THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE: A CyberZine #10, 11 February 1999

DAVID’S NOTES:

>>> THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE staggers toward the finish-line–which, of course, is the wrong way to think of it since when this thing is “over” it will only have just begun. Next we can look forward to all the reprisals, retributions and vendettas while the Congress and the President stumble around trying to work together. As we said in J.M.E. #9, the future looks nasty.

>>> Technical Note: I get all these paragraphs neatly organized, nicely blocked and spaced and running over to the right hand side of the page before I send THE EMAILITE out. I worry though that it may not present itself on your screen as neatly as I sent it out. Maybe you could let me know how it looks when you get it.

>>> This will be, the Editor-in-Chief hopes sincerely, the pen-ultimate J.M.E. One more after this one and we are out of here, for a while at least.

>>> This time then just two excerpts from Letters to the Editor and a terrific essay by the author of ONE THOUSAND YEARS OF SOLITUDE, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which first appeared inSALON magazine on 1 February 1999. Once again OAF, Our Anonymous Friend, is the one who alerted us to this piece. This essay is longer than the J.M.E. means to publish, but it is so well written, important, interesting, sobering and moving that it deserves your careful attention.

>>> First however excerpts from a Letter to the Editor from Susan Morey who describes herself as a feisty old liberal Episcopalian who has spent every summer for the past 76 years on the shores of Caspian Lake in Greensboro, Vermont.

EXCERPTS FROM A LETTER FROM SUSAN MOREY:

I thank you muchly for your Judevine Mountain dispatches, which I have printed and filed, and I only hope that when this mess is over we can 1) get Starr as they got McCarthy  (yes, I’m old enough to have watched Walsh skewer that man) and   2) elect a decent president  next time around.

I pin my hopes on Bill Bradley. We’ve known him for years, first as a young man at the University and then as our senator [in New Jersey]. He is not only extremely intelligent; he has both experience and integrity.  And he had the guts to quit the Senate in protest a couple of years back. And he is bipartisan!  Just look at his record.

The only thing he really lacks is stage presence and a good TV personality. Until he took public speaking lessons he was impossible to watch or listen to. And he’s not much better now. What a sad commentary on  our times when a man’s public image in the media becomes the primary qualification, the necessary instrument required  for the election to the office of President of the United States.

What I’m saying is that I hope you will not stop now.  This coming election is very, very critical. At least it is  if you fear the Radical Right, both religious and political, as I do. And the problem is that they are the go-getters, the soap-boxers, the chest thumpers. And they get out the vote.

We have become too complacent and we must realize the only way to beat them is to use their tactics. I  am too old to lead a crusade but I shall (no “will”)  be able to help.

Susan Morey

[tigger1@together.net]

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>>> Second, excerpts from Jonathan Eick’s letter. [Eick is pronounced: Ike, as in Eisenhower] . Jonathan says, “I just thought it was important to let you know that all of us who fervently support impeachment aren’t racists, bigots, religious nuts or have a personal vendetta against the President.” It’s a point well taken and one we on this side tend to forget in the heat of battle.

Most importantly however what I want to say about Jonathan Eick is that I want, as all of us Old Left Wingers should want, young, articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, engaged people like Jonathan on OUR side!

EXCERPTS FROM A LETTER FROM JONATHAN EICK:

Dear David,

My mother (Marilyn) has been forwarding to me at school (I am a Freshman at Skidmore College) all your e-mail messages on impeachment. I have found them entertaining and interesting. Of course I have yet to agree with a single one, so if you don’t mind, I thought I’d share my belief.

I am part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” I am a Republican, a self-described conservative. (In fact I’m on the conservative end of conservatism). I grew up in liberal Vermont, learned politics from my liberal mother. I’m not religious, I haven’t attended church since 5th grade (and that was the Unitarian Church, religions bastion of liberalism). I just thought I’d tell you this because at the young age of 18, I have yet to find an outside influence to explain my conservative beliefs, they are all self-obtained.

I just wanted to comment on a couple things from the past e-mails.

