Senator Lieberman's Clinton Speech
Jude Wanniski
September 8, 1998


Memo To: James Carville
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Helping Your Friend Bill

Joe Lieberman's speech on the Senate floor last week, rebuking his old friend Bill Clinton for his now confessed acts of immorality, was welcomed as "justified" by White House chief-of-staff Erskine Bowles on the weekend "Evans&Novak" program. I encourage you to look at it the same way and not join in the White House faction that wants to engage in further war against Ken Starr, no matter how much fun it might seem.

The most important thing on which I believe Lieberman put his finger was to note the President had not yet come to terms with the disappointment of his national family. When men cheat on their wives and family, there should be a way open to their redemption one that necessarily includes confession, contrition and penance. We don't realistically expect men to broadcast their adultery to their families, but when it is known and they have no other choice, the marriage generally cannot survive if they do not seek redemption through this process.

The President obviously has worked this out with his wife and daughter, but as the head of the national household, he can't avoid the necessity of doing the same with the national family. He has confessed, now he finally has expressed contrition. What remains is penance. As you know, I've been opposed to running the President out of office. I think we should avoid making a habit of shouting our Presidents out of office, or we will soon slide into the habits of the banana republics. But by the same token, I think the national family would itself opt for divorce if he and his friends you foremost among them continue your war against the process by which his penance will be determined. The less he resists, I think, the lighter will be the penance.

In the same way, I have been aggressively arguing against publication of any graphic details of the President's adulterous behavior by Ken Starr or by the Congress. If a man's wife and children don't insist on hearing the salacious details of the relationship, neither does his national family. Sure, the details may be posted on the Drudge Report or be kicked around in the tabloids or in a Monica Lewinsky $10-million tell-all book. But I agree with the President's personal friends and legal advisors that the government should not announce them formally. Those political opponents who would wish to be rid of Bill Clinton, Those political opponents who would wish to be rid of Bill Clinton, whatever the Starr conclusions, of course are eager to have the grimmest details released with a congressional imprimatur on the supposition that this would end his chances of survival.

Of all the President's political friends, you have been among the most loyal, ready to do battle on his behalf no matter what. The time for battle is over, I think, as the President really has no choice but to throw himself at the mercy of the court of public opinion. If he accepts his punishment in manly fashion instead of playing the victim, the outcome of this sorry story actually may have a beneficial effect on the national psyche. Instead of our children being taught it is okay to cheat on your family as long as you bring home a paycheck, they will learn that there are grave consequences to that kind of sin and the net effect will fortify the standard of behavior. That is, there may be less cheating in the future, rather than more.