Happenings ten years ago
By Michael M. Bates
The president of the United States clenched his jaw, narrowed his eyes and wagged his finger. Glaring at the cameras, Bill Clinton ordered: "I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again, I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time - never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people."
It's been ten years ago last week that Clinton made his forceful denial. A few days earlier, he'd insisted to a National Public Radio interviewer that there was absolutely no basis to allegations that either he or a minion had encouraged a witness in the Paula Jones sex harassment lawsuit to lie. "I don't know any more about it than I've told you," he said, "and any more about it really than you do, but I will cooperate."
He was still cooperating the next day when he told reporters that the American people had a right to know what was going on. "I'd like for you to have more (information) rather than less, sooner rather than later. So we'll work through it as quickly as we can and get all those questions out there to you." Right.
Mrs. Clinton hastily came to her husband's defense on national television: "The great story here for anybody willing to find it, write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."
She and Bill had endured dreadful treatment from those terrible right-wingers for oh so long. "That (the charge her husband used an intern for more than delivering pizza and wanted her to lie about it) is not going to be proven true."
It's tough to believe that the world's smartest (despite flunking the DC bar exam) woman didn't know all about her spouse's lack of maturity and control when it came to persons of the female persuasion. Those characteristics had been talked about, written about and documented for years. Yet, amazingly, she was possibly the only human being in the Western Hemisphere unaware of Bill's diversions.
Clinton denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky in his sworn deposition on the Jones lawsuit. Later, after a blue dress with DNA on it surfaced, he admitted his involvement. It was noted at the time that for the Clintons, if it isn't DNA-able, it's deniable.
The scandal was all just about sex, his defenders cried. No, it was about telling the truth under oath, obstructing justice, and exploiting a young and naïve subordinate.
Clinton was impeached. Not for, as commonly believed, having sex with an intern. He was impeached for providing a grand jury with "perjurious, false and misleading testimony" and for engaging "personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up, and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony related to a Federal civil rights action brought against him."
The Senate voted to reject the articles of impeachment. In a nauseating act of misplaced loyalty, every Senate Democrat stayed faithful to their Bill. Moral arbiter Teddy Kennedy spoke for his colleagues when he acknowledged that Clinton lied and misled the country for many months, but what the hey, it wasn't all that bad.
There were some consequences. Clinton was fined $90,000 by a Federal court for lying under oath. Arkansas disbarred him. He was prohibited from practicing law before the U.S. Supreme Court. The president paid $850,000 to end Paula Jones' lawsuit, quite a price for an innocent man.
A decent person would have quietly left office and slinked into the obscurity he so richly deserved. We're not speaking of a respectable individual, however. The deviant narcissist has remained in the public eye, particularly during his wife's presidential campaign. Barack Obama can be excused for sometimes wondering which Clinton he's running against.
It's reported prominent Democrats are requesting Bill dial down his criticism of the Illinois senator. According to Newsweek, a lawyer who coordinated Clinton's impeachment defense now backs Obama and observes: "recent events raise the question: if Hillary's campaign can't control Bill, whether Hillary's White House could."
It isn't Hillary's campaign that can't control him; it's Hillary. Confronted with his excesses, she pretended not to know about them. So desperately does she crave power she put up with private heartbreak and public humiliation again and again.
When Bill Clinton ran for president, he boasted that by putting both him and Hillary in the White House the United States would get "two for the price of one." Democrats should inquire if that's what they'll get this time around. How many replays of ten years ago can they take?
I hope the Clintons remembered this tenth anniversary, even if the blissful couple doesn't exchange cards. They deserve one another.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the January 24, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.