Summer Scandal: Turtles, Dogs and Bill Clinton

The year was 1992 and the venue was a banquet hall deep in Southern Illinois. The speaker was Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, who was charming yellow-dog Democrats into making him their candidate for president.

"If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know somebody put it there," Clinton said in his speech.

On the plane back to Chicago, I was still thinking about turtles and what the heck Clinton meant. Soon I began thinking about dogs.

The seats directly across from me were empty and just behind them were two female reporters from the Los Angeles Times. Clinton, strolling down the aisle, crawled into the empty space in front of the West Coast writers and began chatting them up.

As I rapped fast at my laptop (they only had about an hour's juice back then), I took note of candidate Clinton. It wasn't his lengthy stay or his charming way; it was his left foot. With his head turned toward the women and his elbows over the seat, that foot twitched and kicked non-stop.

It reminded me of something: His foot moved with the same pulsating, inner-driven rhythm that I saw in the tail of our yellow Lab, Max, when greeting his black Lab girl friend, the now-departed Minnie. Which led me to remark to myself that we're all animals of one sort or another, especially when it comes to sex.

Politicians, of course, are a breed unlike most. Earthy tales abound in history from the accounts of Aztec rulers and polygamous Mormons to modern White House denizens. (I recall the adviser to a fledgling Republican candidate for governor who told me off the record that his toughest task was conditioning the young politician not to turn back for a glance when an attractive woman passed by.)

This is not, by the way, an argument to absolve Bill Clinton of the sins he confessed to the nation this week. The sight of the free world's leader groveling was not pretty. He might as well have been standing there in a hair shirt and boxers with monkey faces. We wouldn't blame Hillary for delivering one upside his head with a frying pan, as long as it's aluminum.

But enough is enough is enough. It endangers all of us when the unbalanced in this world see the United States so distracted by a tawdry sex scandal that they feel they can set off bombs (Africa and Ireland) or flaunt the United Nations (Iraq) or fiddle with nuclear weapons (India and Pakistan.) That's not to mention the economic uncertainties (Asia and Russia) sucking at the stock market and diminishing our nest eggs.

We've stood too long wondering about that turtle on a fence post while the world kept going in scary directions. (Did you know that North America used to be called Turtle Island?)

Bill Clinton put that turtle up there, that's true. But it's time for us to let it go. We are a nation of laws, but we also are a nation of good sense.

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VolumeVI Number 33
August 20-26, 1998
New Bay Times

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