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No trust in Clinton, no presidency

By Sumit De

George Washington cut down a cherry tree but could not tell a lie, so he confessed to his mother. Bill Clinton, LAW '73, carried on an extramarital affair in the White House for the better part of 18 months. He could not tell the truth, so he lied to his wife, daughter, Cabinet, and the American public. Neither episode has a lot to do with Washington or Clinton's true ability to govern. Both stories say a lot about the actual men.

And that is what is really at issue here: Clinton the man. In order to make a reasonable judgment about a person, one usually takes into account ideas, actions, and personal relations. Most people who are defending our President argue that his ideas are genuinely good, and that the legislation he has pushed has benefited the country. Unfortunately, they also completely dismiss his personal encounters as irrelevant.

The fact is, Clinton was given the power that comes along with the Office of the Presidency because the American public judged him to be a credible leader. Clinton the man--not Clinton the President--was chosen because enough people thought he was a good guy, a guy who could be trusted with the welfare of the entire nation.

It is fair to say now that even Clinton's supporters have lost their trust in him. Many people are clinging to the notion that he can still lead competently because of his past actions as President. What they fail to realize, however, is that those actions were possible only because he had the trust of so many. His word to his opponents, for better or for worse, had the backing of the American people. But the judgment on Clinton the man has changed; it seems only reasonable that his relationship with the American people should change as well. He should resign.

Opponents to this type of thinking say that Clinton technically did nothing wrong. This is a preposterous notion. Clinton lied to the American public for seven months about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. After the publication of the Starr report, a plethora of polls indicate that the American public believes that Clinton lied under oath. Lying under oath--no matter who you are--is a federal offense. Supposedly, we are to believe that Clinton is immune to this since he only lied to a grand jury that was out to get him. By making this argument the centerpiece of their rebuttal, Clinton's lawyers are implying that the very due process that Clinton was supposed to protect and embody is flawed. I'm sorry, but I'll take the Constitution over Clinton any day.

Even more important than the technicalities of the law that Clinton broke is the covenant he broke with the American public. When we put Clinton in the White House, we trusted him to behave in a certain way--especially while in office. Whether it is fair or not, presidents in this day and age are supposed to be on the job 24 hours a day. They are supposed to show reverence towards those institutions that symbolize the greatness of American democracy and government, such as the Oval Office. Starr's report proves that Clinton doesn't have a lot of respect for that room. The report also shows (in lurid detail that most of us probably should have been protected from) that Clinton has no respect for the other rooms of the White House (especially the President's private study). At best, he misconstrued what "private" meant; at worst, he was a selfish cretin who recognized where and what he was and did it anyway.

Clinton looked us in the eye and told us that he did not have any sexual relations with Lewinsky. He told his wife and daughter that lie as well. In trying to protect his position, he embarrassed not only himself and the nation, but also those people in his private life who love him.

If someone lies to me, my opinion of that person falls. I lose my trust in him, and I try to avoid him as much as possible. That's all I want to do with Bill Clinton, and I have a hunch most people want the same.

Sumit De is a senior in Saybrook.

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