It was my excellent good fortune to arrive in Paris the day after the broadcast of President Clinton's deposition. In the course of a three-day visit, I was required to explain to many bewildered French how we have managed to arrive at the present situation and why we are now satellite-feeding the world the minutest details of presidential indiscretions.
The following questions and answers, translated from the French, may be of assistance to those planning a trip to France soon.Q: We have difficulty understanding the Affair Monica. After all, President Mitterrand, he had his mistress and love child living in a government house and we did not derange ourselves. Why should you care?
A: Forgive me for having to say, but to us you appear to have the morals of eels, never mind your excellent wine and cheeses. And those missiles that you sell to the Iranians - superbes! ("Extremely accurate.")
Q: But why is America so obsessed with this story?
A: I agree with you that it is not so exciting a story as the controversies in France, such as whether to extend the paid vacation to six months or to admit the word "cheeseburger" into the French language, but for reasons that escape, we seem to find it amusing.
Q: Does this not weaken Mr. Clinton's ability to lead?
A: Au contraire! ("Nah.") Was it not the philosopher Nietzsche who said, "That which does not cause my wife to kill me, makes me stronger"?
Q: Is it not the special inquisitor Kenneth Starr who is the real pervert?
A: There are those in my country who say he is a filthy-minded truffle pig who will stop at nothing until he has had a good titillation. And then there are those who maintain that he is the Energizer Bunny (le lapin electrique). For myself, I espouse the middle position, whatever that may be.
Q: But why is this process taking so long?
A: Puh! ("Puh!") Who can say! But tell me, the investigation into the drunken-driving death of Princess Diana, when will your magistrate be making the report? It is, what, more than a year now, yes?
Q: But why did they broadcast the videotape?
A: When it was revealed in the press (toilette) that Congressman Hyde had himself been the truffle pig in his youth, it was imperative to inflict the deposition on the world population. In this fashion, now even primitive peoples living in the Andes or Gobi Desert or where-have-you can make humorous references to the president. Clever, you will agree, no?
Q: Will Mr. Clinton have to resign?
A: Absolument non! ("Maybe.") There are important principles at stake. If presidents can be driven from office simply for lying to the people, where then will we be, I ask of you?
Q: But why do Americans care if their presidents lie to them? Ours lie to us all the time. We expect it from them.
A: It is one thing to lie to us about getting us into a war . . . but to lie about reading Walt Whitman (ooh-la-la) with the interns, that truly we can never tolerate!
Q: But John F. Kennedy, he did this all the time and it was not a problem.
A: Perhaps it was a problem for Mrs. Kennedy. But yes, you have reason. The answer is that the president could call up the newspaper reporter and say, "Hey, be a good fellow and don't print that I am making love with Marilyn Monroe." And they would say, "Puh. OK."