Like a bad dream or a bad penny, former President Bill Clinton’s highly inappropriate, though not criminal, relationship with Monica Lewinsky from two decades ago periodically rears its ugly head. It nearly cost him his presidency, and over the years, it has haunted him, his long-suffering wife, Hillary, and her political aspirations, not to mention the rest of us. It nigh on ruined Lewinsky’s life. Now in her mid-40s and holding a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, she has been unable to find meaningful and sustainable employment under her own notorious name. In her TED talk, she addressed “public shaming as a blood sport” and described herself as the original victim of cyber bullying beginning in the late 1990s.
The relationship popped up again recently as Clinton embarked on a book tour of his new novel, written with thriller author James Patterson. Instead of the book, news has centered on the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship, with the former president testily acknowledging that while he has publicly apologized for the affair on several occasions, he has never actually spoken to Lewinsky herself. With the United States and much of the world focused on the #MeToo movement, Clinton’s insensitivity and preoccupation with his own victimhood – “I left the White House $16M in debt,” has not been well received. Even he has acknowledged this stance in recent interviews “was not my finest hour.”
While the former president’s relationship with a young woman much closer to his daughter’s age than his own was not illegal, it was stunningly inappropriate for the most powerful man in the world to use her and discard her, leaving her alone for “shaming as blood sport” for more than 20 years.
Clinton is hardly alone, though.
American history is littered with presidential misbehavior in the libido department. Thomas Jefferson had six children with Sally Hemings, the younger half-sister of his late wife and his own
“property” as a slave on his Virginia plantation. Grover “Ma! Ma! Where’s My Pa? Gone to the White House! Ha! Ha! Ha” Cleveland fathered a child out of wedlock and got to the presidency anyway. Franklin Roosevelt maintained a long-running affair with his wife’s secretary, who was with him when he died. John F. Kennedy apparently spent about as much time dating around as he did running the country, and both Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson reportedly enjoyed active social lives outside their marriages.
Our current president may take the cake in the womanizing department, though. Donald Trump has bragged on tape about which body part he prefers to “grab.” One can Google “how many women have accused President Trump of sexual harassment/sexual assault/sexual misconduct/groping/rape” and come up with a different number in each category. Some cases have been
settled and cash has changed hands, and others are out there for all the world to see. The latest is Stormy Daniels, who recently performed at a men’s club in Raleigh. The end to her legal dispute with the president seems nowhere in sight.
The president and Mrs. Trump have dismissed his remarks about women as “locker room talk” and “boy talk.”
Trump joins Clinton in crying “poor me.” The women are going after him, he says, and none – he repeats, not one – of the accusations contain a shred of truth, the groping tape notwithstanding.
These women, apparently like Special Counsel Robert Mueller, have been sent by the Democrats and other unnamed enemies to derail his excellent presidency.
It feels like we have been living for the last several years in the “season of men behaving badly,” with the domino-like downfalls of titans of show business, media, politics and business. Some fell with massive thunderclaps, while others eased themselves out of their important roles before their personal storms hit. In fact, though, men behaving badly has been with us since the founding of our country, and women are just now finding the power to call them on it.
Clinton and Trump and others with great political power can point at others all they want to, but at the end of the day, the responsibility is theirs, and it is not associated with any particular party.