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On the Immediate Aftermath of the Starr Report

by Dr. Susan Block

September 12, 1998: Now that the Starr Report has been released, like a shot of hot semen that lands in your eye or perhaps up your nose, I just want to take a little credit for pegging this one eight months ago. I called Ken Starr a Pornographer back in January, and guess what: Now everyone is calling Ken a pornographer! Well, not everyone. Not Tom De Lay, Orrin Hatch, Jesse Helms, Bob Barr, Jerry Falwell, Arianna Huffington, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, or the rest of the Republican Presidential Lynch Mob. But any Democrat or Independent or Reasonable Person can see that the much-ballyhooed, multi-boxed Report from the Independent Counsel revolves around a solid core of pure, mostly gratuitous pornography. 

So, excuse me for gloating, but I was right. Ken Starr is a pornographer. He’s always been a pornographer, since he was a frustrated, sin-obsessed preacher’s son in Texas; he’s just found his ultimate venue.

Like a stripper stepping out onto the stage, the Starr Report exposed itself on the Internet
Some people had warned me: You’d better not attack Judge Starr like that! He’s a brilliant man of unassailable integrity, he’s probably coming up with some awful, violent, treasonous crime committed by or on behalf of Bill Clinton. The sex is just the surface, they warned. This Starr Report is going to be devastating. It will turn the polls on their head, they said Then it happened. Friday, September 11, 1998, like a stripper stepping out onto the stage, the Starr Report exposed itself on the Internet, presented by Congress (whose members have the nerve to wring their hypocritical hands over porn being accessible in cyberspace!). And what did it contain? Sex with a capital X: pursuing sex, having sex, resisting sex, concealing sex and, ultimately, revealing sex. It was lurid, it was detailed, it was breathless in a Melrose Placey way, and it was undoubtedly pornographic. So, what happened to the polls? The president’s job approval rating went up two points. 

So did mine. That evening, I printed out the Report and was wading through the "good parts" while simultaneously cruising the TV to gauge the reaction of the chattering classes, when suddenly I got a call from NBC-TV. Patrick Healy (who’d covered my Boobie Award for "Best National Pornography Production" to a Ken Starr lookalike) was on the line, asking me to join the chatterers--could I be ready in an hour? Quick as an Oval Office tryst, I slipped out of my slinky silk PJ’s and put on my conservative Presidential suit with the gold stars (hey, if Ken Starr can be a pornographer, I can put on a suit!). I chattered for the camera about the Starr Report, priding myself on being the first (that I know of) to call Starr a pornographer, but admitting I couldn’t have predicted that the United States Congress would wind up being porn distributors! I’m all for pornography, but shouldn’t it be a private sector industry?

The part of my interview that NBC cut was where I said that Starr may be a master pornographer, and we the American people may enjoy pornography—that’s why the ratings are so high--but we’re not suckers for it. We the people have sent a message through the polls, to our leaders, to the media and to the world: We like sex! We don’t like government agents investigating our sex lives. We understand that sex can be complex. We know that to demand publicly displayed sexual perfection from our leaders will leave us with a very poor selection of leaders. And we will not be fooled into dumping a democratically elected president by a leaky faucet or a sudden tsunami of pornography. Not that we don’t like pornography; we just won’t be fooled by it. Not so far.

I also would like to claim credit for predicting something else: When Bill Clinton was at his nadir last month, I suspected he would gain strength from adversity, and use this unconscionable, unprecedented investigation into his sex life as a platform to heal the country, to help us to become a more sexually tolerant, understanding, forgiving, sophisticated, honest society—which is exactly what the Starr Brigade and all the right-wing fundamentalist zealots in this country will do anything to stop. 

Sexual transgressions among consenting adults are, essentially, matters of religious morality
Yes, he was shaky and angry on his August 17 mea culpa, and well he should have been, considering what he’d been through that day and what he was being forced to talk about. But now, the Comeback Kid is getting his groove back. Whether it was "genuine" or political, his address to that gathering of religious leaders was sublime. Almost made me want to get religion! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, and the Lady! I have sinned! Haven’t we all. Talking with all those priests and rabbis, mullahs and ministers, he was Billy Jeff at his best. A sexual sinner who yearns to be of service to the people (and what better public servant could we have?). His address also subtly reminded us that sexual transgressions among consenting adults are, essentially, matters of religious morality, not political statesmanship. At least not here in America where we’re supposed to have a separation of Church and State. Our president is not a pope or ayatollah, and he isn’t elected or expected to be a sexual saint. 

Look at the polls, see the truth. The majority of Americans have moved beyond America’s Puritan past. We are a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-sexual nation.
Moreover…the times, they are a’changing…Something is happening, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Starr? Look at the polls, see the truth. The majority of Americans have moved beyond America’s Puritan past. We are a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-sexual nation. Amen and Awomen too! 

So, William Jefferson Clinton is the Sex President. And yes, we Baby Boomers are kind of embarrassed about that, but many of us are secretly or, in my case, not so secretly proud of him. That doesn’t mean we approve of him cheating or lying; most of us don’t. We do approve of him being sexual. We do approve of him channeling his sex drive into consensual sex (albeit furtive, quicky sex), rather than directing it into bombing the crap out of some hapless foreign country or burglarizing the Republicans. We do approve of the fact that a 4½ year, $40 million investigation only yielded 36 boxes worth of mostly pornographic supporting evidence for a silly sexual dalliance and a married man’s clumsy attempts to conceal it as his bratty, pouty paramour finds ways to reveal it. 

We don’t approve of him getting caught in a lie, of course. But we do approve of him not getting caught in a lie about taxes (Bush) or a lie about selling arms to Iran (Reagan) or a lie about burglary (Nixon) or a lie about the Vietnam War (Johnson), but only getting caught in a lie about sex. We do approve of most of his policies that have led to a greater era of peace, prosperity, tolerance, and advances for women and minorities than we’ve seen in decades. 

I’m still mad at Bill for having fired Dr. Joycelyn Elders (I bet now he wishes he’d followed her sage safe-sex advice and just masturbated), and I wish he’d lighten up on that futile, destructive War on Drugs, and I hate the way his hair looks, but hey, nobody’s perfect. And nobody is sexually perfect. As a sex therapist, let me say that again: Nobody is sexually perfect. Least of all, politicians. 

According to the presidential job approval polls that have barely fluctuated since Starr’s first leaks, that’s what the majority of the American people know and accept. And that’s what our Republican Congress seems to almost willfully ignore as they press on with their 36 sacred boxes of pornography to the solemn, nationally wrenching task of impeachment. 

And now what? The print version didn’t sink him--let’s try video?