Calvin Trillin, whose articles and columns have earned him renown as a classic American journalist and humorist, writes a weekly column for TIME.
Give Me a Break!
By Calvin Trillin
My friend hobart, the conspiracy connoisseur, still sees this
White House scandal as a plot by the Democratic National
Committee. I personally find it hard to believe the D.N.C. would
conspire to bring down its own President, but I know better than
to say that to Hobart. It's the sort of observation he usually
answers with "Puh-leeze!" or "Give me a break!"
I'd been mistaken in thinking the "vast right-wing conspiracy"
mentioned by Hillary Clinton would have long-term appeal for
Hobart. "If she had changed that to 'creepy little cabal,' I
might have gone for it," he told me. "It's true that this
wouldn't have got to the point of subpoenas without Richard
Mellon Scaife and his fevered friends. But they didn't put
Monica Lewinsky in the White House. Of course, the guy who
recommended her, Walter Kaye, is a particular friend of Hillary
Clinton's, but I never figured Hillary for the engineer of this.
Wronged wife who finally takes revenge? Too obvious. Too much
like a Barbara Stanwyck movie."
"Hillary Clinton!" I said. "She's been the President's biggest
"Right," Hobart said. "Just what she would have done if she'd
been behind it. Too obvious. Then I thought about who would have
the most to gain in the long run if Clinton disappears: the
"So the Democrats plotted against Clinton?"
"What did he ever do for them?" Hobart said. "Does the word
triangulation ring a bell?"
"But why would--"
"Because instead of waiting three years for the other bimbo to
drop, they get Al Gore in the White House. He gets a honeymoon.
The wooden quality that inspired you to describe him as a
'manlike object' while he was second banana strikes a lot of
people as a relief after five years of the Big Smoothy. In the
year 2000, Republicans are cutting one another up in the
primaries; the party is hopelessly entangled in the public mind
with these right-wing squirrels who set up people to snoop on
the President's backseat activities. Gore sails into the
election as a commanding figure--the 43rd President of the U.S."
"But how about Kenneth Starr?"
"Exactly! He'd take the bait. This is a guy with so little
judgment that he was going to accept a deanship financed by
Scaife at Pepperdine, a place that wouldn't show up on any
law-school ranking that did not also include some vo-techs."
"So why did Clinton bounce back the next week?"
"Because the press scared the hell out of people. These
Washington press bozos love tumult so much they forget how much
ordinary people dread it. Unless, of course, all that breathless
pomposity on the Sunday-morning talk shows was no accident ..."
"I can't believe the press would be part of a Republican
conspiracy to sabotage the Democrats' conspiracy to bring down
their own President."
But Hobart had lost interest in the press. "You'll notice that
when it all started to calm down, we heard from Betty Currie,
who was for years a loyal worker in--what else?--the Democratic
"Mrs. Currie is a woman of impeccable reputation," I said.
"She's revered. Surely she wouldn't be involved in--"
"Puh-leeze!" Hobart said. "Give me a break!"