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Salt Lake City Weekly Mind Over Matter

It depends on whether the meaning of "matter" matters.

By D.P. Sorensen

JANUARY 19, 1999:  William Jefferson "Kiss It" Clinton will go down in history not for being impeached, but for having solved the sticky conundrum known in philosophical studies as the "Mind-Body Problem."

As you remember from your freshman course in philosophy 101, the great thinkers of history spent their lives trying to figure out the relation of mind to body: Whether the mind is part of the body, the body part of the mind; whether the mind actually exists, whether the body actually exists. Rene "Just Walk Away" Descartes decided we are mostly mind and partly body. Then George Barkley, a preacher and part-time basketball player, claimed that we are all mind, or more precisely, we all exist only in the Mind of God.

But philosophers are skeptical by nature, and so monographs, seminars and even certain sections of tuxedo-rental stores have been devoted to the Mind-Body Problem. Now, however, our Philosopher-King Clinton has conclusively proved that Mind is the only Reality. This astonishing discovery was enunciated in the House Judiciary Committee hearings by one of the professor's attorneys. "In his mind," intoned the factotum, "the professor did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." (The philosopher-king's close associates affectionately call him "Kiss It," because this is what he said to Paula Jones when in his mind he did not display his willy, commanding her to perform what in his mind was not oral sex.)

Now, this triumph of mind over body--it doesn't matter if the body is having sex, as long as the mind is not--presents some niggling problems for Clinton apologists, who keep saying, "Come on, this is just about sex." This is a philosophical paradox of the highest order. "Kiss It" Clinton did not have sex, but this sex he did not have is no big deal. It's such not a big deal, that Kiss It's disciples on the airwaves and off natter on for hours, in clinical and Clintonial detail, about the sex his body had but his mind did not. The disciples remind me of crusaders against pornography who get off on the dirty pictures they say everyone else is obsessed with.

Clinton's triumph of Mind over Body involves another minor paradox. This one's about lying. In his mind he did not lie to the grand jury, to the Paula Jones judge, to Hillary, to Chelsea, to the whole American God-loving public. Nevertheless, Clinton's subjects defend him by saying, "Come on, everybody lies" and more particularly, "Everybody lies about sex."

This leaves us in another dizzying, but wonderfully exhilarating, paradox. Impeachment is thus just about the sex he did not have and the lies he did not tell, and, most important, the lies about sex he did not tell--the lies that everyone supposedly tells.

Let's leave, for just a moment, the Platonic Mind of Philosopher Clinton and descend to the murky cave where ordinary human beings tell lies at the drop of a black beret. The excuse that the philosopher-king's lies are OK because everyone lies, doesn't wash. It's precisely because everyone lies that some anonymous benefactor of the human race came up with the idea of swearing oaths to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God. This was a great advance over torture as a means for trying to get the truth out of malefactors great and small during various judicial proceedings. The problem with our philosopher-king is that he lied under oath and wanted others to do the same. Our country is in a pretty bad way if the guy in charge doesn't have to play by the rules.

But back to the Mind of Bill Clinton, which has always constructed reality to his liking. He smoked marijuana but didn't inhale. His ejaculate may be on Monica's dress, and she may be on his mind, but neither the ejaculate nor Monica is in his mind.

But the Mind giveth and the Mind taketh away. Clinton finds himself in a pickle now, because in his mind he is still the fat high-school band nerd wearing his Big Boy jeans. That's why he makes his moves on the likes of Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. You would think the president could do better, maybe discreet nooners in the Lincoln bedroom with a classy broad like Diane Sawyer or Cookie Roberts.

Despite Kiss It Clinton's epistemological and gynecological sleight-of-hand in solving the Mind-Body Problem, I've had enough philosophy for a while. I have spent restless nights trying to parse our president's statement in his grand jury appearance: "It depends," he said with a philosophical smirk, "what the meaning of the word 'is' is." What we need in the White House now is a prat like Dan Quayle, who, in a confused but inspired moment, formulated his own solution to the Mind-Body Problem: "A mind is a terrible thing to have."


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