Hope you're having a good weekend. Despite the absence of government, Media-ite continue their strange obsession with me, including this very flaccid hit piece (with some rather touching comments). Doesn't anybody know how to write over there? As the President would say: Sad! This weekend is the first anniversary of the inauguration, which we shall commemorate in today's movie feature later. It's also the twentieth anniversary of a turbulent weekend in Washington, culminating in the launch down the catway of Monica Lewinsky's little black dress. The drama of January 1998 put certain words and phrases in the public discourse for the next two years, including "impeachment", "vast right-wing conspiracy", "the meaning of 'is'", and "completion", which President Clinton was said by Monica in the Starr Report not to reach.
Yes, it was twenty years ago today/Slick Willie taught the intern to play! In a sense, the Clintons have never reached completion - which is why, two decades on, the news is full of Uranium One, Hillary-commissioned dirty dossiers and Huma's emails - not to mention the exposure of Harvey Weinstein and other Clinton buddies for availing themselves of the same interns-with-benefits approach to the workplace. We may run some old pieces from the Dawning of the Age of Incompletion in the weeks ahead. But, if you're wondering what we were talking about before Monica, the answer is Paula - who became near totally eclipsed by Miss Lewinsky. This was my Sunday Telegraph column of January 18th 1998. I blush to say some of the lines herein have wound up in anthologies of quotations, including most recently in Matthew Parris' collection Scorn - though I have to say I don't think my Scornometer was cranked all the way up to eleven. I suppose it's all comparative, which brings us back to that poor Media-ite fellow...
Last week, President Clinton declared most of storm-ravaged northern New England a federal disaster area. This weekend, he was back in Washington attending to the real federal disaster area: his pants.
They are, alas, not eligible for government financial assistance, although after spending most of his presidency trying to shake off the dogged Paula Jones, they could surely use some. Yesterday's trip to his lawyers' office to give his sworn deposition on sexual-harassment allegations was, according to the White House, his first "face to face" meeting with Mrs Jones - an artful, quintessentially Clintonesque choice of words with which she would not disagree, given her testimony re the previous encounter. He also denied that the case was proving a distraction: "I just try to put it in a little box and go on and do my work."
Actually, President Clinton no longer has any work. In the past month, there have been three news stories about him: 1) he acquired a dog; 2) he named his dog after his Uncle Buddy; 3) Buddy got hissed at by Socks, the White House cat. There is always Iraq, of course, but the President has kept a curiously low profile on that issue, reluctant to press Saddam too hard to allow UN inspectors to examine his lethal weapon sites presumably in case Mrs Jones's lawyers demand that UN inspectors be permitted to examine the President's own lethal weapon site.
No second-term US President has faded away as quickly as this one, and the danger is that, in the absence of any major legislation or great issue, there will be nothing to concentrate on except the Jones case. In that sense, yesterday's meeting was one of those emblematic moments - like FDR's with Churchill and Stalin or Jimmy Carter's with Begin and Sadat - that perfectly encapsulates the scale of his presidency. Given that he's the first US President ever to have to defend a sexual-harassment suit, perhaps the more appropriate comparison would be Nixon going to China. Indeed, since Mrs Jones asserted that the President has Peyronie's Disease and that his penis is crooked, Mr Clinton has even adopted a variation of the old Nixon defence: it is not a crook.
If the President's penis is straight, it's the only thing in this Administration that is. In recent days, the First Lady has given testimony under oath on the White House's illegal requests for confidential FBI files on prominent Republicans; the Labour Secretary has come under investigation for bribery and influence peddling; and it was asserted that Ron Brown, the tarnished Commerce Secretary who supposedly died in a "plane crash in Bosnia", happened, upon examination of his corpse, to have a bullet hole in his head.
As for Mrs Jones, she exercised her legal right to attend the deposition mainly, she said, because she wanted to spend her first meeting with a fully zipped-up President just staring him straight in the eyes. That is probably a wise move, given the way sceptical feminists have criticised her claim to have she spent the early meeting staring him in the one-eye. Her apparently photographic memory of that brief encounter in an Arkansas hotel room seven years ago does not impress everyone. "I have seen many penises," said the comedienne Elayne Boosler. "I can tell you honestly - steel-trap memory and observer of detail that I am paid to be - that I could not pick one of them out of a line-up. And yet Jones states that she was there for a mere second, that she was not interested, but she has already designed drapes to go with the thing." In truth, Mrs Jones has not designed drapes to go with the thing: that sort of canny merchandising spin-off is more the province of the President's celebrity chums.
According to the federal government's own Justice Department, sexual incidents are massively under-reported and women ought to be encouraged to come forward. Mrs Jones did, and has suffered non-stop vilification as a result - not to mention the attentions of the Internal Revenue Service: five days after rejecting an out-of-court settlement with the President, she received a letter from the IRS saying her 1995 tax returns were to be audited. It seems odd that the most powerful federal agency should trouble itself with an unemployed woman whose husband earns $37,000 a year and owns no property. But Mrs Jones has long since given up expecting a sympathetic ear. Even this weekend's CBS News could not resist pointing out that Mrs Jones's legal costs were being funded by "Clinton-haters", notwithstanding the network's long-standing indifference to the President's own exotic sources of funds.
But Mrs Jones's story is at last beginning to seep out: America's notoriously squeamish mainstream news shows are even beginning to use phrases like "oral sex". The very fact of this week's meeting has evened up the score. Between now and the start of the trial in May, Americans will be more and more divided - between those who shriek that Mrs Jones is a liar, liar; and those increasingly aghast at the President, his pants eternally on fire.
~As always, members of The Mark Steyn Club should feel free to disagree in the comments section. Speaking of The Mark Steyn Club, Mark will be back later today, Saturday, with the second part of our brand new Tale for Our Time, Gogol's classic The Overcoat. If you're not yet a Steyn Club member, there's still time to join and hear his latest crackerjack audio entertainment from Part One all the way to the end.