Sorry Bill, but how are the mighty fallen

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Indy Lifestyle Online
One only hopes that the Clintons are not looking to the Bible for consolation. The Good Book is strewn with people undone by sex and scandal. And so is political history. David Robson tells some cautionary tales, but they may be too late.

adam

Adam and Eve, the "First Couple" of their day, were the very model of marital closeness. "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh," said Adam. As Hillary might say, two for the price of one.

They lived in the most desirable place on Earth but they disobeyed God's command and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and so came to understand the meaning of shame. Thus they realised they were naked and were ashamed and though they provided each other with fig leaves, it was to no avail.

They were exiled from Eden and, there is no way round it, ruined things not only for themselves but for all the rest of us.

sodom

The personal habits of the men of Sodom did not, at least according to literal-minded reading of the Bible, find favour with the Lord, who rained fire and brimstone out of Heaven and killed all the inhabitants.

And it should be remembered that Sodom did not go legally unrepresented. Abraham, speaking in mitigation, begged God not to destroy the city if there were 50 good men in the place ("Oh, what am I saying `50'? How about 10?) But there weren't even 10.

Mrs Tripp and state troopers should remember the dangers of voyeurism: Lot's wife was told not to look back on the destruction, disobeyed and was turned into a pillar of salt.

onan

Hard-done to or what? The man who has become a byword for self-abuse deserves a sympathetic hearing. When his brother Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord, God slew him.

It then became incumbent upon Onan to marry Er's widow and have a son by her to carry on the family. Feeling that the child would not be thought of as his but as his brother's, he "spilled his seed upon the ground". God was displeased and slew him. But what would God have done if he'd spilled his seed on a blue dress?

samson

A man so powerful that nobody could resist him, the most powerful man in the world perhaps, and yet he was brought low by a weakness for women, the womenfolk of his enemies. Just as a Democrat President might nowadays expose himself to destruction by women in the hands of, let us say, the religious Right, Samson had a weakness for Philistine girls.

"What is the secret of your strength," asked his particular Delilah. "My hair" he eventually let drop. And with that she cut it off. His strength left him and it no more time than it once took him to pull down a temple he was eyeless in Arkansas.

holofernes

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman," he might have said - if his head had not been cut off and carried off in a food bag. Judith, a Jewish widow of uncommon beauty and wisdom, took it upon herself to save her people from the mighty Assyrian army led by Holofernes.

She gained access to his tent by saying she had run away from her people to escape her fate. He was wild for her but he ate and drank too much, and by the time they were alone, he was blotto, so she decapitated him.

As Ms Lewinsky may well have said in her Paula Jones testimony, and as Judith actually did say: "it was my face that tricked him to his destruction and yet he committed no act of sin with me to defile and shame me."

EDWARD II

It hardly bears reading about, but when a king puts his sexual favourites ahead of his retainer barons, those barons can turn ugly. In this case, beheading the boyfriend Piers Gaveston and, fifteen years later, killing the king by internal examination with a red hot poker. A strong story of powerful man brought low by sex, but totally lacking in Clintonian resonance.

CHARLES STEWART PARNELL

There are those who think that had Parnell been spared to lead his Irish Home Rule Party longer, the whole intractable Ulster nightmare would have been sorted out 100 years ago and Clinton's aides would not now be passing British secrets to the IRA. But the brilliant Irish politician was carried away from influence on a flood not dissimilar to that lapping at the White House door - sexual ridicule.

He survived the political dirty tricks of his enemies (trying to blame him for the murder of a British lord and a minister in Phoenix Park Dublin), but it was his long affair with Kitty O'Shea, wife of a venal MP, which did for him, and he was named in the divorce case.

Bad enough, but it was the farcical details of his hiding on fire escapes and so on that rendered him ridiculous and killed off his political power. "I shall emerge from the case without a stain on my character," he had told a friend. Now where have we heard that since?

SIR CHARLES DILKE

"He taught me every French vice," said the 22-year old Virginia Crawford of Sir Charles Dilke, a man widely tipped to become Prime Minister at the end of the 19th Century. And he persuaded a young servant girl to join them in bed.

Historians now think he was stitched up, that he did not have an affair with Virginia. On the other hand, he had had an affair with her mother and was a noted ladies' man. (Whatever Clinton has or has not done with Monica Lewinsky, Lord protect him from her mother).

Some have said that Dilke was brought down by political conspiracy though now it is thought that he was simply the patsy in Virginia's desire to hide the true identity of her lover.

Three in a bed? French vices? A man can't come back from that. His latest biography is called The Lost Prime Minister. Lost he was.

PROFUMO, THORPE, PARKINSON, MELLOR - and HART

The recent history of British politics is littered with relative pygmies made yet smaller by sexual scandal.

Profumo, whose friendship with Christine Keeler sounded the death knell for the Macmillan government, has spent the rest of his life as a moral giant quietly doing good; the disgraced Cecil Parkinson was replaced as Tory party chairman by John Selwyn Gummer (referred to then, like Al Gore now, as "a safe pair of trousers"), only for Parkinson, quite unbelievably, to buy some braces and come back; Jeremy Thorpe - most famous quote of his political life: "Bunnies can and will to France"; and call David Mellor and talk dirty about referees.

In the end none compares with the Eighties US presidential hopeful Gary Hart, who challenged the press over his alleged womanising "Put a tail on me and see how bored you will be" he said. Twenty-four hours later he was finished.

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