Former presidential paramour Monica Lewinsky has resurfaced in Vanity Fair to remind us all, once again, of the lack of class with which Bill Clinton conducted his affairs while president of the United States.
There is little use in rehashing the arguments for and against. Clinton is a serial womanizer, something even most of his supporters acknowledge, albeit with a grin that indicates, to them at least, it doesn’t matter. We know he had an illicit relationship with Lewinsky, lied about it, became only the second president is U.S. history to be impeached and, escaping conviction in the U.S. Senate, went on to serve out the remainder of his second term.
Strangely enough, however, the Lewinsky revelations – if that is indeed what they are – contain a small nugget that amounts to a major rewriting of American sexual politics, then and now, that opens the door for a number of men to claim they are owed an apology.
“Maintaining that her affair with Clinton was one between two consenting adults, Lewinsky writes that it was the public humiliation she suffered in the wake of the scandal that permanently altered the direction of her life,” the magazine says in an online squib published Tuesday in advance of the magazine‘s release. “Sure my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. And ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position,” Lewinsky writes in the forthcoming article.
Sure, he is a rake who has an impulse control problem. Sure, she flashed him – was it in or just near the Oval Office? And yes, members of Clinton’s administration did the best they could to brand her as unbalanced, a stalker and worse. If you remember the politics of the time, which had been redefined for all to see by the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill debate and the scandal surrounding now former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, none of that was supposed to matter. A relationship between a boss and an employee, between an authority figure and a person subordinate to him or her, is a power relationship; therefore, whatever else it might have been, it could not have been consensual.
The fact of power, that one party has it and the other does not, bends the curve. At least that is what the feminist nanny goats who objected to the behavior of men in powerful positions had us all believing at the time. The presence of “power” removes the possibility of consent from any relationship like the one that occurred between Clinton and Lewinsky, we were told over and over again before that particular scandal broke, because, at some level, the consent was necessarily coerced. Just like his well-documented request, still disputed by Clinton loyalists, that a female state employee provide him with sexual gratification in a Little Rock hotel suite after she was escorted to it and him by an Arkansas state patrolman.
Lewinsky apparently believes she consented to what went on between them but, again according to the new sexual standards that had been established by the feminist movement, she was merely deluding herself. That she may have understood that may also explain, in part, why she kept the infamous stained blue dress that eventually made headlines once its existence was revealed on The Drudge Report website. She knew instinctively that she’d eventually need evidence of their affair.
This is the sticking point, one that those in the GOP who argued for impeachment and for other sanctions could never quite make clear through the fog of disinformation emanating from the Clinton media defense squad. Once the rules concerning workplace relationships were redefined, the Republicans, like it or not, made an obvious attempt to live by them. Therefore, when the president was caught violating those rules, it was necessary to subject him to sanction. That’s how the rule of law works: It must apply to all persons equally in order for it to stand up and for the rest of us to avoid being drawn into a tyranny governed by emotions and expediency.
Attempts to rewrite history are always interesting, and no less so in this case. There are those who will no doubt argue it is to Hillary Clinton’s benefit to have the story rehashed and respun so she can avoid talking about it if and when she runs for president herself in 2016. An extramarital affair is a lot easier to explain away as inconsequential than a flagrant abuse of power which, according to the old rules, is what Mr. Clinton committed by his seduction of Lewinsky. If the rules have in fact changed, it would be helpful for someone to let the rest of us know.