Mouthful of power

Olympic Hotel hallway, downtown Seattle, November 1961: "Sometime after Kennedy was back," Seymour Hersh writes in The Dark Side of Camelot, Secret Serviceman Larry Newman "heard 'a commotion up at the elevator.' A local Democratic sheriff 'had come out of the elevator with two hookers and was bringing them down toward the president's suite. I stopped the man, and he was loudly proclaiming that the two girls were for the president's suite.' The sheriff's party included a group of local policemen who had helped to provide security for Kennedy's speech. It was clear, Newman told me, that the sheriff and the policemen knew the women and knew they were 'high-class call girls.' Before long [presidential aide] Dave Powers came out of the suite. The sheriff tried to walk inside with the two women, but Powers 'cut him off,' Newman recalled, 'thanked him for bringing the girls up, and took them into the suite.' . . . Before leaving the floor, the sheriff officiously warned the two women that 'if any word of this night gets out, I'll see that you both go to Steilacoom [a state mental hospital] and never get out'. . .

"'What I saw in Seattle became commonplace to me and the other agents when we were on the road,'" said John F. Kennedy's federal bodyguard, on the record.

As I read this to someone at the bar, he says, "Wonderful. I love it. We're part of a great oral history. Sex and politics. More, more."

You can go back to Jefferson and his slaves and then follow the flow of hot blood through the connecting arteries of early presidents, to Warren G. Harding who said, "If I was a woman I'd be pregnant all the time," to the dallying FDR and Eisenhower, to JFK who died with venereal disease, to George Bush who had the affair with a vice presidential staffer who looked like Barbara, to Clinton the high-school-like kid who wouldn't go all the way, to the "youthful indiscretions" of legislators who lied about them and now sit in moral judgment, and you have one of two things politicians are most remembered for—sex—the other being war.

"I keep hearing, 'Stop talking about Clinton and let Congress get back to work,'" says the one next to me at the bar in Pike Place. "I say keep going. The budget? I want to hear about this girl with a mouthful of power."

The president will be sentenced to life with Hillary but of course not impeached—the Senate, the ultimate deciding body, will never muster the two-thirds vote. And though the Lewinsky scandal has staled with the nasty overkill of Marquis de Starr, expect fresh titillation from the House panel. A new spin is required if Republicans are to make internal sex comparable to even one Gordon Liddy murder plot.

And do not believe the polls; the country is lying—we'll be watching, still wondering how a man who doesn't complete can walk around like that all day. Don't worry about the kids, either. They have heard the words before and are unharmed. The ultimate message they are given is a negative: Cheat in office and your legacy is not as legendary leader but as history's punch line. The Clinton lying and parsing will be forgotten. (Walk into any courtroom and in that instant you'll find someone lying under oath who will never be prosecuted for it.) Not so the Clinton image, forever doomed to double entendre. The other day in a serious moment on TV he said, "It is hard . . . " and several people looked down.

This is the fate of public sexers: lifetime pun-ishment. Quick: the name "Packwood." Who do you see? A man who supported women's rights or looked down their dresses? "Brock Adams." Was he prosecutor and US senator or accused rapist? "Lowry." Democratic governor or liberal groper? Even when you beat the charge, as Brown, the Pierce County Council member, did of soliciting a prostitute last year, some won't believe it: Not guilty? said his opponent. "So was O.J."

Of course if we want our public officials to stop having sex with strangers, we can ordain it. Political prankster Red Kelly suggests we give every candidate a hormone test. But a simple oath will do:

"I swear, subject to instant automatic recall and lasting ridicule, not to have sex in any way that adversely affects my responsibilities of office." There you go.

The italicized part, by the way, was the suggestion of the guy next to me. "Without the caveat," he says, "who would run?"

 
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