I haven’t read Bill Clinton’s new book. But I heard it discussed the other day on CPR (Colorado Public Radio) and was pretty much flabbergasted at how it’s being received today in light of the #Me-Too movement. When Bill and Monica were doing unspeakable things with cigars in the oval office, I was finishing college and pretty much disinterested in politics and more interested in my immediate future plans. But one thing I do remember is the often expressed dismissal of Bill’s behavior as “his private business”, as not related to politics, along the lines of, “what he does in the bedroom [sic, oval office…] is none of the country’s business”. If anything, Monica Lewinsky was brushed off and dismissed by the media as some dumb girl who fooled around with the President, and probably consensually so, and let’s get back down to business and focus on what’s important like foreign relations….
I remember being shocked at how quickly and swiftly people were willing to compartmentalize Bill’s behavior in the oval office bedroom and his public behavior in politics. There seemed to be absolutely no recognition of a connection between character and integrity in one’s personal life and character and integrity in one’s public life.
Perhaps that’s when I lost all respect for politicians, and happily identified myself as a “disinterested non-voter” to both my Dad, who argued that voting really matters, and the cheery college students outside grocery stores trying to get people to sign up for this or that. Despite their best efforts, I didn’t vote for years. How could I when Bill had made a mockery of what Presidents are expected to do while in office?
But enough about me and my youthful disdain for politics. What strikes me as super interesting now, is that 20+ years later, because of the #MeToo movement, people are finally questioning whether Bill was at fault. Monica was a young woman, just out of college, looking to make it in the world of politics. And here was this much older, much more powerful man, her senior in experience, position and clout, a closet slut, asking her to fool around with him on office time and in office space. Deplorable. How could he not have known better? How could he not have controlled himself? He disgraced this young woman and disgraced his wife and family at the same time. He embarrassed himself in front of the whole nation.
I have always said that if Bill had owned up to his slutty folly in the oval office when asked, saying, yes, I did that, I’m sorry, I’m disgusting, I apologize to Monica, my wife and family, and the nation, if he had said that, I would have reserved a shred of respect for him. Knowing that you’ve f****d up and being able to apologize and own up to it, and make amends for your infractions, is the sign of a human being in growth. But because Bill denied it all until the point of ridiculousness, I couldn’t save even a shred of respect for this weak man, the so-called Pres.
I’ve often wondered since that time why Hillary didn’t swiftly divorce him and move on. In my mind, that would make her more of a hero to women. If a man cheats on you and lies about it publicly, yikes, be strong and reject that humiliation. Move on. That is strength. But that’s a topic for another blog. Hillary perhaps had her reasons.
Most interesting, perhaps, is that it took having an absolute abomination of a President in the White House for all of this #MeToo and women solidarity to come to light. It took a disaster of a President and of a human being (yes, I’m referring to Donald Trump) for people to reflect back on the Clinton Lewinsky scandal in a new light. No, she wasn’t the dumb young slut the media made her out to be. She was yet another victim in Bill’s long string of womanizing and disrespecting women, including his long-time wife, Hillary. It’s too bad it took a Donald-sized disaster to make us rethink integrity and character in public life, but I’m so happy to see it finally happening.