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Rehashing Clinton And Lewinsky — As If We Need To Do That Again

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Rehashing Clinton And Lewinsky — As If We Need To Do That Again


Now that President Trump has brought us peace in our time, can we all get back to stoning Bill Clinton? Because no Christian doctrine is so universally ignored among the influential tribe of Pundit-Americans as Jesus’s admonition against sexual self-righteousness: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Leading lives of spotless moral virtue, Washington journalists have long been of one mind about the Arkansas naughty boy. So everybody got a cheap thrill when Clinton responded peevishly to a series of barbed questions about Monica Lewinsky from the Today show’s Craig Melvin.

You know, Matt Lauer’s old show. The guy with the button on his desk keeping women locked inside his office.

Nobody at NBC knew a thing.

But there’s no statute of limitations where Clinton/Lewinsky are concerned. The former president’s one-time Oval Office squeeze definitely doesn’t think so. In yet another bid to keep her celebrity martyrdom alive, Lewinsky recently wrote an essay for Vanity Fair, again lamenting how the Big Creep done her wrong.

As indeed, he did.

But can nobody close to Monica persuade her that constantly picking at a 25 year-old wound can only prevent it from healing?

After decades of defiantly insisting that her relationship with Clinton was entirely consensual, indeed passionately desired, Lewinsky writes that her eyes have been opened by the #MeToo movement: “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege.”

Look, there’s no point re-litigating all this at this late date. But if you google “presidential kneepads,” one of the first things that comes up is a Los Angeles Times interview with the former drama teacher with whom Lewinsky had a five-year affair before heading to the White House, intent upon seducing the president.

Yes, she was in her early twenties, a “near child” according to my friend, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett. (In which case I married a near-child six months older than me, but never mind.) Monica’s White House adventures were very far from being her first rodeo, as we say out in the boondocks. Consent? She threw herself at him thong first.

Me, I couldn’t have gotten away fast enough. Drama queens put me off. That’s one reason I bought Clinton’s cover story for the longest time. That said, none of what eventually happened would have happened if Monica hadn’t betrayed him first. She violated Rule One of adulterous love affairs: She talked.

How could a man with even a fraction of Bill Clinton’s rumored experience not see that that coming? Lewinsky talked to damn near anybody who would listen, and particularly to her false friend Linda Tripp, who proceeded to destroy Monica’s life for political purposes.

Tripp and that great American Kenneth Starr, who may have failed to notice when the Baylor University football team went on a sexual assault binge, but who tried to pressure Lewinsky into saying Clinton urged her to obstruct justice. Courageously, she refused, possibly saving the Big Creep’s presidency after first helping him damn near destroy it.

But I digress. Back to last week. Appearing on Today to promote his book The President is Missing, co-written with best-selling novelist James Patterson, Clinton found himself asked no fewer than six times in a tightly-edited segment if he didn’t think he needed to apologize privately to Monica. Oddly, the segment aired with a 1998 clip of Clinton giving a shamefaced, lip-biting apology to pretty much everybody in the world, specifically including “Monica Lewinsky and her family.”

So it was hard to know what Melvin was driving at, apart from showcasing his ability to badger an ex-president. Anyway, just like that, the old gang got back together. A ritual stoning proceeded. Indignant scribes took turns lambasting Clinton for daring to imagine he could appear on national TV without groveling about his sexual sins.

The Washington Posts Dana Milbank and Glenn Kessler, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, and, of course, the inimitable Maureen Dowd emerged as Monica Lewinsky’s champions. It was generally agreed that Clinton had paid no price for his misdeeds, and had a lot of nerve “raging” at NBC’s Melvin. Watch the clip. Do you see rage? I see mainly petulance.

Dowd hit Clinton with the ultimate insult: “Trump-level narcissism and selfishness.” Having spent decades comparing Lewinsky to the predatory Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction, mocking her weight, and lampooning her intelligence, the venerable Times columnist suddenly emerged as her champion.

Of course Clinton was foolish not to anticipate Melvin’s questions.

But should he pick up the phone, have a heart to heart with Lewinsky, and tell NBC about it?

I surely wouldn’t. Would you?

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate.

A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows.
Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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