Gore Vidal on the sex trap

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WHEN SPECIAL Prosecutor Kenneth Starr is eventually put on trial for his conduct of a partisan vendetta against President Clinton, chief among the charges against him will be that of "entrapment", a weapon in all too common, if illegal, use by the American government in its never-ending wars against drugs and terrorism and, indeed, the people at large. Starr prepared a trap for Clinton, aided by Linda Tripp, a woman of mystery, who got from her girlfriend, Monica Lewinsky, details of some "heavy petting" between her and the President but no penetration; hence, no sexual intercourse as understood by most Southern lads; others, too. For this vital information we have Monica's own plangent words offered into the capacious, not to mention intricately wired, bosom of her false friend. Linda, driven by who knows - yet - what demons, inserts this information into the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against the ci-devant governor Clinton. Starr also hurries to get aboard this promising case by apparently lying to the Attorney General so that he can then link the President's real estate non-crimes to venery and, worse, Perjury - a national fetish like the turkey.

The President is asked under oath whether or not he has had sexual relations with others like Paula Jones - Monica, say. Clinton, unaware that he is being set up, denies intimate knowledge of the sloe-eyed Monica. The perjury trap has sprung.

In the Seventies a right-wing fundraiser named Richard Viguerie announced that the tactics of the Right must henceforth be not so much their plainly unpopular politics but valence issues - pushing hot buttons like sex. By the Nineties the media was ready to print anything about anyone, with the New York Times in the vanguard. What began in 1993 as punishment of Clinton for trying to give the United States a national health service has now metastasised into an assault on the executive branch by the legislative with the Supreme Court, the best court corporate money can buy, prepared to lend their Chief Justice to act as judge in the trial which, now that Clinton has been impeached, must take place in the Senate.

I have always thought that when it came to spontaneous and mindless hypocrisy Britons were in a world class of their own! "Pass the sick bag Alice..." it looks better without the comma after "bag". But United States persons are now moving in for the fools' gold prize and the nasal cantings from Congress and TV studios put to shame even your hypocritical press whose glories are now as one with the Raj and the Stone of Scone beneath the throne.

Finally, any prediction at this point is foolhardy. Clinton is good at survival. He is still favoured in the polls by a people that believe neither the media nor the politicians. On the other hand, they are sick of this matter, as the Republicans will discover at the polls in two years' time.

Meanwhile, hardly an American voice has been raised against Clinton's diversionary bombing of Iraq, which for sheer unilateral malice compares favourably with Adolf Hitler's similar capers early on in the ghastly century now sputtering out as the lights of freedom and democracy explode over Baghdad. It would be nice if we were to start the new century by putting Clinton, Bush and Kissinger on trial for crimes against humanity. A settling of accounts to celebrate what one hopes will be the golden age of President Hillary Rodham Clinton.