in the White House ... prevented the rule of law from being applied to the perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension."

There is nothing remotely comparable to this in the crisis surrounding Clinton, yet he may not be so lucky to survive long-term as Starr continues to extract his pound of flesh. This raises the macabre spectacle of a popular president being felled by a relentless and to a degree politically inspired investigation which earlier came up with nothing on what would indeed have been a serious cause for concern if any financial irregularities had been perpetrated in Arkansas. Clinton might be a damn fool but he is no crook.


Division of Politics, South Bank University,

London SE1