I don’t know what kind of -ist can be applied to me, but to imply that all members of the right-wing are racist is a rash assumption. I wonder if J.C. Watts, the New republican house conference chairman (and African-American) falls into this racist category, after all, he is right-wing, pro-life and anti-Clinton.

. . .

[You say, referring to Taylor Branch’s books, ] “that John Kennedy secured protection of his own privacy and reputation by selling out Martin Luther King. F.B.I. Chief, J. Edgar Hoover, blackmailed Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy, into authorizing wire taps on King–in order to expose King’s sexual affairs, among other things–in exchange for Hoover keeping quiet about all Hoover knew of Jack Kennedy’s sexual dalliances with East German spies and Mafia babes.”

This is exactly what Clinton has done. The White House has pursued a strategy which they affectionately dub “nuts and sluts.” The goal of their strategy is to make an accuser or opponent, regardless of who it is, into a right-wing nut or a slut. They have pursued this strategy for many years. Kathleen Willey? She’s loony, she’s a slut. Monica? A slut and a stalker. Paula Jones? Slut. Lets dig up as much dirt on her sex life despite the fact that Clinton is the one being sued. I challenge you to find one Clinton accuser who’s reputation has not been tarnished in some way. Ironically, Paula Jones was allowed to dig up dirt on Clinton’s past sex life to try and establish a pattern of Sexual Harassment because of a law which Clinton championed and signed. Before Clinton a defendant’s past sex life had little relevance in a sexual-harassment lawsuit. Thanks to Clinton’s championing women’s rights, Paula Jones was allowed to look into his sex life.

A final note. I’m conservative, but I think the Jones lawsuit was frivolous and should not have been allowed to go forward. I’m conservative, but I absolutely detest a lot of house Republicans (Senate Republicans too), and I hate the house Republican leadership (Dick Armey? Newt Gingrich?) we can do better, much better. I have felt “burned” as Americans followed Clinton blindly (this year’s budget proposal scam is a topic for another day). But none of these things change the fact that Clinton has committed perjury and obstruction of justice, crimes which carry heavier criminal penalties than bribery, which is explicitly stated as a removable offense in the constitution. People flaunting opinion polls means nothing to me because at no point in the Nixon presidency did an opinion poll show he should be removed. Also if you want to bring polls into it, only 20% of Americans say they trust Clinton, and only 18% find him to be a good moral leader. Of course I guess you believe that morals and trust are a frivolous thing because none other than Ken Starr was responsible (in part) for highlighting Clinton’s moral failures and lying. I am sick of people discussing this as not being a “high crime or misdemeanor” when they have no clue what the term means. It is not a criminal term. Americans have been impeached in the past for such things as “excessive drinking” and “consorting with harlots.” If you look at the historical roots of the term (it is believed to have first been crafted in England in 1380), a high crime or misdemeanor is usually not a criminal offense, but a violation of the public trust, or some other small moral failing. In fact many people have been removed for high crimes and misdemeanors simply for appointing corrupt or unqualified people. (Web Hubbell now in jail, Bruce Babbit under investigation, Henry Ciseneros investigated…the list could go on for a page.)

I’ve clearly written too much already, but I wanted to let you, and perhaps your other readers also, that an 18 year old college student like me, at a liberal college, from a liberal state and liberal parents who is not beholden to religion can think that what Clinton did is not only wrong, but that it warrants conviction and removal.

Thanks for your time,

Jon Eick, Skidmore College ’02

j_eick@skidmore.edu

>>> Finally, here’s the J.M.E #10 feature essay:

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ ON BILL CLINTON

Translated by Alastair Reid

The first thing you notice about William Jefferson Clinton is how tall he is. The second is the seductive power he has of making you feel, from the first moment of meeting, that he is someone you know well. The third is his sharp intelligence, which allows you to speak to him about anything at all, even the prickliest topics, provided you know when to bring it up.

Even so, someone not enamored of him forewarned me: “The dangerous thing about these gifts is that Clinton uses them to make you feel that nothing could interest him more than what you are saying to him.”

I met him first at a dinner given by William Styron in his summer house on Martha’s Vineyard in August 1995. During his first campaign, Clinton had mentioned that his favorite book was “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” I said at the time – and I was quoted in print – that I thought he had said it simply to pull in the Latin vote. He had not forgotten – after greeting me on Martha’s Vineyard, he at once assured me that what he said had been quite sincere.

