Yesterday saw another surprising development in the growing scandal surrounding ex-President Clinton.
Accusations have surfaced that Mr. Clinton may have been responsible for the asteroid that struck Earth 65 million years ago, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, stopped short of explicitly charging that anybody had broken the laws of nature, but added, "If we find that there was any quid pro quo - money for survival - then of course we'll pursue that."
The most recent rumors of impropriety surfaced in the Journal of Geological Science, which reported that sediment composition in Little Rock, Ark., indicates that an object at least 10 miles in diameter struck Earth during the Cretaceous period.
Congressman Burton called the coincidence "alarming" and said his committee would investigate immediately. "We need to move quickly on this tragedy," he told reporters. "Many of the potential witnesses are already dead or missing." His committee is preparing to issue subpoenas to curators at the Museum of Natural History in New York.
"The appearance of impropriety is there," Burton said. "One minute dinosaurs rule the Earth, the next minute they're gone. We need to find out what actually transpired so that the Congress and the American people can rest assured there was no illegal activity."
In a statement published last week in The New York Times, Clinton defended his fossil record and noted his long devotion to several well-known reptiles. While he admitted that he had heard about the extinction of the dinosaurs - "I still feel their pain" - he insisted that no one in his administration was "in any way involved."
When confronted by reporters during a pleasure stroll through Harlem, Clinton said, "It all depends on what your definition of extinction is."
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D), recently elected to the Senate from New York, tried to distance herself from the asteroid controversy. At a raucous press conference on Capitol Hill, she told reporters and geophysicists that she was "heartbroken" and "saddened" by the extinction of the dinosaurs. But she added, "I did not play any role whatsoever. I had no opinion about it at the time."
Mrs. Clinton confirmed reports that she had visited the Bronx Zoo in October of 2000 and seen the alligators and tortoises. "But the subject of the loss of their ancient ancestors never came up," she said.
Hoping to reclaim the national spotlight, President George W. Bush said at his first official press conference that he "hoped the country would move on from the tragedies of the last 65 million years."
"I'm a uniter, not a paleontologist," the president said.
Ron Charles is the Monitor's book editor, and an occasional satirist.