The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 1999


Bored with Clinton's impeachment, the pub set is ready for U.S. to move on

Bar Talk: for the Commentary page

By Teresa Leo
"National or Philadelphia?"

That's what Finnigan's Wake owner Mike Driscoll asked when I told him I was going to interview people in his bar about Clinton's impeachment - for The Philadelphia Inquirer. I dropped by Finnigan's Wake, Philadelphia's largest Irish pub, on Super Bowl Sunday; the Khyber, a rock club in Old City, for a three-band show; and the Valley Forge Brewing Co. on the night it hosted the Philadelphia Area New Media Association's monthly social.

I learned that a tape recorder doesn't turn heads in a crowd carrying Palm Pilots, that you never ask someone what he thinks about politics during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl with 1:53 left on the clock, especially if he has $500 riding on Denver under 58; and that Finnigan's Wake was originally a casket factory, where, in the very spot yours truly was sitting, the factory's daytime manager keeled over dead at 2:30 one Friday afternoon.

Oh, yeah - and I heard some thoughts on our President's impeachment.

Most Philadelphia pub dwellers (at least among the 47 people I interviewed) are bored senseless. In fact, I have a good 90 minutes of tape where folks used every imaginable synonym for the word bored, including fed up, sick and tired, irked, annoyed and uninterested.

"I was a doctoral student in politics and taught American government for seven years," said Ric Kolenda, 38, an Internet entrepreneur, "and still I could not be more bored." Now that's bored.

The word scumbag was used to describe the President seven times, as in 32-year-old computer technical manager Evan Kaliner's "We know Clinton's a scumbag; we voted him in as a scumbag."

Francis Duszak, 30, an art gallery owner, supplemented the description: "Clinton's a scumbag and a schmoozer. He's the ultimate schmoozer. Politically and with the ladies."

Of the Clinton detractors, the most vocal was opera singer James Marvin, 29, who said he wrote in "Nixon" during the last presidential election: "The only public office Clinton belongs in is a parole office." Jeannine Pukas, 27, vice president of an Internet service provider, also believed that he should be removed from office: "What Clinton did was wrong. He lied and that's all there is to it."

Lying was a sore point, even for Clinton supporters. "I don't have a problem with his sexual rendezvous, as I'm sure you can imagine based on my business," said Deirdre Krasner, 41, who runs a risque shop in Concordville, and who was drinking a Virgin Mary, "but the lying, I do. I happen to be a liberal person, but I'm not liberal when it comes to lying."

Europeans echoed this sentiment. "In Europe, people think that Clinton should not have lied about his affair," said Nina Salzer, 27, a hotel clerk from Germany, "but they don't have a problem with the affair itself."

Ian Cross, 34, owner of a Web development firm, had been to his homeland in Britain recently and said, "A few months ago the scandal made good TV, like Dallas or Dynasty, but now the entertainment value has been siphoned out."

Comments about sex pervaded the interviews, from Khyber owner Stephen Simons, 28 ("All this sex talk brought politics into the 20th century, where everybody else already was") to marketing director Nicole Ilnyckyj, 26 ("It's hypocritical of him to shake the Pope's hand").

"I can barely think of my own parents having sex with each other," said former sitcom cameraman Pete Borowsky, 27, who took the personal slant. "To think of my father having sex with someone else - poor Chelsea, poor Chelsea."

In the end, most people thought the impeachment was a complete waste of time, energy and tax dollars. Ken Novak, 45, a drywall finisher/decorator, summed it up best: "Make a point. Let the man, the country and the world know that immoral behavior is not insignificant. The sanctity of a married relationship should be honored and acknowledged, but at what point do we say, 'Enough is enough' and let the man get back to work?"

As for me, I still have a copy of the Starr Report in my bedroom dresser, tucked away like a bad romance novel you don't want anyone to know you've read. One of my interviewees thought this commentary should be called "Sex, Lies and Audiotape," saying there was something a little Tripp-like about my recording people's thoughts on Bill Clinton.

"Yeah," I said, "but at least with me you know when the tape is running."


© 1999 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.