Who says vibrant political debate isn’t alive and well in America? Your reactions to my comments fell on both sides, vaguely in line with the latest polling numbers:

“Today’s article is as poorly reasoned as any defense of President Clinton that I have read. But then arguments by analogy, such as you have made, will almost always disappoint. The differences between the alleged perjury of the tobacco executives and the President’s alleged perjury are too many to detail in one short message. Here’s the obvious one. The President is elected to lead the nation and is the primary agent of law enforcement. When he broke the law and lied to the electorate, he destroyed the trust that is the very foundation of the office. Tobacco executives do not possess the same public trust and so should not necessarily be held to the same standard. One can reasonably argue that they should or should not be held accountable, but one cannot reasonably argue that they must be held to the same standard. You will find that arguments based in logic or evidence serve you better than such a weak comparison.” – Tim Lash

“This is the greatest thing you’ve ever written. Here’s another one: Why is it always the same people that claim to be against regulations (of, say, guns) that go to such great lengths to regulate what we can see and hear? I don’t get it. I thought they hated regulations. I thought regulations were for liberals. Right? Unless, of course, we’re talking about a radio show with a few dirty words, or a movie with a little too much of that dirty-birdy ‘sex’ stuff. Then, I hear nothing from these guys about ‘imposing on personal freedoms.’ Then, it’s just fine to regulate and impose. I guess a gun, which can blow a bunch of people’s heads off, is of far less danger than a film projected from a wall. I guess guns don’t kill people, Howard Stern kills people. I guess, maybe this is a blatant double standard. What a shock.” – Joshua Rasiel

“What enrages me about the Bill/Monica ‘thing’ is the flagrant hypocrisy of both the press and you liberals concerning the sexual harrassment aspects of it all! Remember the feminazis outrage during the Thomas hearings, the Packwood lynching, and the drill instructor’s execution? We conservative males just ‘didn’t get it!’ But it sure is quiet now, isn’t it, from these same folks! Now it’s ‘consensual sex is ok’ (so was the drill instructors), now it’s ‘a private matter, we don’t need to know!’ It’s enough to make me want to throw up!” – Mark D. Witte

A.T.: Before you throw up, Mark, bear in mind that most of us liberals think Clinton should be the first president in the nation’s history to be censured. (Andrew Jackson was censured, but later the censure was repealed.) That’s not entirely nothing.

“I now better understand my inclination (along with millions of other Americans) to support President Clinton in this sad situation. No, I am not a liberal Democrat, as you most likely are. I HAD always been proud of my Republican bias. NOW, I am not so sure. Back-lash? I think so!” – JR

A.T.: Not to disappoint, but I actually don’t think of myself as a liberal Democrat, but rather as a “DLC Democrat,” also known as a “new Democrat.” The DLC has been chaired by such folks as Governors Bill Clinton and Roy Romer and Senator Joe Lieberman. There’s probably not a lot of difference between a new Democrat and a liberal Republican – say, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.

“He is not perfect?? Give me a break!!! It is truly amazing that I read this line of crap from so many investors. What is obvious is that you are only protecting your bottom line instead of looking at what is best for the United States. It is so important to you that the stock market remain stable and your portfolio increase that you are willing to accept a president that has committed perjury, and had sex with an intern in the oval office. Hello, could you have sex with one of your subordinates and get away with that??? Hello, could you lie after taking an oath to ‘Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth???’ You are pathetic, stand up, be a citizen, don’t hide behind your stock.” – Aaron Pugh

A.T.: Thanks for your perspective, Aaron. I know passions run high on this topic, and I’m happy to hear your point of view. I’m sure you’ve considered the downside to impeachment versus censure. (I do think censure is appropriate – and as the first in the history of the nation, it’s not a small thing.) The precedent impeachment would set could prove unfortunate. But, that said, I don’t fault those who think resignation or impeachment is appropriate. My column only meant to point out that those people had better also be incensed about the tobacco CEOs and the congressmen who protect them, or else they’re being pretty dramatically inconsistent (in my view). Yes, we should hold the president to higher standards than a tobacco CEO. Then again, lying to Congress about an issue that has caused massive death and suffering seems to me several orders of magnitude greater than lying about an affair. After all, I think Clinton pretty well signaled the voters from the get-go that marital fidelity was not his first strength (to put it mildly), yet he was elected then – and reelected after any voter with a brain must surely have realized it wasn’t his second or third strength either. No one disagrees that what he did was wrong. The only issue, I think, is which – censure or impeachment – is the appropriate response. My column merely suggested that those who come down on the side of impeachment should also be calling for the resignation of a lot of tobacco-perjurer-protecting congressmen – and that if they are prepared to call for that, then their position is consistent and I respect it.

“I do think the tobacco CEO’s should be jailed for what they did. I disagree with you on Clinton. I do not care about his Sex life, and think he denigrates the office beyond repair in this time when most people believe all politicians are barely better than criminals.” – Roly Hughes

“I agree with you completely and I am from a tobacco state. I have already communicated to my congressman, a personal long-term acquaintance, that his actions in this matter have convinced me that he is not the person I want representing me and my neighbors.” – Terry Hough

“My Dad died with emphysema, and I remember the lies those tobacco men told. I saw them. Please note, that although I said he died with emphysema, I did not say that he died from emphysema. He committed suicide because he said he could no longer deal with the pain. So that 400,000 number is definitely off. There are many suicides that need to be included. For those claiming Christianity, I’ll say one thing to you. Matthew 7:2.” – Marie


You sent lots more messages, pro and con – thanks for both. Perhaps the most intriguing one came from Robert Brown. (Going to prove, yet again, that the insights you all send me are a lot more interesting than the ones I send you.) I’m not saying I fully understood it, but it grabbed me. He wrote:

“I fully agree with you. As a student of biological evolution, I am regularly humbled by the absolutely foundational force of ‘selective attention.’ Imagine any life form being unable to discriminate between molecules. Now, as eons of discrimination have delivered us to our modern high-strung state, the chief challenge may well be the avoidance of having our selective attention hijacked by various parasites with narrow visions not in our interest. (Not to mention our own bungling use of these potent tools!) The game remains unchanged: plucking sustenance/advantage from a sea of noise/poison.”



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