Hail to the Chief He's just one more senior executive trying to get the job done.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – So I read in the paper this morning that only about a quarter of the American people favor impeachment, most all of them the conservative Republicans who hired Inspector Javert in the first place. The other 70% of those who have opinions want to settle for censure or--the vast plurality--drop the matter of the President and Ms. Lewinsky entirely. What's going on here? Do conservative Republicans have a corner on the morality market? This would be the first time, in my experience.

Me, I'm starting to feel sorry for the President. I tried to feel some moral outrage, especially about the lying. But I know if I were in his shoes, I'd be lying too. Hell, it would be tasteless and lacking in courage to burden other people with the truth. I'm glad I'm not in the President's shoes. But that doesn't mean I can't imagine what it must be like to be caught. Tell me you couldn't. That may make you a rotten human being, but it doesn't prevent you from doing your job. Hey, I don't know about you, but half the time I need to be a rotten person to do my job.

This woman comes up to me at a party. She says, "If the President was a corporate executive, he would have been fired a long time ago." I nearly swallowed the toothpick holding my olives together. What world does this woman live in? Did she ever work for anybody above the rank of vice president?

This is what we know about corporations:

1. No executive is ever investigated with the express purpose of eliminating him from the corporate body, unless he's small and being ejected as an example for other small people. Sometimes officers of high middle rank are investigated so they can be cleared of all charges, but pains are taken to treat the suspect with respect, so he will not be churlish on golf courses later on.

2. Ultrasenior officers are never, ever investigated, possibly because it is known what would be found. In no case is an assault mounted on any executive who may be making future decisions about the disposition of stock options to human-resources officers in charge of the investigation. And that's as it should be!

3. If a sexual, not financial, error is detected, it is scrupulously ignored, since such a transgression is unlikely to interfere with a corporate officer's work. In fact, sexual profligacy is not inconsistent with the superabundance of male hormone that an executive job description may call for (in meetings with the Japanese, say, or even Alan Greenspan, I imagine).

4. In spite of hypocritical protestations to the contrary, people are consensually honking each other every day in business situations both large and small, screwing each other in good ways, not just bad ones. Many of these people are married to other people and conducting clandestine relationships with subordinates, some of whom they subsequently marry.

5. If you fired every senior officer who misbehaved in some fundamental way, you'd be churning senior management incessantly and ejecting, along the way, the most important people in the hierarchy.

6. For those concerned not about sex but about mendacity, let's not even get into the question of whether lying is compatible with executive leadership.

Big jobs breed big dysfunctions. We like to forget about it, but reality intrudes. Most people are nuts to begin with. Give a small nut a big job, and he turns into a very big nut.

Doubt me? Well, perhaps my perception has been warped by experience.

I knew this guy. Married. Lovely wife. Kids up the wazoo. He was the president of a subsidiary in a very large FORTUNE 500 corporation. He used to hang in at the office until very late, naturally. Once every couple of weeks for a couple of years, an investment banker he knew, an extremely discreet, acute, and powerful woman, also married, would stop by our offices when only Rosa, the cleaning woman, was there. Chester would meet this woman, who was in her late 30s and the mother of several promising children, at the electronic doors of our 60-person executive floor. He would take her back to his offices for a drink, a little chat. Then, he would go with her into the boardroom of this billion-dollar subsidiary, and the two would make love on the 36-foot-long teak conference table. Eventually they broke up. He still misses her.

At the very same time, in the very same corporation, the top guy at HQ in Orlando was sneaking off every lunch hour in his sports car to boff the senior vice president of something I won't name. She was married at the time, and still is, as far as I know, to another haute employee of the corporation. At one point, it was said, King David promoted Bathsheba's vice presidential husband so that the successful cuckold would be required to visit an increased number of international locations. Hola!

At the very same time, in the very same corporation, the unmarried head of a department I will not name was repairing to an empty office every day. There, amid the boxes and dead modems, he and a very attractive department secretary, scheduled to be married that very spring, were pursuing some of the interests we've all been hotly discussing lately. The only punishment the department head might have received would have been an overly aggressive slam on the back from lusty and envious well-wishers.

The higher a guy gets, the more inhuman are the demands that are made upon him. These are people who are used to getting what they want, all the time, every time. This spoils them, eventually; creates terrible distortions in their personalities, renders them into monsters that eat up the world around them and spit it out in their own images. It is these very distortions that make them suited to leadership. Eliminate these dynamic bumps and wattles, and what have you got? George Bush. And even he had a girlfriend, I hear. You want a blow-by-blow description of those encounters?

Let's cut the President some slack, huh? He didn't invade Cambodia and lay land mines that are still killing people. He didn't destabilize the political process by burgling his adversaries' headquarters. He didn't trade arms for hostages. We know what he did, and we know a hundred more like him, some of whom are our friends. Hell, we work with these bozos every day. The only one who has a real case for impeachment against the poor slob is his wife. And I don't know. I wouldn't want to face that tribunal. I'd take whatever Congress could dish out any day.

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.