Sans Bimbos Need Not Apply
New York Times, Saturday,
December 26, 1998
believe all those year-end lamentations about a divided nation.
As we close the book on 1998, there remains one common cultural
denominator that does unite us all: sex. We have a sex-addicted
President, a sex-obsessed independent counsel, sex-crazed media
and a public so entranced by sex that not even McGwire and Sosa
can entice us to spend more dollars on Major League Baseball than
we do on videos rated XXX. To each American, apparently, his or
her own home run.
trouble with sex as the reigning national pastime, though, is
that it uses up all our oxygen. A brain fixated on sex -- even
to moralize against it -- has no room for anything else. Non-Monica
news and governance disappeared this year, as did the potentially
grave non-Monica Clinton scandals. Not even lethal wag-the-dogging
of Afghanistan and the Sudan could stand in the way of all flesh.
now rules so completely that politicians may soon become invisible
unless they are exposed having illicit sex or are fulminating
against someone else caught with his pants down. This month three
of President Clinton's foremost adversaries -- Trent Lott, Bob
Barr and Dan Burton -- have been tarred by scandals that only
yesterday would have caused a major public and media uproar. But
G-rated misbehavior now merits only yawns.
Lott and Congressman Barr, for instance, have both been revealed
as fawning speakers at events sponsored
by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white-supremacist,
immigrant-bashing organization that even David Keene, head of
the American Conservative Union, has labeled racist. Among other
beliefs, the Council proselytizes that interracial marriage "amounts
to white genocide" and that Jews have "turned spite
into welfare billions for themselves."
they were outed for their involvement with this group, both politicians
dutifully repudiated its views and then instigated cover-ups to
try to camouflage the extent of their actual relationships with
it. Barr, who gave the keynote address at the group's June meeting,
dismissed his appearance as "brief"; his story has since
been demolished in excruciating detail by Jason Zengerle of The
New Republic. For his part, Lott vowed he had "no firsthand
knowledge of the group's views" -- a denial that became inoperative
after Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post came across a 1992
newsletter in which the Senator is pictured telling its members
they "stand for the right principles and the right philosophy."
what's lying about racism compared with lying about sex? Though
two black columnists, Colbert I. King of The Washington Post and
Stanley Crouch of New York's Daily News, have tried to generate
outrage about this story, there are few takers in a market in
which sex is the only currency. No "indiscretions" or
"improper relationship," no scandal.
same neglect may well befall the latest revelations about Dan
Burton, the pit-bull Congressman who became an instant All-Monica
news headliner when he revealed a few months ago that he had fathered
a love child. This week in Salon, the reporter Russ Baker alleges
that Burton's sexual peccadilloes may be matched by abuse of the
same campaign fund-raising laws that were at the center of the
botched House hearings he held to nail Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Some of the many Salon findings, drawn from interviews with more
than 120 sources, have been amplified in The Washington Post and
The Indianapolis Star. But the notion that Burton may have dialed
for dollars (and perhaps foreign dollars at that) on Federal premises
or put a campaign manager (and part-time clown) on the House payroll
is so far at most a blip on the national radar screen.
the Christmas Eve edition of USA Today pictures head shots of
four likely Presidential candidates -- Lamar Alexander, John Ashcroft,
George W. Bush and Dan Quayle -- who have already declared their
marital fidelity. In the accompanying article, a religious-right
leader favored by the G.O.P., the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional
Values Coalition, promises that he'll ask all impending candidates
if they are now or have ever been adulterers. In a culture where
all values, traditional and otherwise, lead to sex, why even bother
to ask if any aspiring President has been a bigot or crook?