DISPATCHES







The President's Penis

by Erica Jong




It's hard to be a novelist in the age of soap opera. The slow accretion of 500 well-wrought
words a day seems pointless beside the dizzying and breathless plotlines served up by the
evening news. The semen-stained dress! The tape-recorded confessions! But with a few

years' perspective, all the national soaps will blend into one: the brothers
Menendez, O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinsky. They burn brightly for a while, then
disappear into yellowing stacks of old paper.


    

Yet the ever-changing news still manages to pre-empt the other stories we might tell
and to hound the subtler tales off the screen. And we are the losers. We tell each other
stories to get human truths. But there is no truth in the sound and fury of the national soap
opera, only, at best, benchmarks to track our changing mores. Just a few years ago the
mere hint of monkey business was enough to bring a presidential candidate down.
(Remember Gary Hart in 1990?) Now the evening talk shows are full of jokes about White
House knee pads, but will anything come of it?


    

I think we are witnessing the delayed effect of all those revelations about FDR, LBJ
and JFK that have filled our cultural discourse for the last several years. We learned
belatedly that our heroes had feet of clay. Now we learn about their feet of clay while
they're stepping in it. That's the only difference.


    

Will we get bored with sex? Has the soap opera mentality so permeated politics that
we are unsurprised by salacious revelations? By now we know that presidents are flawed
and interns will be ambitious. Are we ready to go back to a pagan view of the gods in
which they share our human failings and we just laugh, seeing ourselves in them?


    

Bill Clinton fits nicely into the Zeus archetype of King of the Gods. We expect a
larger-than-life appetite from this larger-than-life leader. Why should he be bound by
bourgeois constraints? Have we forgotten that the President is the alpha male of the tribe
and that maybe, like chimps and gibbons, he's entitled to the youngest and the most nubile
females? Nature teaches us that what the alpha male wants the alpha male gets. Anyone
who has ever watched women falling all over each other to date fat middle-aged moguls
should have no doubt about the desirability of the

president's penis. It was Evelyn
Lincoln, JFK's secretary, who reported him having to beat the women off with sticks. Sexual
harassment indeed!


    

Hilary is no more surprised by Bill's revelation than the wife of an alcoholic is
when he drinks again. She may be disappointed, but she's not shocked. Monica is one of
many. A recent political cartoon showed elephants, zebras and antelopes looking at Bill and
Hillary and saying: "They have strange mating habits." But their mating habits are
all too predictable. "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," said Henry Kissinger. And he
wasn't even as cute as Bill.


    

Since we already know the worst about Bill Clinton, the verdict of history can only
ennoble him. Already it seems he is being redeemed. "Surely a king who loves pleasure is
less dangerous than one who loves glory," Nancy Mitford once said. This seems to sum
up Bill Clinton's essential benignity. Worse than fucking individual women is fucking the
nation.


    

I happened to be in France right before the Paula Jones case was dismissed.
The French believe that the president's penis is entitled to privacy,
as my French friend expressed in her opinion of the whole situation: "Of course the
President cannot tell the truth about all these women. A gentlemen never tells the truth
about ladies. It would be rude."


    

Perhaps this is the approach Bill should have taken last Monday: "I am a gentleman,"
he might have said, "and a gentleman must always be discreet. To set an example for the
nation, let me say I never touched that woman, or that woman, or that woman, or even
that woman for that matter. . . "













©1998
Erica Mann Jong all rights reserved

Commentarium (11 Comments)

Jun 11 00 - 12:21pm
CEN

is this another of jong's rantings and ravings which i have secretly smiled at in the past, or is it the start of different erica jong... more politcal and self-assured?

Jun 13 00 - 8:21pm
K.L.

I don't agree with Erica's view, that the Monica affair was about sex. In most of her books, Erica worships sex as the be all to end all... and sometimes it is. But most of the time it isn't. And what Clinton did was lie-- he lied under oath, he lied to a nation, he lied to his wife (who turned around and lied some more when she said she didn't believe he did it).

If you can't tell the truth even when you're caught then you a weak human being who can't be trusted. If he had just said "yes, I had sex with this woman" he would have been a flawed and forgiven human being. Instead, he's just a liar who can't even be honest with himself. Good riddance to Clinton... and who cares who he has sex with. Just don't f--ing lie about it.

Jul 12 00 - 1:44pm
T.Z

Lovely literature. First class. More...More...More....please!

Aug 06 00 - 11:11pm
dhg

I think that Erica and the rest of the world should just put the Clinton scandels behind us and move forward with the election that is at hand. I think that Erica may be infuatuiated with President Clinton and that's the real reason she wrote this comment on the internet of all places

Aug 29 01 - 3:01pm
swms

Interesting prose.

Aug 31 01 - 9:10am
DJS

Obviously you have no morals. I personally do not care for any President that lies to his people about such a thing, or anything for that matter. That is not what a LEADER is made of. Who cares what the French think anyway. No body likes the French, if you haven't heard! It's not their country. Thanks to Bill Clinton is basically, RED CHINA now.

Feb 06 02 - 6:57pm
cs

I thought that was very interesting and funny

Apr 18 02 - 4:27pm

mmmm

Aug 21 02 - 4:33am
V.I.

so refreshing to get a literary interpretation of "current events". That is why the question, of whether Clinton has lied or not, is beside the point. Literature is not interested in facts; it is interested in human character in all its dimensions, in human flaws and weaknesses, in archetypes and mythology.

the beauty of the article is in its unexpected point of view...esp. on such an overexposed topic.

Dec 04 10 - 10:09am
Dania Leslie

I want Erica to continue her memoirs now that she is approaching 70 years old. Too many books about 48 year olds worrying about age. Tell us how it feels NOW, Erica

Sep 27 11 - 8:01pm
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oBn80o Yeah, it is clear now !... Just can not figure out how often do you update your blog?!...