Sunday, January 25, 1998
Does Clinton's personal life
really matter?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Let us revisit the village.

Our chief is in trouble. Very big trouble.

President Clinton is accused of having a sexual liaison with a young White House intern, then trying to get her to lie about it under oath. He denies it. And he could be telling the truth, of course.

He has said firmly that he did not have an ''improper sexual relationship'' with Monica Lewinsky. This is the man who smoked marijuana but ''didn't inhale.'' So maybe he means that it was sexual but not improper. Or improper but not sexual.

Everyone knows he is guilty of being a lawyer.

Heartbreak of satyriasis

Even those who want to believe he is not only technically but genuinely innocent of the charges surely must be troubled by the Washington Post report that the president admitted having an affair during the 1970s with Gennifer Flowers, a Little Rock, Ark., lounge singer.

We remember him on 60 Minutes after the Super Bowl six years ago. Ms. Flowers was insisting she and Mr. Clinton had a 12-year extramarital love affair. ''That allegation is false,'' he said firmly. Maybe he meant that he didn't love her, so it was not a love affair. Or maybe it was only for 11 years and 11 months.

Anyway, some of us villagers are beginning to suspect the chief is suffering from the heartbreak of satyriasis. Some of us - and you will pardon me if this sounds impossibly square - are beginning to wonder if he is setting a very good example for the village children.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's book It Takes a Village is about the responsibility each of us has for the nation's children. ''From the moment they are born,'' Mrs. Clinton wrote, ''children depend on a host of other 'grown-ups' - grandparents, neighbors, teachers, ministers, employers, political leaders and untold others who touch their lives directly and indirectly.''

She presents compelling arguments that children are formally and informally reared by all the adults in their world - not just their parents - often illustrating with charming accounts of the Clintons' experiences with their daughter, Chelsea.

Americans might be having a hard time deciding how they feel about Mr. Clinton as chief executive officer of the United States, but I'll bet nearly 100 percent of us would notice that he and his wife are crazy about their daughter.

Mrs. Clinton writes of her own childhood and spiritual life, the importance of her church to her as she was growing up in suburban Chicago. Much of her book centers around her upbringing and her faith:

''By putting spiritual values in action, adults show children that they are not just for church or home but are to be brought into the world, used to make the village a better place.''

Success is everything

Our village right now is a rather prosperous place, and the villagers are worried about what might happen to them if we have to find a new chief. And many people are convinced that the president's personal life is irrelevant.

More than 60 percent of Americans approve of the way he is doing his job, according to the most recent polls. ''I think he is a good president,'' a friend said to me. ''And I don't think any of this other stuff matters.''

It matters. It matters if the president of the United States is sleazy. If it doesn't, then we grown-up villagers are telling our kids that you can have the morals of a mink as long as you succeed at your job.

It's not hard to imagine what a philandering husband might say to his wife when he's caught.

She meant nothing to me.

It was a long time ago.

I was under a lot of pressure.

Six years ago, Mr. Clinton told a 60 Minutes audience that he ''caused pain in my marriage.''

I wonder what he tells Chelsea.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.