The question may not be whether the American people will forgive President Clinton for his transgressions, but whether they can ever look him in the eye again.
Never in history has so much detail become known to so many people about the most intimate - and lurid - details of a president's life. Or of anyone's life, for that matter. So psychologists, psychiatrists, sexologists, historians and political scientists acknowledge that they're wading into uncharted waters when they discuss the effects of Friday's release of the special prosecutor's report on Clinton.Their initial observations nevertheless converge on several points, driven by the fact that sex is now officially front and center in the nation's constitutional crisis:
- That the presidency will be diminished by this extraordinary episode, but probably not in the long term because people can generally differentiate the man from the office.
- That it will fuel the already raging public cynicism about public officials, not just because of the revelations about Clinton's behavior but also out of revulsion that Kenneth W. Starr chose to reveal such private events.
- That investigations of and disclosures about other politicians' sex lives, already the subjects of a growing number of media reports, will now become commonplace.
- And, most immediately, that Clinton will have a tough time governing during his remaining time in office because nearly everyone who deals with him will be distracted by thoughts about his liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.