The year that blew

Dec 30, 1998 at 12:00 am

"The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind."

—The Starr Report, Appendix XVI, Vol. 23

Back in the days before clichés, old-timers would emerge after the latest cyclone saying, "It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good."

This year, their drivel was proven true. The nation reeled from the double effect of El Niño, an ill wind indeed, and Monica Lewinsky, who, to the joy of the press and shock of the world, blew nobody good.

We had bombs and blowings away; smashes, crashes and neurotic asses.

There were gasbags; Geoffrey Nels Fieger and John Bloated Engler, and always that still small voice, whispering: What did the president blow and when did he blow it? Long before the year was out, we knew more than we wanted to.


A year and a day after William Jefferson Clinton was last sworn in, he began to be sworn at. Newspapers reported that a chubby little valley girl had been secretly taped by her supposed friend, Linda Tripp, the dragon woman from hell.

Clinton denied having a sexual relationship "with that woman," in terms that wouldn’t fool anyone. The explosions shook the presidency like a slow-motion film of the timed charges going off in the old Hudson’s building.

Explosions and their aftermath were everywhere in January. The day Monica denied all (Jan. 7), a federal jury found itself unable to pronounce a death sentence upon Oklahoma City bomb feeblemind Terry Nichols, a native of Michigan’s thumb, naturally. He was ordered locked up till he becomes fertilizer.

Two weeks later, as Bill was denying his organ, a plea bargain sent Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (University of Michigan alumnus) to a similar tour of duty at one of Uncle Sam’s hotels. Within days, a bomb killed a security guard outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham, AL. Clearly a volatile year, and still January.


Monica blew everyone else off the front page most of the month, except for those few days before Texas killed Karla Faye Tucker, a rather attractive murderer who knew how to get on talk shows.

Worldwide, El Niño was blowing up a storm. Make that, many storms. More than 180,000 were left homeless, with hundreds dead, in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Not anything to compare to a semen-stained dress, but hey.

Across the globe in Nagano, Japan, Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan were blowing kisses to the fans and blowing away everyone and anyone on skates.


An armed society is a polite society. That’s the mantra of the psychogunnut lobby, aka the National Rifle Association. Indeed, there was nothing the least bit rude about the way in which two well-scrubbed kids, Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, pulled a fire alarm and calmly waited outside their Arkansas middle school to blow away four little girls and a teacher. They did, however, get testy when they weren’t allowed to order a pizza their first night in the slam. The National Rifle Association reminded us this was absolutely no indication that anything could be solved by gun control.


Paula Corbin Jones, who has made a career of claiming that Bill Clinton asked her for a blow job in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991, seconds after they first met, was herself blown away by a female federal judge, who said Jones had failed to show she had suffered. Later, the Clinton camp gave Jones $750,000.


The United States government, which had been under the impression that it blew away the Germans and won World War II on May 7, 1945, found out otherwise on May 7, 1998. Less than two decades after Washington’s billion-dollar bailout of Chrysler, the automaker sold itself to the German firm Daimler. Arbeit mach frei, Amis.

Kip Kinkel, a 15-year-old Oregon high school student, attempted to make the world forget Arkansas by blowing away his parents and winging 25 students, two of whom died. The National Rifle Association reminded us this was absolutely no indication anything could be solved by gun control.


The U.S. Senate, acting in the best interests of all Americans who contribute vast amounts of money to political campaigns, blew off a bill that would make the cancer stick industry reimburse state medical insurance funds to the tune of $516 billion, and which, by raising the price of a pack of death, was expected to decrease kiddie smoking. Fortunately for freedom, those senators owned by the tobacco lobby killed it.

Despite that act of statesmanship, a jury full of demagogues found Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. liable in the death of a smoker, and awarded his family nearly $1 million. U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms ordered them arrested.


Two police officers were blown away in the U.S. Capitol by a paranoid schizophrenic who, unbelievably, had no apparent connection with Michigan. The National Rifle Association reminded us this was absolutely no indication anything could be solved by gun control.

Later, a costly 54-day strike against General Motors ended. Nothing was settled. The company didn’t promise to stop transferring jobs to the Third World. Workers agreed to an increase in production quotas. Union victory, 1990s style.


Lyin’ Bill Clinton blew himself away twice in one day. First, to a grand jury, second, to the American people, by finally admitting, after DNA tests on the dress revealed it was his dried mess, that he had an "inappropriate and wrong" relationship with Miss Monica.

Earlier, terrorist bombs blew away 224 people — and two U.S. embassies — in Kenya and Tanzania. The coverage was carefully crafted not to interfere with Oralgate. Three days after The Admission, the U.S. Navy fired missiles at two poor Third World nations. This was a pattern that would continue.


Kenneth Starr struck his blow for freedom, a massive report that succeeded at something every life-hating fundamentalist had dreamed of: Ruining sex for lots and lots of people.


John Glenn, first blown into space on a tiny rocket 36 years previously, went back in style aboard the space shuttle.

Meanwhile, a coward blew doctor Barnett Slepian away through the window of his suburban New York home. Since Slepian had performed abortions, it made sense that Jesus wanted him killed by a maniac. The National Rifle Association reminded us this was absolutely no indication anything could be solved by gun control.


Voters blew off the Republican insistence that every Democrat needed to be punished because President Clinton allowed a woman to touch his pee-pee. Analyzing the election results, Henry Hyde, the hugely bulky congressman, demands the President answer 81 questions about his sex life. Later, Hyde is discovered to have broken up the marriage of a hairdresser named Cherie, back when he was a mere lad in his 40s.


When Clinton’s sex test doesn’t satisfy, the House impeaches him. Afterward, Toilet Joe Knollenberg is given a plunger and sent to search for the GOP’s favorable rating. He hasn’t returned, but sources say his verdict on the year ahead is eloquently simple: It’ll be a blast.