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Ain't He A Playa

Naveen Sunkavally

What happens when today's leading cultural icons are crossed with a substantive topic worthy of discussion?

The topic usually gets run into the ground. Rolling Stone magazine - admittedly not the usual place to find anything worthy of true thought - recently ran a series of conversations (Nov. 12) with leading cultural icons concerning the presidential sex scandal, of what is symbolizes in our country and portends. The results were both hilarious and disturbing.

Consider rapper DMX: "He's a dog, man. Men are dogs He's doing his job. Whether he gets impeached should be determined by that, not where his dick is at."

Or how about Bob Weir, who had the gall to say, "The religious right took the Paula Jones case and fanned it into a flame. That girl looks like a dachshund She wasn't the kind of class trash that I think the president (even if he was libido-crazed) would have considered." (Dogs are a familiar theme for these cultural icons.)

And Marilyn Manson: "I don't think he deserves to be impeached; but if he does get impeached, he always has a job with me. He can be my tour manager, test-drive the girls for me."

Or another rapper, Noreaga: "Clinton's my fuckin' man - he's crazy. He's a dog, and he does his job - for real Your wife can't give you head while you're on the job, 'cause that's your wife, ya smell me."

Oh yeah, I smell ya, man.

Surprisingly, these were the better of the statements put forth by our cultural icons. When people actually tried to say something substantive, rather than merely make offensive jokes - that's when the apathy really seeped through.

"I'm deeply suspicious of all politicians, anyway. I don't look to them for moral leadership," says Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage. Or how about singer Peter Gabriel, who says, "I don't think one should look to the president for spiritual leadership. It's a great bonus if you get it, but the role of the president is to be the servant of the people."

By far, this sentiment prevailed in all those who weighed in - from Stephen Stills and Melissa Etheridge to John Lee Hooker and Fat Joe - that as long as the economy is doing well, the public should be content. Clinton, most people thought, was merely guilty of a "lapse in judgement," as Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and actress Susan Sarandon both put it. Rapper and actor Will Smith puts it more clearly: "I don't think the presidents' personal lives are any of our business. I look at Bill Clinton the way I look at Bill Gates: As long as my stock goes up, I don't care what Bill Clinton does"

Who, then, bears the responsibility for carrying the moral leadership of America? Certainly not Bob Weir or Marilyn Manson. If the president is not responsible for carrying the moral torch - if his only role is that of a chief executive officer, like Bill Gates, to whom do we turn? How can our parents tell their children that honesty is a virtue when the chief representatives of our culture condone lying to the point that they expect lying from politicians.

Is lying even a bad thing in the first place? Our generation's moral values are almost anti-moral in some sense. There are no such things as morals, and, even if there are, who's to say that your morals are better than my morals?

Unfortunately, while such a philosophy is fashionable these days and philosophically irrefutable, adopting it as a norm would spell chaos for any country. Somewhere, there must be a line. For example, if the president can commit perjury, can the president also shoplift? "Oh, come on, man, he only stole a fuckin' Now and Later; he was hungry as hell, ya know what I mean."

And if he can shoplift, can he also expose himself indecently and masturbate at a public theatre, as Pee Wee Herman did some years ago? "Oh, come on, man, it was really steaming in there. He's a fuckin' dog. Oh yeah, check out that economy." And if these crimes are acceptable, are the crimes of Nixon such a far stretch away?

For the sake of the nation and international relations, the president has a responsibility to uphold the morals of the country. Perjury, whatever the circumstances, is a crime, and rationalizing the president's conduct in the light of his performance elsewhere does not mitigate the severity of his crime. Ya smell me, man?