MAXWELL:  An attachment to the notion of loyalty

2/1/1998 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell.

_ William Congreve, in Love for Love

I am publicly acknowledging for the first time that I admire something about G. Gordon Liddy: I admire his sense of loyalty. In fact, this right-wing extremist epitomizes loyalty.

If you recall, Liddy, a key Watergate operative, set aside personal interests and accepted a prison sentence rather than testify against his co-conspirators, including President Richard Nixon.

I am reminded of Liddy’s loyalty because of the rats who are dime-dropping on President Clinton over his reported voracious appetite for female flesh.

Few human traits are more precious than loyalty. For that reason, I will not try to describe my contempt for Gennifer Flowers, the night club vixen who said that she enjoyed a 12-year affair with Clinton and then, like a spoiled brat who did not get her way, sneaked off and tattled to the press.

Nor can I express the depth of my loathing for Paula Jones, the changeling who knew damned well why she was going to the hotel room of a man rumored to be a philanderer and then, egged on by Clintonphobes, snitched to a new breed of reporters who think nothing of trampling on the right of privacy to get a salacious tidbit into print.

And, of course, I could spank Monica Lewinsky, the 24-year-old nymph who stupidly confided in an older woman who she thought was a friend but who turned out to be a common stool pigeon.

Am I condoning adultery? No. Am I excusing Clinton’s alleged infidelities? Absolutely not. Am I encouraging sexual domination of women? Nope.

But, as one who cannot tolerate today’s pseudo-Puritanism, I am defending the concept of loyalty, both to the individual and to the organization.

The dictionary tells us that loyalty is faithfulness to a person, government or organization or faithful adherence to a cause or duty. In his article “Personal loyalty to superiors in public service,” sociologist Sam S. Souryal discusses some of the broader elements of loyalty to a person and to an institution.

“The ideal of loyalty has its roots in the virtue of sympathy, which is at the foundation of all human experience,” he writes. “And loyalty continues to be at the heart of commonsense morality because of its importance to communal social life, collective enterprise, shared values, and social stability.”

Although recognizing the positives of personal loyalty, Souryal also raises an ethical flag: “Personal loyalty is . . . complex because it requires that we make choices and uphold commitments to specific persons for durable periods of time. Loyal people may suspend judgment about right and wrong and act on the basis of unsubstantiated sentiments. Examples include unquestioning loyalty to clan members, classmates, and friends.”

You can add lovers in illicit affairs to the list.

By their very nature, illicit affairs require the lovers to suspend judgment about right and wrong. No matter what neo-moralists think _ and let us assume that the accusations against Clinton are true _ Flowers and Lewinsky tacitly agreed be loyal to their lover, to faithfully adhere to the code of silence necessary in such relationships.

Each knew that Clinton is married, that he is politically powerful, that divulging her secret could possibly destroy a successful career (and for Lewinsky, endanger the nation), wreck a marriage and embarrass young Chelsea. They had every reason to remain silent and protect Clinton.

Each, including Lewinsky, who was 21 when the alleged affair began, knew full well what she was getting into. No one is innocent. No one is a victim. And everyone is a loser because the women, lacking the requisite common sense or sympathy for their lover, could not remain loyal by keeping their lips buttoned. Unlike thieves, who are said to be honorable among themselves, bimbos have no honor _ or shame.

In this light, independent counsel Kenneth Starr is doing what police officers and prosecutors do to solve most crimes: He is destroying loyalty. To gather evidence, sociologist Gordon Mehler writes, cops and prosecutors “pressure business partners, life-long friends, and even family members to “rat’ on each other by betraying secrets. In doing so, they routinely break apart the bonds that make people trustworthy.”

Starr has put the squeeze on Lewinsky, threatening her with indictment, terrified Clinton’s personal secretary and is reported to be going after the Secret Service.

I see real danger in Starr’s methodology. The New York Times reports that the Treasury Department intends to block Starr’s effort to subpoena Clinton’s Secret Service detail because officials fear that forcing the agents to rat would hurt their ability to be at the president’s side.

Some legal scholars say that the testimony of the agents would endanger the president’s life. I have always believed that Secret Service agents should go to the grave with their secrets.

And lovers should do the same.

Now, an apparent flaw in my argument is that those involved in affairs are themselves disloyal because they are cheating or are complicit in cheating. So, to accuse Lewinsky of being disloyal to a cheating husband is to be oxymoronic.

Oxymoronic or not, consenting lovers are obligated to keep their traps shut. Each is given the privilege of sexual intimacy and the power to expose each other’s vulnerabilities to a nation of voyeurs. I can think of few creatures more despicable than a cowardly quisling in a romantic tryst.

Whatever Clinton did to anger these women, he should have remembered Congreve’s famous admonition to men in The Way of the World about engendering female disloyalty:

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred


Nor hell a fury of a woman scorned.