person_pin No Business Like It

by Daryl Lease

Published in Issue No. 11 ~ April, 1998

I don’t know about you, but I was delighted to hear that as the Clinton scandal began to unfold, Ethel Merman was in the background belting out “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Indeed, it’s true. As FBI agents began to question Monica Lewinsky in a Pentagon City hotel room a couple weeks ago, they faced an unexpected delay. Monica, we’re told, refused to talk until her mother arrived on a train from New York.

That’s a five-hour trip, so Monica and the boys were forced to bide their time as best they could.

According to The Washington Post, they sat in the hotel room and watched part of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” on TV, then went browsing at the Pentagon City mall.

It’s details like that – as well as the more salacious variety – that have kept Americans on the edge of their seats in recent days.

We haven’t had this much fun since O.J. got in the back seat and went for a ride.

Along about the third day after the scandal broke, though, I realized someone very important was missing from the media’s around-the-clock coverage of the president and his ill-fitting pants.

I decided I needed to do what I could to help Dan Rather, Sam Donaldson, Geraldo Rivera and crew cover this important story.

So I drove across town to a toy store, charged a Ouija board to the company account and brought it back to the office.

Wasting no time and without regard for my own personal safety, I stopped a colleague in the hallway – for the sake of this account, I’ll call him “Woodward” – and recruited his help.

Together we sat down at the Ouija board and dialed up Richard Nixon.

The old boy answered with a cackle.

“What this scandal needs is a plumber,” Nixon said. “Watergate had a whole platoon of `em. Zippergate could get by with one.”

We asked him what he meant. Slowly, we spelled out his answer.

“Let’s send a plumber into the White House with directions to the hot-water heater, have him disconnect it and haul it out of there,” he said. “Then maybe we can all get some rest knowing that Bill Clinton will be taking nothing but cold showers until the end of his term.”

I asked Nixon if it seems likely Clinton would even make it to the end of his term.

“Good point, Bernstein,” he replied. “If he did indeed have an affair with the, ahem, charming Monica Lewinsky and tried to get her to lie about it under oath, then we all know what he needs to do.”

Cover up, destroy evidence and publicly declare that he’s not a crook?

“Very funny,” Nixon said. “No, he needs to pull himself up by his belt straps, give a brief, weepy speech in front of a helicopter on the White House lawn, then get the [expletive deleted] out of Dodge.”

Nixon began cackling again. “Maybe I can find a job for him taking tickets at the entrance to my presidential library.”

We asked if there was anything particularly surprising to him about the scandal.

“Yeah, Newt has kept his trap shut.”

We agreed that Speaker Gingrich had shown tremendous restraint thus far.

The little triangle began moving rapidly across the board. “What’s your favorite detail from the scandal?” Nixon asked.

Woodward offered up a particularly dirty anecdote. I harrumphed and said I didn’t have a favorite detail, that this was all just too unseemly for words.

“Yeah, right. Whatever,” Nixon said. “Me, I keep chuckling over the reappearance of Lucianne Goldberg. That’s too [expletive deleted] funny.”

Goldberg, as all dedicated scandal-mongers know, was the person who advised Linda Tripp to record her friend Monica as she babbled about her alleged affair with Bill Clinton.

Goldberg, who is now a “literary” agent, has a fascinating past. During the 1972 presidential campaign, she posed as a reporter covering the George McGovern campaign. All the while, she fed inside information about McGovern’s activities to the Nixon campaign.

“Hoo boy,” Nixon said as the marker glided across the Ouija board. “Nothing, absolutely nothing, is lower than a reporter. What do you figure that makes someone who would pose as a reporter?”

Woodward and I ignored the insult and moved on.

We asked Nixon if he had any insight into why Clinton’s popularity ratings are continuing to climb, despite the scandal.

“Get real. Why change the channel now? This is too [expletive deleted] entertaining to stop.”

Our arms were tired. Woodward and I asked Nixon if he had any final messages he’d like us to pass along.

“Just one: Ethel Merman says hello.”

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Daryl Lease is a columnist for The Free Lance-Star newspaper in Fredericksburg, Virginia.