When those in power say they’re doing what the American people want, you can pretty much bet they have their own interests in mind.

Take Kenneth Starr. For the past four years, he has pursued the president’s every conversation, memo, phone call and sneeze. He has spent more than $40 million in taxpayer money. He insists he is doing what the American people want — even when the American people tell him they’re sick of him.

At the same time, President Clinton has been lying, cheating and dodging, finding every definition of sex he can think of, and generally running away from the truth. He insists that avoiding the subject is doing what the American people want — even when the American people simply want him to come clean.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee, which happens to have more Republicans on it than Democrats, insisted that four hours of videotape and 3,000-plus pages of testimony be dumped on the American public, so parents had to race to the TV sets, lest their children start asking, “Mommy, is that what a cigar is used for?”

All this evidence, of course, was shoved upon us because it’s what the American people want — even though most American people had no desire to see it.

Later this week, that same Judiciary Committee will release another 60,000 pages of information, including the taped conversations Linda Tripp made of Monica Lewinsky. Never mind that most Americans abhor that act and would like to diminish its significance. We are going to have it dumped in our collective laps. Why?

It’s what the American people want.

Table thumpers ring hollow

Have you watched Newt Gingrich lately? He seems to delight so much in the president’s woes, you have to wipe the slobber from his lips. Never mind that his own ethics were called to the carpet not too long ago. He insists the president’s indiscretions are gravely serious, and he rejected a plea for a speedy inquiry, saying that is not what America wants — even though every indication shows a speedy result is exactly what America wants.

The same thing goes for all those other Republican table thumpers, who insist Americans will not tolerate a man like Clinton in the White House, when every five minutes a poll shows Americans will.

Ask a Republican about censure — a public flogging of sorts, a shameful legacy for any president — and they shake their heads. It is not what America wants, they say, even though every time it is offered, Americans say it is.

And the Democrats are no better. They want this thing out of here faster than a Mark McGwire home run. Wrap it up, enough, it’s over, they say. It’s what America wants. But what they mean is: Let’s get it behind us before the November election.

The media? Ha! TV, radio, and print publications are overflowing with salacious information about oral sex, thong underwear, titillating phone calls. It’s the cover story. It leads the news. It’s what America wants, they say, even as Americans turn down the volume.

Meanwhile sleaze-addicts like Matt Drudge and Geraldo Rivera keep shooting endless gallons of half-baked sludge out there. They talk rumors and theories, saying “It’s what America wants” instead of “It’s all we know how to do.”

The Sunday morning TV pundits go on and on, interviewing one another, speculating and moralizing. And former insiders like Dee Dee Meyers and George Stephanopoulos, who worked only a short time under the president, now live on TV, jumping from program to program. They claim they’re giving America what it wants, when the truth is, they’re pumping themselves and their future book deals.

Even Quayle joins in

Of course, it’s not just the regulars who know the country’s needs so well. Dan Quayle, who seems to surface only when it’s safe, recently called upon the president to resign. He said it was what America wants, never adding that he himself hopes to be president in two years.

And last week Miss America, who has had her crown only a few days, decided she needed to weigh in on the matter. She said Clinton should resign. And, of course, we needed to hear that because she is, after all, Miss America. Isn’t wearing a bathing suit and high heels qualification for taking the nation’s pulse?

I don’t know who all these people are looking out for my country. I will say this: For folks who chose to speak for all America, they sure do have a tendency to live in Washington or New York. If they bothered to read the polls more carefully, they might note the only one that means anything. The one that says Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the way everyone has handled this mess, from Clinton to Starr to Republicans to the media.

But who has time for that? They’re too busy telling us what we want.

To leave a message for Mitch Albom, call 1-313-223-4581.

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