She may be a tough cookie, but I don't have to stand by her man

Suzanne Moore on abuses of power

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"They didn't act like people and they didn't act like actors. Its hard to explain." When JD Salinger wrote that line in Catcher in the Rye maybe it was hard to explain. These days it needs no explanation at all. I have had an awful lot of explaining to do in the past few days although I swear to God I have never met Bill Clinton or been the object of his legendary "generosity". I have had to explain to my six-year-old that he will not have to go to prison. "Oh I see," she said knowingly. "You can't be the President when you are in prison." I have had to explain to my friend who keeps phoning from the States to tell me that although he has never liked Clinton this is all the fault of "the media" that I am not entirely in control of the entire Western media. "Anyway," I ended up screaming at him, "if you don't want a tabloid mentality you shouldn't have elected a tabloid President". Then I have had to explain to another male friend of mine who questioned the assumption that when we talk of oral sex, we don't know who was doing what to whom, that a little voice, call it feminine intuition if you like, tells me that whatever Clinton may or may not have done, he is hardly being accused of performing gratuitous cunnilingus on various female interns.

But, hey, what do I know? If you are shocked by the very mention of cunnilingus then I am in turn shocked that some newspapers refer to Clinton indulging in an "an unorthodox sex act" with Lewinsky. Unorthodox? And you thought it was compulsory. We all know that American culture is obsessed with blow-jobs and cars and preferably blow-jobs in cars, but somehow we have to put a more serious political spin on all this. War in the Middle East as a distraction? A re-run of Watergate? Character assassination? A right- wing conspiracy? Bring on the body language experts to tell us that Bill is tight-shouldered and bleary eyed and Hillary looks better than she has for ages. Put her on TV in a nice brown trouser suit , not a stained blue dress. Have her made over, made up, making it up? Isn't she wonderful? Isn't she cool, calm and collected?

Well, yes she is and who would really want to be her: accused of having sold out the sisterhood in her lust for power. Standing by her man, not in a Tammy Wynette sort of way obviously; forced to go through the second act though knowing that in American lives there are no second acts. She has ridden many storms and she will ride out this one. This is a battle. James Carville called it a war. George Stephanopoulos says he hopes the President is telling the truth, not that he is telling the truth.

Hillary knows things that we don't. She knows what they have got lined up against Lewinsky, Tripp, Starr. She will sit it out. What else can she do? "Yes, Matt." "No, Matt," she said in her interview on NBC's Today show yesterday morning. She spoke of the "intense political agenda" during these allegations. She is her husband's most credible defender. She made me believe that she knew all sorts of things about his accusers that will discredit them. She made me believe she believed her husband. She did not make me believe her husband. They are in this together, for it is widely assumed that a deal has been done. She knows what he is like; but she also know what she wants.

In the confusion, the schizophrenic nature of American society comes to the fore. The freest country in the world finds its heart beats with a puritan pulse. All this results in the strange games of sexual semantics being played out. Sexual relations, sexual relationships, emotional attachments, what do any of these phrases really mean, and do they mean what we think they mean and does anyone apart from Newt Gingrich himself believe that oral sex with another person still allows you to claim that you are being monogamous? (By the way, where are the long passages in the Bible that discuss oral sex in detail. I sure as hell didn't learn them in my Sunday school class.)

As this whole tale proceeds I feel myself losing sympathy for those who argue that what the President does in private has been blown out of all proportion. He may of course be completely innocent, in which case I alongside many others will have to eat my copy but ... are we really saying that some abuses of power, especially ones that involve young women, are less important than other kinds of abuse of power? Everyone knows that all jobs come with certain limitations. If you want to be the President of America then you may not like those limitations, but you may have to accept them. In return you are given enormous power and privilege. Masses of ordinary people accept those limitations every day of their lives without much reward.

Politicians, of all people, can never be above the law. Their whole modus operandi involves a level of trust from the electorate and Clinton is appearing more shifty by the day. Trust will inevitably diminish. Maybe every single woman who has made allegations against him is a big-haired, big-mouthed, delusional bimbo. Maybe feminists are in a quandary about supporting Clinton because he has at least made a stand on abortion rights. But maybe, just maybe, we have to talk about character and morality and decency; not from a rabid right-wing perspective but from a human one. Is this kind of behaviour acceptable or is it not?

The grudging admiration that some obviously have for Clinton, the endless talk of his appetites, the envy that someone in his position can do whatever they like and still have a woman like Hillary stand by them is nauseating. This is not to say that Hillary is not a supreme lawyer, a tough cookie capable of convincing the nation to stand by her man.

I'm still not convinced. It is not purely Clinton's lack of judgement that is so worrying but his inefficiency. Surely it would have been possible for Clinton to organise and pay for sex without commitment if he had really waned to. Kennedy got Marilyn Monroe, Clinton gets Monica Lewinsky? Please. Surely his lack of discrimination is starting to make him look ridiculous. Are we really to believe that the boy couldn't help it?

As George Bernard Shaw once had a character in a play say, "Do you think that the things people make fools of themselves about are any less real and true than the things they behave sensibly about?" How can we begin to talk of what is real and true in the midst of all this? It's a dirty job all right but do we honestly think that anyone close to the President, even his wife, is actually going to do it?

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