On the 26th of January 1998, in a notorious but memorable pithy address broadcast on live television, millions across the globe heard the patently flustered Bill Clinton uttering the above words with the unambiguous air of moral and authoritative conviction.
I recall seeing him, blushing scarlet from a deserved avalanche of public opprobrium, flashing a chilling stare at his audience. Both hands solidly resting on the lectern.
Like an incensed general issuing a precursive signal to his firing squad to rain a fusillade of bullets on disgraced mutinous troops, he shook his head while indignantly dangling his index finger. Clinton asserted, “I’m gonna say this again, I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” In other words, ‘Let these words sink in.’
He said these words after his amatory antics with Lewinsky, then a 22-year old White House intern. Prior to that, Clinton had uttered many profound positive statements, which would have been tweetable had Tweeter not been launched eight years later.
However, it is this unfortunate fourteen-word phrase that will forever be riveted to his legacy. Nonchalantly dismissive of an accusation that hovered like an albatross around his neck, Clinton, 27 years Lewinsky’s senior, concluded, “Now, I need to go back to work for the American people.” In other words, ‘I have more important stuff to attend to.’
Clinton ultimately fell on his sword; he was impeached. Though he was exonerated, this permanent blotch on his escutcheon is bound to follow him into his place of interment. History has an astonishing way of repeating itself. Teetering on the verge of impeachment, another prominent democrat’s political career is on life-support, contending with a torrent of unrelenting criticism for alleged sexual misconduct. In his defense, which sounds ominously evocative of Clinton’s, Governor Cuomo maintained, “I never touched anyone inappropriately.”
Trapped by unrestrained ambition, politicians tend to pay spasmodic lip service to honesty.
Political infamy is anchored on the bedrock of compromised integrity. Politicians and honesty are not always the best of chums. Typically, they resemble a pair of infinite parallel lines, lying yardarm-to-yardarm, but running full-throttle in opposite directions.
I take umbrage at blanket statements owing to their inherent weakness in credulously converting aphorisms into absolute truths. However, Sadique Kebonang’s last week’s article entitled, “My Life in Politics and Four Presidents,” intrigued me.
Seemingly endowed with carte blanche, the man exceled in casually romancing his readers with a wild toddler-style but gloriously gripping temper tantrum! Eruptive cackles occasioned by Kebonang’s temerity in aggressively shining a damning spotlight on politicians shook my molars; “If you want to know people’s characters, join politics, a place where the devil resides. Politicians speak with forked tongues. Betrayal…comes natural to them.”
Explicit deep-seated disdain for politicians! What I found amusing is the apparent sense of fulfilment enjoyed by this untethered consummate politician and his phenomenal philosophical eloquence in crafting elegantly phrased but sharp-witted emotionally trenchant observations aimed at pouring scorn on his kissing kin. I wouldn’t be surprised if people who read his article are anxiously awaiting juicy morsels.
A blow-by-blow, unbowdlerised tell-all sequel! Particularly after reveling in the vicarious pleasure of captivating sneak peek pyromaniacal glimpses into an autobiography likely to spark unprecedented fears that could flare into a catastrophic political conflagration.
Kebonang understands that we would connect the dots, and infer, he has quit the clownage and cannot be associated with this ‘despicable’ fold. With his free-spirited literary acumen, Kebonang played the devil with the emotions of compromised politicians.
This might have triggered solitary sniffling moments, the poor folks morbidly tossed into dizzying introspective journeys! I can’t help but wonder if an excruciating burning driblet is inching its way down, imperceptibly moisturising the thighs of some prominent folks in a hair-curling expectation of one or more incidents of dignity-impairing exposé.
Kebonang reminded me of Putin’s response to Biden’s assertion that he is a murderer. In his stereotypical supercilious demeanour, with caustic satirical wit, Putin intoned, “When we assess other people…we always…look in the mirror…see ourselves there because we…attribute to other people…what we essentially are.”
Strip off the biting sarcasm, and you’d almost hear Putin explicitly decrying, ‘Biden, you’re a dishonest man. In me, you disingenuously see yourself.’
Some people have no qualms with politicians who effortlessly twist the truth to fit their phony agenda. The improbity scale is skewed in favour of politicians. A political lie similar to one that would unsettle the gravitas of a corporate leader is often considered the touchstone of a bold strategic move.
On the loose is a pervasive toxic bubble of inherent willingness to muddy the waters of probity by pushing for the illogical conflation of graphic dishonesty with powerful political interventions. A desperate move to confer a sacred-cow status on individuals whose peccancy can only enable them to draw a crooked line with a ruler!
At the 1988 Republican National Convention, while accepting nomination for the presidency, George Bush spun the marshmallowy rhetoric, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” only to somersault two years later. Cuomo perceptively coined this insightful exposition, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” In 2007, Malema made no bones about his unconditional fondness for Zuma.
He smarmily averred, “I would kill for Zuma.” Four years later, when the chips were down for Zuma, with the cunning of a fox, Malema viciously clutched the shaft of the spear as he bayed for his idol’s blood.
He gleefully tossed Zuma under the bus as he imperiously declared, “There are no permanent friends in politics.”
Shouldn’t political gimmicks be played within the inviolable precincts of candour and rectitude? In all material respects, the reality is, political truth is often smoking mirrors. Profoundly situational in form and function! I have deliberately resisted the temptation to give local examples of folks who have used their political halo to drum up support for dishonest practices. I leave it to you, if it so tickles your fancy, to reflect on that.