Leading Article: A threat to Clinton's recovering authority

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The Independent Online
BILL CLINTON's sex life ought to have no bearing on whether he is a competent president. Promiscuity is not in itself a disqualification for high office. Indeed, lust for power is so often twinned with a strong sex drive that only the nave are surprised by the bedroom antics of political figures. These do not necessarily indicate bad judgement in other areas, since irrationality can often be compartmentalised. Nor need a modicum of deception in this department be politically fatal. Squalid though it is, much of what is alleged against Mr Clinton should be a matter only between him and his wife.

Danger - and folly - come when sex and politics overlap. There are three allegations against Mr Clinton that could be serious. One is that he deliberately misled the public during his election campaign when he indicated that his days of philandering were over. That was after the accusation by Gennifer Flowers that he had had a 12-year affair with her. The state troopers now giving evidence say he was still at it after the election. The voters knew of his blemished character when they chose him, but they thought he was reformed. The second damaging allegation is that he used government employees as pimps, look-outs and general assistants in his philanderings. The least that should be expected of philandering politicians is that they do not finance their adventures with taxpayers' money.

The third and most serious allegation is that the suicide of Vince Foster, White House deputy legal counsel, was linked not only to an affair with Hillary Clinton but also to improper business dealings, and that these have been concealed by the removal of incriminating files. Mr Clinton will be badly tarnished if the first two accusations are substantiated but severely damaged or destroyed if the last is proven.

All three are part of a vindictive personal campaign against him by Cliff Jackson, a Little Rock lawyer, but this does not mean they are untrue. Mr Clinton will have to confront them squarely and openly. They are a bitter blow, coming just as his presidency has begun to recover. The faster he clears up the mess, the better his chances of saving his newly won authority.