Democratic Senator Says Bill Clinton Should Have Resigned Over Lewinsky Affair

New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand says Bill Clinton should have resigned over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Raising the question of just how stringently we should apply the standards of today to the events of the past.

Bill Clinton Monica Lewinsky

New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand, who has been at the forefront of efforts on Capitol Hill to address sexual harassment in the military and elsewhere, suggested in an interview this week in The New York Times that former President Bill Clinton should have resigned in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal:

WASHINGTON — Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.

Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.”

But she also appeared to signal that what is currently considered a fireable offense may have been more often overlooked during the Clinton era.

“Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him.”

A spokesman later said that Ms. Gillibrand was trying to underscore that Mr. Clinton’s actions, had they happened in the current era, should have compelled him to resign.

Still, it was a remarkable statement from a senator who enthusiastically backed Mrs. Clinton’s presidential bid last year but has been deeply involved in legislative efforts to curb sexual abuse and harassment in the military and on college campuses.

Ms. Gillibrand, who has longstanding ties to the Clintons, is the highest-profile elected Democratic official to say that Mr. Clinton should have stepped down as a result of his affair.

Ms. Gillibrand’s remarks came during an interview for a New York Times podcast, “The New Washington,” which will air on Saturday. They came hours after Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, apologized for groping and kissing a radio host without her consent during a U.S.O. tour in 2006, two years before he was elected. Mr. Franken is now facing demands for an ethics investigation into his conduct.

“It’s very disturbing,” Ms. Gillibrand said of Mr. Franken. “I was very disappointed. But it’s important that survivors are coming out and speaking truth to power and telling their stories.”

(…)

Her criticism of the former president’s affair with Monica S. Lewinsky between 1995 and 1997 comes as the nation grapples with charges of sexual misconduct and harassment by celebrities, politicians and journalists that have often involved men exerting their professional power over younger women.

Gillibrand’s comments come in the wake of a what has become a nationwide phenomenon of women coming forward regarding past incidents of sexual harassment or sexual assault that began with the revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein from a number of women who allege that he forced himself on them or used his power over their careers to force them into sexual relationships over a period going back decades. As a result of these allegations, Weinstein lost his position at the head of his production company, was booted out of several top Hollywood associations, and has since entered what’s described as a rehabilitation facility. These were followed by accusations against others in Hollywood, such as actor Kevin Spacey, who has been accused of unwanted sexual advances by a number of men This has resulted in production on the Netflix show House of Cards being halted and the future of the show in doubt as the streaming service has ended its relationship with Spacey himself. Similar accusations have also been made against filmmaker Bruce Ratner and actor George Takei, among others. It also spawned a social media movement using the hashtag #MeToo which women have used to share their own stories of harassment and abuse at work and other locations, usually for the first time.

The movement has also moved into the political world with recent reports of sexual harassment, unwanted advances, and unwanted physical/sexual actions on Capitol Hill. Two days ago, California Congresswoman Jackie Spier, who recently shared her own story of having been sexually harassed in the past, stated that she is aware of at least two currently serving Members of Congress, one from each party, who have been accused of sexually inappropriate contact toward female staffers or other women with whom they have interacted. The past several weeks have also seen a number of women come forward to say that former President George H.W. Bush had groped them during photo opportunities or other situations, including at least one such event that occurred while he was President. Most recently, of course, there have been the allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, which include serious allegations regarding sexual assault against minors when he was 30 years old, and allegations and Minnesota Senator Al Franken. All of this has occurred over a period of just over a month, and there seems to be no end to the extent to which it is likely to reach as more women come forward to tell their stories.

Given this current movement, there has unsurprisingly been some harkening back to the 42nd President of the United States and the allegations of improper behavior toward women that his part that stretch back decades to his time as Arizona Governor. The charges began, of course, with the revelations about an affair with Gennifer Flowers that nearly brought Clinton’s campaign for President to an end before it had really started to catch fire. While Clinton was able to get beyond those charges thanks in no small part to the support of his wife Hillary Clinton, especially during a now legendary appearance that the two made on 60 Minutes just before the New Hampshire primary. That interview is now widely seen as having saved Clinton’s campaign and, of course, he went on to become President. That didn’t bring the accusations about Clinton making advances on other women, of course, Over the years, women such as Juanita Broderick and Paula Jones claimed that they too had been the subject of sexual advances and even sexual assault by Clinton while he was Arkansas Governor. Indeed, it was during a deposition connected to the Paula Jones matter that Clinton was first asked on the record about his relationship with a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. The rest, as they say, is history. The Lewinsky affair became public and it quickly became apparent that Clinton had lied under oath about the relationship during a deposition by Jones’s attorneys and that, of course, led to impeachment proceedings and a trial in the Senate which ended when the Senate failed to convict the President by the required two-thirds majority. In the end, Clinton left office with popularity ratings nearly as high as those Ronald Reagan had in January 1989, and he remains among the most popular of the living former Presidents.

