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Gary Imhoff
Soulmates: Bill Clinton and Marion Barry
February 1998




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It's payback time for Washingtonians. For years, our out-of-town friends have taunted us about our city's government, and about Washingtonian's incredible tolerance for our city's corrupt politicians. Now, at last, we can respond. Now we can taunt our friends in Indianapolis and Mineola about their incredible tolerance for corruption. Marion Barry is retiring from public life, or at least he’s taking a vacation from elected office, and the United States is led by Bill Clinton.

We in Washington aren't unusually immoral — instead, we have just been the leading edge of a national movement. In Washington, the more scandals that erupt around Marion Barry, the more secure his hold on the mayor's office. And throughout the country, the more scandals Bill Clinton is involved in, the more popular he becomes, and the higher his poll ratings go.

This isn't a coincidence. It's obvious that Bill Clinton's supporters have been studying, and are now copying, the tactics that Marion Barry's supporters have perfected over the years. Obviously, these tactics work, and not just with Washingtonians, but with all Americans. Here are just a few of the parallel arguments that Bill Clinton’s supporters are using:

  • Public officials aren’t supposed to be role models. All of that stuff about looking up to the leaders of our nation, or of our city, is just naiveté. “Role models” are passé.
  • Morality isn’t important, and sexual morality is just a joke, anyway. The only thing that’s important about a politician is whether his policies favor us or not, and whether the good times are rolling in the economy. Morality is nothing but hypocrisy, and only busybodies and bluenoses care about it. Sophisticated people don’t take sexual morality seriously.
  • Honesty is a stupid policy. You’re shocked if the man lies? Are you a child? There’s nothing wrong with lying. Everybody lies. George Washington lied when he said, “I cannot tell a lie,” and Jimmy Carter lied when he said, “I won't lie to you.” Nobody with any sense believes anything  politicians say. Lying is part of the job. You can’t hold that against them.
  • Everybody does it. The man’s no worse than anybody else. Nobody’s faithful. All husbands sleep around and commit adultery. So what? All politicians cheat when they raise money, and do favors for campaign contributors. You have a problem with that?
  • It’s all a conspiracy. Whether the motive is “a vast right-wing conspiracy” to attack liberal Democrats or “the Plan” by whites to get rid of black politicians, it’s obvious that the only reason people criticize our leader is that they’re political enemies. There is no valid criticism, and criticizing discredits only the critics.
  • Damn the press. I don’t care what the facts are, it’s wrong to report them, and nobody wants to hear them, anyway. Those snoops should just keep their noses out of other people’s business.
  • There’s nothing wrong with commiting crimes, only with prosecuting them. Prosecutors like Ken Starr and Jay Stevens and Joseph DiGenova are low-lifes who go around messing in stuff that doesn’t concern them, and doing dirty stuff like interrogating people, and taping them, and gathering evidence. Prosecutors just shouldn't be allowed to do underhanded things like that.
  • The bitch set him up. Look at those trashy women’s hairstyles. Who would believe what a woman says, anyway? You know you can’t trust women.

The lesson is obvious. For years we’ve been misreading what the Watergate experience should have taught us. We thought that Watergate taught that the American people want an honest, clean government, and that political cover-ups don’t work and are even worse that the original crimes. We’ve been wrong. Instead, Barry and Clinton teach us the opposite is true. What Americans appreciate is open corruption, and defiance in the face of exposure.

Richard Nixon should not have said, “I am not a crook.” Instead, he should have had Erlichman and Haldeman say, “FDR was crooked, and JFK was a scumbag. Adlai Stevenson wore ladies underpants, and Abraham Lincoln was dirty, too. So what’s the problem with a little second-rate break-in? It’s all part of the game, and everybody does it.” Nixon would have served out his second term with high poll ratings, and Americans would have applauded his successor, Spiro Agnew, when he appointed Nixon to the Supreme Court.

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