One Dick's Opinion of Another

How many Houstonians are gullible enough to plunk down $20 for an analysis of Bill Clinton's morality from a man who advised his presidential client to lie on the basis of a poll and was caught sucking a prostitute's toes? Judging by the turnout last Thursday for the inaugural International Celebrity Series lecture featuring political consultant Dick Morris, the answer is about 200 souls.

More of a bargain were hardback copies of Morris's tell-all tome, Behind the Oval Office, which went for $6 at the lecture hall door but were tagged at $2.98 at Half Price Books, a sure indication that Morris is less than a barnburner as a book peddler. Maybe the reading public is hoarding its nickels and dimes waiting for the real behind-the-Oval-Office tale.

The convex-shaped, ruddy-faced Morris lectured for about 45 minutes at the George R. Brown Convention Center, offering his insights into the Clinton psyche, which by the consultant's analysis thrives on feedback from audiences but gets weird in the isolation of the White House. "He's like a solar panel," explained Morris. "Put him in the dark and he goes cold and dead." There's some practical advice for Hillary to control her man.

Morris provoked a few snickers by opining that Clinton is a great president and will eventually be ranked somewhere in the top 20. He urged the audience to get off the scandal bandwagon. After all, advised Dick, compared to the sexual appetites of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Clinton's non-coital foibles make him seem "like a eunuch." Morris, who made headlines with his dalliance with a prostitute in a Washington hotel while he was Clinton's political adviser, might have added his own name to that list as well.

Morris says he last talked to Clinton in late January after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. The president had paged him, and when Morris returned the call, he says his first words to the shaken president were: "You poor son of a bitch, I know just what you're going through."

After the president agreed he was having a really bad day, Clinton made the big admission to Morris that the rest of the country would have to wait another eight months to hear. "Ever since I've been president I've tried to walk the straight line," 'fessed Clinton, "but I just slipped up with this girl. I didn't do what they said I did, but I did do something, and I don't know if I can prove my innocence."

Morris told the crowd, "I did not then ask him, 'What do you mean by something?' " What Morris did suggest was that Clinton go on television and ask for public forgiveness.

According to the consultant, the president wondered, "Do you think it would work?" Morris suggested a poll, and "wrote up a questionnaire where I fantasized what 'something' was."

Morris was jokingly asked whether he included cigars in the questionnaire, a reference to reports that Clinton and Lewinsky had found innovative uses for stogies in their behind-the-Oval-Office encounters. In perhaps the only real scoop of the evening, Morris declared in mock outrage, "Those were my cigars."

After the poll came in, Morris says results were unequivocal. "The only thing he could possibly have done at that point ... was lie. This country took eight months to get used to the idea of a president who had sex with an intern in the Oval Office."

Makes you wonder what of perhaps greater significance has been kept secret by the White House, for fear the public couldn't get used to it?

-- Tim Fleck

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