I used to linger in bed for a few minutes after the alarm went off in the morning. But not since January 21. Now, I jump up, put on my bathrobe, and head for the driveway to pick up the newspapers. There's a spring in my step and a smile on my face. And when I read the three papers -- the Washington Post, Washington Times, and New York Times, in that order -- I'm rarely disappointed. The papers deliver the goods on the White House sex scandal almost every day. The trick is to read every scandal story to the end. Just last week, there was a nugget in the next-to-last paragraph of a long piece in the Post. It revealed that President Clinton not only loathes the idea of reimbursing the taxpayers for an investigation he prolonged by lying for seven months, he actually wants to be paid back for his own legal expenses. Only a small fact, for sure, but it made my day.
I don't buy what's become the politically correct position on the scandal, even for Republicans. You know -- that the "ordeal" we're going through in Washington is horrible for the country. Rep. Bob Livingston, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, insisted to me that it's a "bad time" for America. I tried to jolly him into conceding that, at least in private, he's delighted Clinton is in so much hot water. Oh, no, he said, upping the rhetorical ante, it's a "terrible time" for all of us.
Nonsense. This is a great time for America -- and especially for folks who spotted Clinton as a phony from the git-go. Now, he's exposed as exactly that, and worse. He's a liar, philanderer, and hypocrite, and he took extreme measures, including perjury, to hide this from the American people. What's wrong with Americans' finally finding out the truth about Clinton? Zip, as far as I'm concerned. Au contraire, it's healthy for the country and for democracy. If folks still want him to be president, they should at least know what they're keeping. As for me, I'm happy to be vindicated.
I suspect -- no, I know -- that many reporters feel the same. Not just the small number of conservative ones, either. Sure, many reporters claim they hate a story that involves sordid sex and would rather be writing or yapping about bankruptcy reform or revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Don't believe them. They love this scandal.
Why shouldn't they? There's a good civics lesson about accountability in all the fuss. When a government official is discovered to be violating the law, he should be held accountable. And that's what's happening at long last to Clinton. He's evaded any responsibility for his or his wife's actions so often -- White-water, Filegate, Travelgate, Chinagate -- that it's nice to see him forced to accept blame, if only a little bit of blame. And it's good for kids to see a politician facing the consequences of his wrongful acts.
There's another fun part to the scandal. That's seeing Clinton's defenders saying palpably ridiculous things. Take Paul Begala, whom I've always regarded as an honorable man. He was publicly silent for a month after Clinton admitted having sex with Monica Lewinsky. But the airing of Clinton's grand-jury testimony on September 21 prompted Begala to appear on Larry King Live. The testimony "is the very first time we've gotten to hear very much at all from the president about [the scandal], even people on the White House staff," he said. But it wasn't Ken Starr who muzzled Clinton. It was Clinton himself. He could have summoned Paul to the hallway off the Oval Office for a chat any time. And didn't the White House try to keep the testimony that Begala finds so helpful from being shown on TV? Yep, it did.
I got special joy from watching Steve Brill squirm after Monica's blue dress turned up and proved to have been stained by Clinton. Brill had zinged reporters, notably Jackie Judd of ABC, for citing a dirty dress, one that Brill suggested was non-existent. In fact, this was one of the chief points in his anti-press screed in the first edition of Brill's Content. When the dress appeared, Brill responded by weaseling. He said the reporting on the dress was premature. He didn't admit a mistake or apologize.
Why did Brill's discomfort make me feel so good? Brill suggested on Meet the Press that I had ordered up a piece in THE WEEKLY STANDARD criticizing his article out of spite. A reporter for his magazine had wanted to ask me about accepting speaking fees, I wouldn't return the reporter's calls, and instead I had ordered . . . Well, you get Brill's drift. In other words, the criticism of his now-discredited article was entirely ill motivated. The truth is, David Tell's piece stands up as totally accurate. Brill's article doesn't.
So, I've got a deal for Brill. If he admits publicly he was wrong about the dress and lots more in his article, I'll chat with his reporter, even about speaking fees from tobacco companies.