Despite indiscretions, Clinton gets by

8th February 1998

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At the time of writing Clinton, through the vigour of his denials and the work of his loyal attack hounds, looks safe although he is not yet out of the woods. Lewinsky's case which only a fortnight ago appeared to be mortally imperilling the Clinton's presidency looks shaky as she left the American capital to join her father in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

According to Ginsburg, the move to California is not part of any strategy. Talks with Kenneth Starr regarding immunity for Lewinsky continues without visible progress. Of course, as a last resort, Starr can - whether he win do is another matter - threaten Lewinsky with an indictment unless she cooperates. I do not believe Starr would do that. But then I may be wrong.

I want to ask you a sincere question, and I expect you to level with me. Does it matter to you, if you were an American, whether Clinton chases women, young and old, and demand oral sex from them? Many Americans I know say it does not matter much because a man's sex is his business; he needs only fear the fury of his wife. Unless, the wife is as compassionate, strong, composed and forgiving as Hillary, of course. Dare you take the risk?

I only become dismayed with illicit love or lust when it becomes insensitive and irresponsible and tempt risks to the point of being arrogant and careless, and flaunting in public. In other words one should be discreet. The American voters, though they knew he was a rogue, elected him twice, perhaps, because they thought he would not persist but he seemingly persists if the allegations were true.

The other question is can all three women - Flowers, Jones and Lewinsky - all be liars? Well, Flowers has been vindicated. Clinton admitted he made love to her in a recent deposition in the Paula Jones suit. As I said before, the point is that most Americans believe their president is lying but that does not seem to bother them one bit.

Why should they if Tony Blair, Netanyahu, Yeltsin and Chirac, despite all this not only deal with him but trust and respect him too?

It does seem to me that Clinton will be best remembered as the wickedly clever president who made these one liners famous: I did not inhale and oral sex isn't adultery.

Clinton is a great risk taker when it comes to women. He has been lucky so far thanks to a loyal, combative and intelligent spouse and, as a result, another escape does look possible. But, how long more will even the tolerant American people condone his reckless craving for forbidden sex?

He has demeaned the dignity of the great American office as he continually becomes the butt of giggles, jokes and derision worldwide.

I have yet to read a line of any stand taken by the 30-plus Congressmen (who had the insolence to demand Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir's resignation) over their "philandering" president.

At least others have broken their uneasy silence on the Clinton's sexgate scandal, and opened fire, accusing him of bringing shame upon a great American national institution - the presidency.

It took Flowers six years to prove who was lying. Flowers lost the battle but not the war. I believe Clinton and Hillary will win the raging hostility but not the peace.

Another woman, Kathleen Willey, a volunteer aide to Clinton's social secretary, one day stepped into the Oval office to ask the president for a paying job. What happened next is in dispute. In any event last month Willey testified in the Paula Jones case that Clinton had groped and kissed her against her will. It does sound quite familiar, almost a pattern of presidential behaviour.

Jones, Lewinsky, Willey and those "latent women" who had "affairs" with Governor Clinton or President Clinton who "caused pain" in their lives could take comfort from Flowers that perhaps Clinton will be forced one day to tell the truth. The day may never come but in life as in politics nothing is definite. In any event, I believe it will be a long, long wait before the American people ever get a president with impeccable morals.

Meanwhile, just wag the dog. I suggest you see the movie by that name starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert deNiro, which satirizes presidential politics which I saw last night but did not much enjoy. Anyway, the movie could not have been made and released during a more propitious time.

Stay tuned for developing stories and escalating development and directions.

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )