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Clinton's Biblical Precedent

And so we are in media res. It is nearly two months since President Clinton admitted to conducting an improper relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky on national television. Some people were shocked. Others were outraged. Truth be told, Jesse Jackson must have worked miracles the night before Clinton testified before the Washington grand jury, because the man is still in office.

On that fateful night of Aug. 16, Clinton reportedly recited the 51st Psalm, which King David recited after the prophet Nathan reprimands him for his misdeeds in connection with that other woman, Bathsheba. David lusts after another man's wife, sleeps with her, and then has the man killed. Not exactly the King's high point.

It says a great deal that this psalm resonated with Clinton. The man has identified himself with a king of Ancient Israel, and he does not seem to be referring to David's political and sexual impotence. It is worth exploring the implications of such a lofty comparison. For example, can you picture Clinton's reciting the psalm in your mind's eye? Is the image one of a powerful leader, or a lame duck?

Anyone who's leafed through the Bible knows the ending. King David, like Clinton, swept into office as a breath of fresh air. Both are charismatic leaders who followed older, weaker predecessors. David preceded Clinton's concern about his legacy. He wanted to build the great Temple in Jerusalem to honor God (and his reign), just as Clinton has hoped for a great monument for his presidency. Ah, and both men love women.

David saw Bathsheba bathing one day and was immediately smitten. Sound familiar? The reaction of the American populace is common knowledge. Many citizens hesitate to be `judgmental,' but as the supreme judge, God does not have any such reservations. The chapter closes by noting that "what David had done was wrong in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Samuel 11:27). But that is not the end.

Bathsheba becomes pregnant with David's child. The baby quickly becomes ill and dies. God accepts the baby as a sacrifice in place of David himself, for the King clearly must repent, and given biblical justice, someone must die. As painful as losing a child is, David must undergo further punishment.

David's family begins to implode. His son, Amnon, falls in love with and then rapes his half-sister Tamar. Disgusted with Tamar, Amnon sends her away from his tent. Tamar's protective brother Absalom then seeks vengeance by murdering Amnon. David's legacy suffers. He loses the opportunity to build the Temple, a privilege he had long coveted.

David loses out to King Solomon. This is certainly for the good of his subjects. David's lust wreaked havoc on his family and the Jewish people, for while many things that happen after David's taking Bathsheba affect the King directly, the people are also impacted. The King abandons his subjects; he is otherwise occupied and cannot serve the national interest. It is David's son and successor, renowned for his keen mind, who is able to restore stability to the kingdom, which has been so badly shaken by David's careless and self-involved behavior.

Does Clinton truly aspire to be a part of history? If so, David's story in the history book of the holy has a lesson for the Lame Duck in Chief: Once the sinner steps aside and is succeeded by an unsoiled brainiac, everything is all right. Al Gore'69, do your stuff. This goose is cooked. Melissa Rose Langsam '00, a Crimson editor, is a Near Eastern Languages and Civilization concentrator in Kirkland House.

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