Bill Clinton did not make a graceful figure when he was asked about his affair with Monika Lewinsky and how he would do it differently after the #meToo movement. When he got a chance for a “do over” from Stephen Colbert, he did not do much better.
Sadly the discussion about this situation has largely concentrated on the question if this even relates to #metoo as Miss Lewinsky was in a consensual sexual relationship with Bill Clinton and has never indicated to have been under any pressure from him. She did tweet that the movement has made her think about the power imbalance between them.
Let me get this one straight: this was a potential #meToo moment but that was not the heart of the issue.
The people have always judged her harshly for getting into an affair with a married man and father – but ignored the fact that he was the one to give vows to his wife and to father his daughter. He is the one with the main responsibility towards them. He was the president with all the responsibilities this entails and he endangered his position and his state and people by opening up the possibility of blackmail. He then went on and lied to his people and muddied the waters in a legal sense – something which may benefit Trump now if he indeed colluded with the Russians.
All of this was done by him for one reason and one reason only: he wanted to fuck his intern. That’s it.
What he should’ve considered – as the more experienced and far more powerful party – is that his position might influence her to not be be able to say no to him. He should’ve thought about the possibility of how much pressure it was for her to be put in this position. He should’ve thought about the repercussions this would have for her. I doubt he considered any of it, I doubt he cared a penny for her.
All of that should’ve been in his mind after the thought about the hurt and long lasting effect this would have on his wife and daughter – as indeed it did for Hillary in her run for president. He should have thought about the secrets he was guarding for his country, the embarrassment it would cause his people, the possibility to be blackmailed by a foreign country or a political opponent. He should have considered all of that and then thought about Monika and what this would mean for her.
He should have also considered that her interest in him could be pure self interest in building up a career and having access. Or that she was indeed naive and young and infatuated. Whatever the case may be – he did not consider it, he was only thinking of himself.
Another aspect of this is that women who defend Monika like to portray her as a 22 year old who made a silly mistake in her naivete and suffered her whole life for it. Stop acting like she was a child. She was old enough to know that if the affair came out – which was likely – she would be in the public eye. She would be judged harshly and rightly so. As it is morally reprehensible to have an affair with someone who is married. She knew that he was married, that he was the president. But she still followed through with her own desires – whatever they were – and disregarded the pain that would cause. She is not innocent, she is not a martyr. To her credit, she has never backed down from the responsibility for her actions and has never shifted the blame.
But she did suffer for it and she suffered enough. She came out of that suffering and started to build a career out of it, advocating for other women and giving TED talks. Looking at this bitterly and saying “she made money out of it” is unfair. What other options did she have? Everyone in the world knew her. Going into witness protection would be the only option if she wanted to run from the reality. But she didn’t. She faced it and built a new life around it and I commend her for that.
Again: the question to Bill Clinton should have been “Have you considered that your affair with Monika Lewinsky and the subsequent scandal might enable Donald Trump to get away with possible collusion with Russia?” That is a far more interesting and less sensational question that the one asked and discussed. It has been 20 years. It’s time to stop haunting the Clinton family with this ghost.
If you did want to ask a sensational question, it should have been “What motivated you to risk your presidency, the trust of your people, your countries safety, your marriage and your family? What was it about that affair that was worth this kind of risk and the pain?”
I doubt he would make a better figure answering any of these questions.