The question before us now, of course, isn’t about history, but about judging something that happened nearly twenty years ago by the standards that exist today, standards that are themselves changing drastically and rapidly thanks to women who are choosing to come forward. When Republicans pursued their impeachment charges against President Clinton, they insisted that they weren’t impeaching him because he had an affair while he was President but because he violated the law by committing perjury in his deposition. Whether or not one believes that, it seems fairly clear in retrospect that it would have been politically difficult for even a Republican-held Congress to pursue impeachment charges against Clinton based on solely on the charge that he behaved inappropriately toward women while serving in office. Additionally, the American people seemed to dismiss that fact in their evaluation of Clinton even at the time the scandal was going on. Perhaps the outcome would have been different were we somehow able to apply today’s societal standards to what happened two decades ago, but that was then and this is now and it’s impossible to go back and change how things turned out or to change the way that people reacted to the reports of Clinton’s conduct back then as opposed to the way that they might react today if similar things were revealed about a sitting President.

All of this is a long way of saying that I’m not sure at all how I feel about Gillibrand’s comments. Certainly, if the allegations against Clinton were coming to light today they would be judged differently than he was in the mid-1990s. Society and the way we view relationships between men and women, especially in the workplace, have changed significantly and largely for the better. Under today’s standards, Clinton’s behavior toward Lewinsky would clearly have fallen into the same category of workplace sexual harassment that many women have come forward to talk about over the past month, and his behavior when serving as Governor would also be seen in a different light. That being said, resignation for having an affair, absent evidence that there was force of any kind involved, does seem like a bit of an over-reaction. Additionally, it’s worth noting that Clinton’s affair was not unique and that there are countless men who served as President who we now know were carrying on extramarital affairs while in office, this includes Presidents such as Grover Cleveland, Warren B. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and, of course, John F. Kennedy. Should all these Presidents have been forced to resign as well? How far back do we go in applying contemporary standards to the events of the past? Or should we just accept the fact that standards have changed and that behavior that was once acceptable is now considered unacceptable? I’ll leave that for others to decide.

At the very least, though, it is clear that the current movement to encourage women to come forward is a good thing. In the process, we’re seeing charges made against people who probably thought they were going to get away with improper behavior, and that’s not happening. That’s a good thing for several reasons. First of all, the women who were victimized deserve to have their stories heard and their charges are taken seriously. They shouldn’t have been intimidated into being kept silent, and the fact that they are speaking up will hopefully lead to changes in the way people behave toward each other in public and in private. Second, to the extent that anything illegal happened, it ought to be brought to light even if the applicable statute(s) of limitation bar the bringing of charges. This is especially true with respect to women. Sexual assault or harassment of any kind is always wrong, and excuses for harassing behavior like “I was drunk,” “She was drunk,” or “No means yes” are never acceptable. As far as sexual harassment goes, no means no, and there is no justification for someone to make those kinds of advances in a professional setting, especially when one is in a position of power over another person such as in the employment situation. There’s also no excuse for such unwanted behavior outside the office. Finally, I’ve seen several men commenting or posting in response in dismissive tones regarding these disclosures, and that is just as disturbing as the reports themselves. “Boys will be boys” is not an excuse for acting like a boorish jerk, and the fact that a woman isn’t interested in you isn’t a reason to treat her like crap. Additionally, dismissing the reports that are being posted as some kind of social media fad is, well, kind of pathetic, as is the excuse that the campaign is somehow an attack on all men, which it clearly isn’t. Stop acting like jerks, guys. It’s as simple as that.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Um… no. Monica Lewinsky eagerly consented.

    It was not even remotely close to any of the allegations going around today about Moore, Franken, Trump, Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Tambor, George Takei…

    Now, if the said she believed Conspiracy Theory #12 about Clinton raping someone, then she might have a point. But, Lewinsky was as on the up and up as a married man cheating on his wife can be.

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Sorry…no.
    That affair was consensual and, as far as I know, Lewinsky has never said said otherwise.
    He was impeached for lying about it, not because she cam forward and said he forced himself on her or used the power of the office.
    Is he a scum-bag? Sure, one of the biggest.
    Should he have resigned? No.

    As for all the other allegations; I have trouble sorting out whats real and whats not because of all the false claims made by Republican witch hunts over the years. What’s real and whats just more ridiculous conspiracy theory from the right?
    I mean once you’ve managed to fool several investigations into believing that the murder of Vince Foster was a suicide, anything is possible I guess.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Lewinsky consented, but there’s no way that a guy using a cigar like that would be so innocent. That seemed salacious in 1998, but now it would be like a guy refusing to go down on a woman. I.e. creepy, weird, and misogynistic.

  4. PJ says:

    Did you all know that George Washington owned slaves? If a President had owned slaves today, he or she would have had to resign, so Washington really should have resigned. Why didn’t he?

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    I think equating a refusal to give a woman oral sex to misogyny is jumping the shark just a wee bit. I suspect that’s not how you intended it to sound.

