Clinton, Starr, and the Right to Privacy



academic || multicultural || politics || paparazzi || shared parenting

by Jennifer Hicks

Simon Jenkins of The London Times, wrote:

We pry into such deceits [as those we've accused President Clinton of] because we are simply too lazy to practise [sic] the more complicated art of politics. Rather than counter argument with argument, we invite a public figure to repeat his private lies to the nation. We then catch him out, separate him from the herd and set the hounds on him. Sex is an easier stick with which to beat a President than a failure to reform Medicare or limit the money supply.

The Starr Report

I read the Starr report. I read the White House rebuttal. And several notions crossed my mind.

How can one refute allegations if s/he doesn't know what they are? Grand jury investigations rely on people's testimony. The testimony is uncorroborated, not subject to cross examination.

Impeachable Offenses

What have we Americans done that allows, even encourages, us to talk seriously about impeachment for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours" when we base our judgment solely on hearsay?

Do sexual relations, even outside the social institution of marriage, classify as "high crimes and misdemeanors"?

High crimes - no way.

Misdemeanors? That's a tougher call. Certainly, some would say yes. America's reliance on its puritanical, Judeo-Christian heritage considers adultery grounds for burning in Hell. And, as much as I realize that the sex is in instinctual need, I am not a fan of adultery.

However, that is a personal preference, based on my understanding that such actions cause others to suffer - a causative action I find morally reprehensible. And although morally reprehensible, the action is still a human one.


We each have our faults. Some of us perhaps have more than others. As individuals, we must live with our private knowledge of just how imperfect we are.

But we are also constitutionally protected in this private knowledge.

The Right to Privacy

The Bill of Rights affords us "The right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Today, as inhabitants of the United States, we place a high value on that security, that privacy. Just as did our founding fathers. We are afforded the luxury of knowing that our private knowledge remains private - unless we choose to share it.

Is a President less than an inhabitant of the country? Is he less deserving of the rights we are accorded as human beings? Is the President less than a biologically human specimen?


I am an adult woman whose morals and actions have been fashioned over time and circumstance, through upbringing and choice.


If I choose to engage in sexual relations, I can revel in my tie with humanity. I can celebrate the feeling of connection to another brought on by the sense of touch. I can choose to let others know of my involvement or I can choose to keep it a private matter.

If I choose to keep it private and someone then questions me about it, I have the right to say, "it is my business, a private affair." If I feel I might be in the wrong, as defined by my moral standards, I might even choose to reply with an untruth.

Is lying a "high crime or misdemeanour?" Will a lie about what I choose to do in private with my body make me unfit to fulfill my public role as mother, teacher, writer, citizen?

I don't think so.

President Clinton as Human

I do not like President Clinton as a man. I do not like any man who allows himself to be ruled by his genitals. But I do not see what that dislike has to do with him as President.

I have sometimes gone to extremes to keep my private life private. That is my right under my interpretation of the "right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness" clause of the Declaration of Independence.

Apparently, if one is president, s/he forfeits that right.

Which is wrong.