He a President, She a Trainee

I would like to like the Clinton family. As in all three of them. Not particularly much, but just enough to be able to say that the three of them have rendered a solid public service and they seem likeable. However, it now appears that Bill Clinton is a bit of an infant and cannot quite get over things.

With “things” I of course mean Monica Lewinsky and yes I know there possibly cannot be another new thing to be written or said about the affair, but since it’s making an appearance in the press every now and then, well, here I am.

So Bill Clinton gives an interview to ​Today Show to do PR for his new novel “The President is Missing” with the co-author James Patterson. Given that the Weinstein-trial has just started, the journalist asks Clinton whether he’d do anything differently now, in the light of the #metoo movement. Clinton says no, because he had done the right thing. Irritated, he rails on that it was he who had left the White House with 16 million dollars in debt. It was he who was litigated for 20 years. It was he who had a sexual harassment policy while he was a governor and, wait for this, it was he, and certainly not Ms Lewinsky, who had women as chief of staff. 

What Clinton forgot to mention was that it was also he who orchestrated and mobilised an unprecedented, never-seen-before dirt campaign against Lewinsky as soon as details of their affair emerged. She was a trainee, he was the President of the United States of America. Lewinsky said in a recent article that the relationship with President Clinton was fully consensual, but what followed was a gross abuse of power that was in no way proportionate. 

Would Clinton apologise to Lewinsky? No, he would not. Instead he said he did the right thing by defending the constitution.

Male pride is such an interesting thing, especially when combined with power. You would be forgiven for thinking that there’s a time to just get over it and let go (like after 20 years). Yet, dear readers, I have the feeling that the more power men have, the pettier they get. It’s possibly the constant fawning and pampering around them that detaches one so completely from oneself. An example: having an illicit affair becomes your right, but when the inconvenient truth is out, the affair becomes somebody else’s responsibility

With power come networks of other powerful people. I imagine the networks of the US President to be rather extensive. Despite Monica Lewinsky having achieved a lot, especially as an ambassador for the movement against internet bullying, I imagine her social networks to be modest compared to those of Bill Clinton. Which, of course, is understandable and obvious etc etc, but consider the following for a second:

Last month Lewinsky gets an invitation to a high-profile philanthropy summit followed by a luncheon. She RSVP’s. A week after she gets a phone call from the organiser telling her there was a problem. Bill Clinton would be delivering opening words at the event and then leave. Lewinsky’s presence would be awkward. 

Lewinsky offers to arrive after Clinton’s speech to hear the remaining of the discussions (she was also not interested in drawing everybody’s attention to the two of them at a fundraiser). Not possible. Nope. But would she like to come for the lunch? And write an article to the sponsoring magazine? 

The point here is not that Lewinsky wasn’t offered an interesting consolation prize of lobster roll, glass of chablis and a chat with the ladies. The point is that people in power thought it better to disinvite her so as not to upset the powerful keynote speaker. This speaks volumes of the attitudes and double standards that are still there. Read Lewinsky’s own account of the debacle in her article in Vanity Fair (she’s a contributing editor to the magazine). 

I imagine few people get points for style when affairs like this fall apart. What once was a right to pleasure turns into a ​responsibility, and who likes responsibilities, especially if they come with public and/or private humiliation? 

While I admit that the Western world possibly has spent far too much time and effort in psychotherapizing the Clinton family over the affair in the West Wing, there are elements to it that give it relevance, such as the abuse of power and the structures that facilitate it. Also the way we look at power, merit and influence and how we hold the Establishment accountable. 

So yes, while these issues as such need our attention, everybody should maybe move on and get over the affair. I suggest Bill Clinton goes first. 

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