Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I Believe

A few (very few) people have emailed to say that they have no recollection of Michael Kelly's "I Believe" column. I'm not sure if this is some kind of clever reference to Clinton's difficulties "recollecting," or whether it's simply that people don't remember the column.

Anyway, since it may well be the best newspaper column ever written, I reprint it here in full. It came out just after the Monica Lewinsky story broke and Clinton denied "having sex with that woman."

I BELIEVE by Michael Kelly.

I believe the president. I have always believed him. I believed him when he said he had never been drafted in the Vietnam War and I believed him when he said he had forgotten to mention that he had been drafted in the Vietnam War. I believed him when he said he hadn't had sex with Gennifer Flowers and I believe him now, when he reportedly says he did. I believe the president did not rent out the Lincoln Bedroom, did not sell access to himself and the vice president to hundreds of well-heeled special pleaders and did not supervise the largest, most systematic money-laundering operation in campaign finance history, collecting more than $3 million in illegal and improper donations. I believe that Charlie Trie and James Riady were motivated by nothing but patriotism for their adopted country.

I believed Vice President Gore when he said that he had made dunning calls to political contributors "on a few occasions" from his White House office, and I believed him when he said that, actually, "a few" meant 46. I believe in no controlling legal authority.

I believe Bruce Babbitt when he says that the $286,000 contributed to the DNC by Indian tribes opposed to granting a casino license to rival tribes had nothing to do with his denial of the license. I believed the secretary when he said that he had not been instructed in this matter by then-White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes. I believed him when he said later that he had told lobbyist and friend Paul Eckstein that Ickes had told him to move on the casino decision, but that he had been lying to Eckstein. I agree with the secretary that it is an outrage that anyone would question his integrity.

I believe in the Clinton Standard of adherence to the nation's campaign finance and bribery laws, enunciated by the president on March 7, 1997: "I don't believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution." I note with approval the use of the word "evidence" and also the use of the word "solely." I believe that it is proper to change government policy to address the concerns of people who have given the president money, aslong as nobody can find evidence of this being the sole reason.

I believe the president has lived up to his promise to preside over the most ethical administration in American history. I believe that indicted former agriculture secretary Mike Espy did not accept $35,000 in illegal favors from Tyson Foods and other regulated businesses. I believe that indicted former housing secretary Henry Cisneros did not lie to the FBI and tell others to lie to cover up $250,000 in blackmail payments to his former mistress. I believe that convicted former associate attorney general Webster Hubbell was not involved in the obstruction of justice when the president's minions arranged for Hubbell to receive $400,000 in sweetheart consulting deals at a time when he was reneging on his promise to cooperate with Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation.

I believe Paula Jones is a cheap tramp who was asking for it. I believe Kathleen Willey is a cheap tramp who was asking for it. I believe Monica Lewinsky is a cheap tramp who was asking for it.

I believe Lewinsky was fantasizing in her 20 hours of taped conversation in which she reportedly detailed her sexual relationship with the president and begged Linda Tripp to join her in lying about the relationship. I believe that any gifts, correspondence, telephone calls and the 37 post-employment White House visits that may have passed between Lewinsky and the president are evidence only of a platonic relationship; such innocent intimate friendships are quite common between middle-aged married men and young single women, and also between presidents of the United States and White House interns.

I see nothing suspicious in the report that the president's intimate, Vernon Jordan, arranged a $40,000-per-year job for Lewinsky shortly after she signed but before she filed an affidavit saying she had not had sex with the president. Nor do I read anything into the fact that the ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, visited Lewinsky at the Watergate to offer her a job. I believe the instructions Lewinsky gave Tripp informing her on how to properly perjure herself in the Willey

I believe that The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS and NPR are all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Especially NPR.