Referral to the United States House of Representatives pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, å¤595(c)
No one who ever passed through an American public high school could have watched the current president of the United States running for office in 1992 and failed to recognize the familiar predatory sexuality of the provincial adolescent. The man was, Jesse Jackson said that year to another point, “nothing but an appetite.” No one who followed his appearances on The Road to The White House on C-SPAN could have missed the reservoir of self-pity, the quickness to blame, the narrowing of the eyes, as in a wildlife documentary, when things did not go his way: a response so reliable that aides on Jerry Brown’s 1992 campaign looked for situations in which it could be provoked.
The famous tendency of the candidate to take a less than forthcoming approach to embarrassing questions had already been documented and discussed, most exhaustively in the matter of his 1969 draft status, and he remained the front-runner. The persistent but initially unpublished rumors about extramarital rovings had been, once Gennifer Flowers told her story to the Star, published and acknowledged, and he remained on his feet. “I have acknowledged wrongdoing,” he had told America during his and his wife’s rather premonitory 60 Minutes appearance on Super Bowl Sunday of that year. “I have acknowledged causing pain in my marriage. I think most Americans who are watching this tonight, they’ll know what we’re saying, they’ll get it, and they’ll feel that we have been more than candid. And I think what the press has to decide is, are we going to engage in a game of gotcha?”
Nothing that is now known about the current president of the United States, in other words, was not known before the New Hampshire primary in 1992. The implicit message in his August testimony to the Office of the Independent Counsel was not different in kind from that made explicit in January of 1992: I think most Americans who are watching this…they’ll know what we’re saying, they’ll get it, and they’ll feel that we have been more than candid. By the time of the 1992 general election, the candidate was before us as he appears today: a more detailed and realized character than that presented in the Office of the Independent Counsel’s oddly novelistic Referral to the United States House of Representatives but recognizably drawn to similar risk, voraciously needy, deeply fractured, and yet there, a force to contend with, a possessor of whatever manna accrues to those who have fought themselves and survived. The flaws already apparent in 1992 were by no means unreported, but neither, particularly in those parts of the country recently neutralized by their enshrinement as “the heartland,” were they seized as occasions for rhetorical outrage: “With 16 million Americans unemployed, 40 million Americans without health care and 3 million Americans homeless, here’s what we have to say about presidential aspirant Bill Clinton’s alleged previous marital infidelity,” the Peoria Journal-Star declared …
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.