Bill Clinton’s favorite book is said to be The Meditations of the second-century A.D. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a plumpish volume of ethical jottings in crabbed Greek, disdained, apparently, by most early American readers as too idiosyncratic and obscure (one notable exception was the first Virginian, Captain John Smith). But it does not appear that the 42nd (all at sixes and sevens?) President of the New Romans (as Canadian arch-nationalist Mel Hurtig once entitled them) has absorbed very much of the Stoic emperor’s message, though he claims to re-read it every year. Perhaps he only knows it through a special Arkansas pop-up edition. Maybe Chelsea could help him with the harder words and pass on some of her Stanford-polished brainpower. For Dad does seem to have missed most of Marcus’s message, above all where sex is concerned. Take this typical admonition; “He that does wrong from lust, being mastered by pleasure, is incontinent and unmanly in his wrong-doing.” When Marcus had the chance to tamper with a palace girl (read: intern) named Benedicta, he refrained, knowing that “if a man has sensibility, he will gaze with chaste eyes upon the alluring loveliness of the young.”

Now that Bill is more concerned with Milosevic than Monica, he might, on his next perusal, consider what Marcus has to say about waging war. Unlike Clinton, this Roman leader fought in person for his country throughout the last decade of his life. He died in camp in central Europe, possibly poisoned by his son Commodus (Chelsea, take note), the alleged product of his wife’s extramarital passion for a gladiator. (Does any Beltway gossip connect Hillary with a taste for NFL linemen?) You may be victorious, Marcus tells those who would wage war, but “consider how many great captains are dead after butchering thousands,” while “men may pride themselves on capturing boars or bears or barbarians, yet are these men not brigands if von examine their motive?” Not that warmongering is the only thing which “obliterates holy principles”; so does its opposite, cowardice (read: draft-dodging), as well as “stageapery” (read: public performances on saxophone); Bill moves easily from sex to sax, both of which involve blowing, if not inhaling.

One could easily rack up a long list of other Aurelian prescriptions unnoticed by his American epigone: the violence done to one’s soul by lying (“How rotten at the core is he who proclaims aloud; I shall be straight with vou. There is no need to say this. The fact should declare itself It ought to be written on the face, a ring in the voice should show it at once, just as the loved one can read at a glance every secret in the lover’s looks”); the need to be deferential to the Senate and address it always in non-dissembling words; the pointlessness of tailoring one’s image to posterity, “which no one has seen or shall see.”

Perhaps Bill should consult another classic, the biographer Suetonius, one of the authors whom Thomas Jefferson recommended to ancient history students at the University of Virginia in 1825. Setting aside the question of incest, but with that dress in mind, Clinton should turn without ado to chapter 28 of the Life of Nero; “Whenever the emperor rode in a litter with his mother, he had sexual relations with her, which were betrayed by the stains on their clothing.”