Carlos Fuentes and I have good reason for considering that evening as a whole chapter in our memoirs. From the beginning, we were disarmed by the interest, respect and humor with which he listened to us, treating our words as if they were gold dust.

His mood corresponded with his appearance. His hair was short, like a scrubbing brush, his skin tanned – he had the healthy and almost insolent look of a sailor ashore, and he was wearing a college sweat shirt with some logo on the chest. At 49, he looked like an exuberant survivor of the generation of ’68, who had smoked marijuana, knew the Beatles by heart and had demonstrated against the Vietnam War.

Dinner began at 8, with some 14 guests around the table, and lasted until midnight. Bit by bit, the conversation came down to a kind of literary round table involving the president and the three writers. The first topic to come up was the forthcoming Summit of the Americas. Clinton had wanted it held in Miami, where it did take place. Carlos Fuentes considered that New Orleans or Los Angeles had stronger historical claims, and he and I argued strongly for them until it became clear that the president had no intention of changing his plans because he was counting on reelection support from Miami.

“Forget the votes, Mr. President,” Carlos said to him. “Lose Florida and make history.”

That phrase set the tone. When we spoke of the problems of narco-traffic, the president heard me out generously. “Thirty million drug addicts in the U.S. go to show that the North American mafia are more powerful than those in Colombia, and the authorities much more corrupt.” When I spoke to him about relations with Cuba, he seemed even more receptive. “If Fidel and you could sit and talk face to face, all problems would completely disappear.”

When we talked about Latin America in general, we realized that he was much more interested than we had supposed, although he lacked some essential background. When the conversation seemed to stiffen a bit, we asked him what his favorite movie was, and he answered “High Noon,” by Fred Zinneman, whom he had recently honored in London. When we asked him what he was reading, he sighed and mentioned a book on the economic wars of the future, author and title unknown to me.

“Better to read ‘Don Quixote,'” I said to him. “Everything’s in there.”

Now, the ‘Quixote’ is a book that is not read nearly as much as is claimed, although very few will admit to not having read it. With two or three quotes, Clinton showed that he knew it very well indeed. Responding, he asked us what our favorite books were. Styron said his was “Huckleberry Finn.”

I would have said “Oedipus Rex,” which has been my bed table book for the last 20 years, but I named “The Count of Monte Cristo,” mainly for reasons of technique, which I had some trouble explaining.

Clinton said his was the “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,” and Carlos Fuentes stuck loyally to “Absalom, Absalom,” Faulkner’s stellar novel, no question, although others would choose “Light in August” for purely personal reasons. Clinton, in homage to Faulkner, got to his feet and, pacing around the table, recited from memory Benji’s monologue, the most thrilling passage, and perhaps the most hermetic, from “The Sound and the Fury.”

Faulkner got us to talking about the affinities between Caribbean writers and the cluster of great Southern novelists in the United States. It made much more sense to us to think of the Caribbean not as a geographical region surrounded by its sea but as a much wider historical and cultural belt stretching from the north of Brazil to the Mississippi Basin.

Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck and so many others would then be just as Caribbean as Jorge Amado and Derek Walcott. Clinton, born and raised in Arkansas, a Southern state, applauded the notion and professed himself happy to be a Caribbean.

It was close to midnight, and he had to break off the conversation to take an urgent call from Gerry Adams, to whom at that moment he gave the authority to campaign and raise funds in the United States for peace in Northern Ireland. That should have been the ending to an unforgettable evening, but Carlos Fuentes took it further by asking the president who he thought of as his enemies. His reply was immediate and abrupt: “My only enemy is right-wing religious fundamentalism.” That pronouncement ended the evening.

The other times I saw him, in public or in private, I had the same impression as I had that first time. Bill Clinton was the complete opposite of the idea Latin Americans have of presidents of the United States.

