As it turned out 20 years ago, Hillary Clinton’s right — Bill Clinton didn’t need to resign. He managed to weather impeachment and remain popular enough for Hillary to have her own political career. But this question from CBS Sunday Morning misses the mark in a couple of important ways, and Tony Dokoupil lets her off the hook:
“In retrospect, do you think Bill should’ve resigned in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal?” correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked.
“Absolutely not,” Clinton said.
“It wasn’t an abuse of power?”
Hillary wonders why there hasn’t been an investigation of Donald Trump and all of the complaints about sexual harassment, a point on which Dokoupil passes. However, we can answer that pretty easily. For one thing, Democrats did litigate that in the 2016 election, and it turned out to be just as effective as when Republicans litigated it in the 1998 midterms. More obviously, those didn’t take place in the White House, where Trump has (presumably) kept it buttoned up. If Trump did have an affair with an intern in the White House, then it would be more analogous.
But there’s another problem with this answer, which Hillary cleverly keeps focused on the affair. Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached for having an adulterous affair in the Oval Office — he was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in a lawsuit brought for sexual harassment. Paula Jones’ allegation against Bill during his tenure as governor of Arkansas sounds a bit like the Deborah Ramirez’ unsubstantiated claim against Brett Kavanaugh, only a lot more contemporaneous and more specific:
13. We talked for a few minutes. Mr. Clinton asked me about my job. He told me that Dave Harrington (who at that time was in charge of the AIDC) was his “good friend.”
14. Mr. Clinton then unexpectedly reached over to me, took my hand, and pulled me toward him, so that our bodies were close to each other. I removed my hand from his and retreated several feet.
15. Mr. Clinton approached me again, saying “I love the way your hair flows down your back” and “I love your curves.” While saying these things, Mr. Clinton put his hand on my leg and started sliding his hand toward my pelvic area. I did not consent to him doing this. He also bent down to kiss me on the neck, but I would not let him do so.
16. I exclaimed, “What are you doing?” and escaped from Mr. Clinton’s reach by walking away from him. I was extremely upset and confused and I did not know what to do. I tried to distract Mr. Clinton by asking him about his wife and her activities, and I sat down at the end of the sofa nearest the door. Mr. Clinton then walked over to the sofa, lowered his trousers and underwear, exposed his penis (which was erect) and told me to “kiss it.”
17. I was horrified by this. I jumped up from the couch and told Mr. Clinton that I had to go, saying something to the effect that I had to get back to the registration desk. Mr. Clinton, while fondling his penis, said: “Well, I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to do.” Mr. Clinton then stood up, pulled up his pants and said: “If you get in trouble for leaving work, have Dave call me immediately and I’ll take care of it.” As I left the room, Mr. Clinton detained me momentarily, looked sternly at me and said: “You are smart. Let’s keep this between ourselves.”
The declaration was filed with the court seven years after the incident, but was consistent with the story Jones had been telling since the 1992 election cycle and with her initial 1994 lawsuit for sexual harassment. In the latter legal effort, Bill Clinton was asked in a deposition under oath about whether he had a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky, which he denied. Only after the infamous “blue dress” was produced and proven to have Bill’s semen on it did Clinton admit to the affair. Even then, he couldn’t quite admit to perjury; he insisted to much ridicule that the word “is” in the question had been open to interpretation.
The proper question should be whether a president demonstrated to have lied under oath should resign his position. As it turned out, that answer would also be no, at least if one goes by what happened to Clinton. He wound up being feted as an elder statesman and nearly made his way back into the White House via Hillary. All during that 18-year period, no one wanted to ask Bill or Hillary about Lewinsky, Jones, or a number of women who alleged much worse conduct, such as Juanita Broaddrick’s allegation of rape.
And in this interview, it still seems that no one wants to ask the Clintons about those more serious allegations. Instead, we’re still talking about the difference between abuse of power and adult agency when a boss seduces an intern less than half his age, one of the least compelling issues involved in Bill Clinton’s abuse of power in regard to his perjury. Even so, it’s still interesting to see Hillary land on the Mad Men square of Lewinsky’s agency as an adult, something that #MeToo activists won’t much like.