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Spygate

10/16/03 12:00AM By Jay Parini
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(Host) Commentator Jay Parini has been thinking about the most recent scandal in Washington and what it might be called in the history books.


(Parini) It's "gate" time again, with a new White House scandal to think about. We don't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore, but we've still got the endless twists on Watergate to keep us insomniacs thinking all night.

Ronald Reagan brought us Contragate, alternately called Irangate: neither was a very good name for what went on. Oliver North was involved, so it might have been called Northgate, but that was only part of the story.

With the latest scandal, which involves somebody in the White House leaking the
news that the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson was a spy (a move obviously designed to intimidate anyone critical of the White House war in Iraq) we're probably stuck with Spygate, though that's no fun. Somebody outed a spy here, so how about Outgate? If it was, as some think, Karl Rove who did this, the scandal will probably go down as Rovegate, but we can hope for better.

It's funny how the little scandals always bring them down. Nixon almost lost his place on the national ticket in 1952 when they found out about his secret slush fund. He also accepted a spaniel, Checkers, for his little girl, Trisha. That might have been called Doggygate. LBJ had the huge scandal of Vietnam on his record, but it took Nixon to give us the archetype: Watergate, the little scandal that stands in for the big one, which is the man himself.

JFK, of course, lived scandalously, but he somehow avoided getting caught, except for the Bay of Pigs, which might have been Piggygate. If the press at the time discovered that he'd sent a set of pearl earrings to Marilyn Monroe, we might have had Pearlygate. Or, given the number of mistresses who passed through his presidential fingers, we might have had Swinginggate.

Speaking of scandals, don't we all miss Monica Lewinsky, who gave us Monicagate? I never much liked that name for the scandal. The New York Post called it Tailgate, but that was sleazy: sexist, and quite an insult to college football fans. Whitewater, oddly enough, never amounted to anything but a very expensive waste of money by taxpayers. Whitewatergate just never caught on, like the scandal itself.

A two-bit land deal is nothing compared with the hundred billion plus swindle called Operation Iraqi Freedom. What shall we call it? Sandygate? Saddamgate? Oilygate? Where is inspiration when I really need it?

The ultimate gate twist would occur if Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, decided to buy the White House for himself: that would give us Gatesgate.

Or if perhaps it turns out that Laura Bush was the one who leaked the spy story, we could call this thing Mategate. In the end, I suspect that more than one senior aid to Bush leaked the story. In which case, Leakygate will have to do.

This is Jay Parini, from Weybridge.

Jay Parini is a poet, novelist, and biographer who teaches at Middlebury College.
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