Given all that, does it seem right that this exceptional human being should be prevented from fulfilling his historical destiny simply because he was unable to find a private place to make love? That is just what happened. The most powerful man in the world was kept from consummating his secret passions by the invisible presence of a Secret Service that served as much to restrain as to protect. There are no curtains on the Oval Office windows, no bolt on the door of the president’s private bathroom. The vase of flowers that appears behind the president in photographs of him at his desk has been claimed by the press to be a hiding-place for microphones to consecrate the mysteries of presidential audiences.

Even sadder, however, is the fact that the president only wanted to do what the run of men have done in private with their women from the beginning of the world, and a Puritan stolidity not only impeded him, but even denied him the right to deny it. Jonas invented the literature of fiction when he convinced his wife that his homecoming was three days late because a whale had swallowed him. Sheltering behind that ancient argument, Clinton denied having any sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, and denied it with his head held high, like any self-respecting unfaithful husband. In the end, his personal drama is a purely domestic matter, between himself and Hillary, and she has stood by him in the eyes of the world with Homeric dignity.

It is one thing to lie in order to deceive; but it is quite another to conceal truths in order to protect that mythical dimension of human existence that is private life. Quite rightly, no one is obliged to give evidence against himself. For having persisted in his first denials, Clinton would have been prosecuted in any case – that’s what it was about – but it is much more dignified to perjure oneself defending the privacy of the heart than to be absolved at the expense of love.

Disastrously, with the same insistence with which he had denied blame, he later admitted it and went on admitting it over all the media, written, visual and spoken, to the point of humiliation – a fatal error in an uncertain lover, whose secret life will go into the history books not for having made love badly but for having made it a lot less glorious than it should be.

Ludicrously, he submitted to oral sex while he talked on the telephone with a senator. He supplanted himself with a frigid cigar. He naturally used all kinds of tricks of avoidance, but the more he tried the more his inquisitors came up with evidence against him, for Puritanism is insatiable and feeds on its own excrement. It has been a vast and sinister conspiracy of fanatics aimed at the personal destruction of a political adversary whose stature they could not abide. The method was the criminal use of justice by a fundamentalist prosecutor called Kenneth Starr, whose fierce and salacious questioning seemed to excite these fanatics to the point of orgasm.

The Bill Clinton we met some four months ago, at a gala dinner in the White House for Andres Pastrana, president of Colombia, seemed quite different – no longer the open-minded academic of Martha’s Vineyard, but someone under sentence, thinner and uncertain, who could not conceal with a professional smile an organic weariness like the metal fatigue that destroys planes. Some days before, at a press dinner with Katharine Graham, the golden woman of the Washington Post, someone had remarked that, judging by the trials of Clinton, the United States still seemed to be the country of Nathaniel Hawthorne. That night in the White House, I realized just what that meant.

The reference was to the great American novelist of last century, who denounced in his work the horrors of New England fundamentalism, where the witches of Salem were burned alive. His main novel, “The Scarlet Letter,” is the drama of Hester Prynne, a young married woman who bore a child in secret by another man. A Kenneth Starr of the day condemned her to wear a penitent’s shirt bearing the letter “A” of the Puritan code, the color and smell of blood.

An agent of the order followed her everywhere beating a drum so that pedestrians could keep out of her way. The ending must surely keep prosecutor Starr awake, for the secret father of Hester’s child turned out to be a minister of the cult that made a martyr of her. The method and the morality of the procedures were essentially the same. When Clinton’s enemies failed to find what they needed to bring him down, they hounded him with mined interrogations until they trapped him here and there in minor inconsistencies. Then they forced him to accuse himself in public, and to apologize for things he had not even done, live, using the technology of universal information that is nothing more than a trimillennial version of the drums that persecuted Hester Prynne.

From the prosecutor’s questions, cunning and concupiscent, even small children became aware of the lies their parents told to keep from them how they came into being. Suffering from metal fatigue, Clinton committed the unpardonable folly of violently punishing an invented enemy 5,397 nautical miles from the White House, to distract attention from his personal plight.

Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature and a great writer of this agonizing century, summed it up in one inspired phrase: “They treated him like a black president.”

SALON © Feb. 1, 1999

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Coming in the Final J.M.E.: How this all began, where the name comes from, why the Editor got so involved and a final word about the amazing diversity of the subscribers to THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE.