Much has been made of the so-called "character issue", and how it will affect the Presidential election. It is generally agreed among the current crop of Republicans, and grudgingly admitted by some Democrats, that Bill Clinton is something less than an ethical paragon. It doesn't require a call to the Psychic Friends Network to figure that the Dole campaign, not to mention various sources of that wonderful elixir, "soft money", will bring up this issue as many times as opportunities and finances permit.

It is at least possible, though, that the GOP could botch it. And the way to botch it is to fixate on the President's Sixties peccadilloes. Inhale or no, marijuana is a no-win campaign for the Republicans; the sort of people who would be upset by an occasional spliff are the sort of people who think Newt Gingrich is a flaming liberal, and they're not likely to switch their votes away from Clinton, since they wouldn't vote for him even if the Republican nominee were Joseph Stalin. Even the Republican frosh in the Congress, quick to jump on any buzzword handed down on high, will resist this one; of the four such in my state delegation, I'm willing to bet that two have inhaled at one time or another, and the other two are 1) one of the Stepford Christians you hear so much about and 2) a chap who makes Bob Dole look like Timothy Leary.

The Oily Dorklahoman, Dustbury's alleged newspaper (NOTE: Link to "http://www.neanderthal.org" has been removed—Chaz), harps on the draft-dodging business, and runs an editorial — the same one, only with the date changed — on Memorial Day to excoriate the Commander-in-Chief. Again, this won't win any votes for the GOP, for pretty much the same reasons — people who are really upset by this have already committed themselves to Dole or (in order of increasing implausibility level) Pat Buchanan or Benito Mussolini or a three-toed sloth or Bob Dornan.

(Repeat whichever paragraph you wish to use for Paula Jones and company.)

That leaves Whitewater, and this is where the President is truly vulnerable. Sticking by your friends is no longer considered a family value, what with the War on (fill in your favorite vice here) glorifying snitches, but what makes this particular scandal worth exploiting is money. Most people think they're above such things, regardless of their political orientation, and now that Mr Clinton's Whitewater pals are off to Club Fed, he's going to be hard-pressed to dissociate himself from the whole affair — especially since his every action since the committee to investigate the matter was proposed was exactly the action you'd expect from someone who is used to beating the rap and plans to do so again. Any attempt to 'fess up now is going to be viewed as spin control, and not good spin control at that. Some Presidents can survive this sort of thing; Ronald Reagan got through the entire Oliver North fiasco without so much as a wrinkled lapel. I need hardly point out that Bill Clinton is no Ronald Reagan — or that Reagan was the last person to win a second term as President. The oddsmakers are busy reworking the tote boards, even as I speak.

The Vent

#9
1 June 1996

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