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Editorial: The great American ending to a presidential drama

Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 14, 1999
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What a fitting punch line to our nation's running presidential joke.

Descending from the remote world of Congress and dusty threats of impeachment and censure, Clinton's story ends with a common penalty that countless Americans have experienced or seen played out in television dramas of the lowest of the low, or the mightiest of the high.

Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled Monday to hold President Bill Clinton in contempt of court for his "intentionally false" statements under oath in the Paula Jones case. If that mundane denouement says anything, it speaks to the symbolic leveling across class and power lines.

President Clinton illustrated that disrespecting the law crosses all class and power lines, as does the commonplace sexual motivation for the act. Of course, his illustration takes the point to the absurd, but that is another matter altogether.

The contempt ruling underscores the leveling action, at least that under the law. People complain about class differences in society, and how the rich and powerful are able to buck the system. But this isn't necessarily true. Nixon was caught and forced to resign. The Keating Five went to prison. Former Senator Bob Packwood had to resign because of sexual harassment. And now Clinton has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars - some of them his own - defending himself against Paula Jones, Whitewater, et al.

And so it ends with a whimper, not a bang. The denouement for the leader of the free world is not greater than that for any other barrister a shade smarmier than most.

And as would end for a lawyer on the wrong side of the law, a report has been sent to the disciplinary committee of the Arkansas Bar, which could disbar Clinton for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation."

This may prompt action on a complaint filed last summer by the Southeastern Legal Foundation asking that Clinton be disbarred.

In the end, the mundanity of it all may be the greatest punishment for the president, and a great boon for this nation of the common man. It speaks of a social truth that should resonate past memories of bipartisan bickering and a split Congress.