    This particular sex frenzy will collapse under the weight of ever-expanding definitions of behavior if we don’t have some rationality. Being a lousy lay is in no way connected to rape or child abuse or abuse of power, it’s just being a lousy lay.

  6. James Pearce says:

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.

    Points for consistency, I guess…..

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @PJ:
    Indeed.

    I tried to bring this up in another thread and encountered indifference and hostility. But we need to think through our moral and ethical positions. Slavery was every bit as awful for slaves in 1860 BC as it was in 1860 AD, but the intellectual, moral, societal basis did not yet exist for people to frame objections to it. In other words, no one thought it was necessarily wrong – not perhaps even many of the slaves, who would in many cases have been previous slave owners themselves.

    Liberals are straying into absolutist territory, which is a bit ironic since we’ve spent many decades now preaching to conservatives that moral values have to change and adapt with the times. It was the far Right that believed in scriptural inerrancy, while the enlightened Left was saying, “Nah, that’s crazy, times change.” But now, armed with a new and unwritten scripture, many on the Left are insisting that right-is-right and wrong-is-wrong regardless of time and circumstances.

    I don’t like convenient, self-justifying morality whichever side is playing that game. We need to be able to reach some consensus on right and wrong that is not a mere reflection of partisan and tribal loyalty. But we need to recognize that retroactively applying today’s iteration of morality to the past is ahistorical and absurd.

    People can only be held responsible for things they reasonably should have known. Washington certainly would have been exposed to anti-slavery writing and thought, but to say that it was not exactly the consensus would be comic understatement. What he did was appalling by today’s standards, but only questionable in his own. 19th century treatment of child labor is likewise appalling by today’s standards but was generally acceptable – even economically necessary – until it ceased to be.

    A good current example would be vegetarianism. Society may in the future coalesce around a view of meat-eating as inherently disgusting and wrong, but it would be absurd for future Americans to decide that people still today eating meat should be seen by future generations as moral pariahs.

  8. TM01 says:

    Polanski wasn’t guilty of “rape-rape.”
    Franken was mock-groping.
    Tweeden had it coming because she posed in Playboy. But mostly because she’s a Republican.

    Gillibrand loved the Clintons and all their money and influence for years. She’s obviously doing this now because the Clintons have become a political hinderance.

    One of the dumber claims used to defend Bill Clinton now is that sexual harassment wasn’t as big of a deal back then. Never mind that just a few years prior these same people tried to destroy Clarence Thomas for allegedly making a few rude comments.

    Likewise, close to 50 years ago my 30 year old dad married his 18 year old secretary.

    And even he said if my 18 year old sister had brought home a 30 year man he would have shot him right then and there. So obviously times change.

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Gustopher:
    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Was the consent valid given that he was her boss and thus their was an implied threat to her career for refusing.

    I can’t think of any business where, upon discovering a manager was having sex at work with one of the interns directly under their supervision, would decide it was okay as long as the intern said it was consensual.

  10. MBunge says:

    The question before us now, of course, isn’t about history, but about judging something that happened nearly twenty years ago by the standards that exist today

    Oh, that is just ridiculous. This isn’t about applying today’s standards to the past. It’s about how the standards of the past were changed/ignored to accommodate Bill Clinton.

    A politician cheating on his wife WAS a big deal when Clinton ran for President. It had been just eight years before with Gary Hart and nothing had changed in our political/moral expectations when Clinton came around.

    A politician cheating on his wife, publicly and defiantly lying about it, and then getting revealed as a liar was an even bigger deal. Referencing the 60 Minutes interview without mentioning that it was later shown that at least Bill lied his butt off during it is beyond craven.

    A married man in a position of authority having a sexually exploitative affair with an intern young enough to be his daughter was a very bad thing by just about everyone’s acknowledged standards in the 90s. It wasn’t okay. It wasn’t something that was winked at. It wasn’t acceptable in any way. And that it involved the President doing it in the Oval Office didn’t somehow lessen the offensiveness of the conduct.

    For generations, U.S. politicians had been ending or losing campaigns and resigning for office for behavior less flagrant than Bill Clinton. To state, suggest, or imply that this is a case of using modern standards to unfairly judge the past is plainly dishonest.

    Now, there are those who think cheating on your spouse, banging an intern, and all the various lies and other moral and ethical bad acts surrounding such things are private matters which shouldn’t be considered in public life. That is and always has been a tiny minority, however.

    Bill Clinton is not a case of modern standards being applied to the past. It is about standards as they existed in the past being ignored for nothing more than temporary partisan advantage.

    Mike

  11. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Meanwhile, while we’re all gyrating over which Democrats are pure enough to have represented us decades ago, the Republican senate tax bill, which will bankrupt grad students, make college unaffordable for millions, and deliberately punishes anyone who lives in a state that votes Democratic, also includes a lovely deduction for owners of private jets.

    Yeah, let’s all focus on whether or not Clinton was icky 25 years ago. It’s not like there’s anything important going on in the country.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    Republicans just elected a confessed sexual predator to the White House. So STFU.

  13. SenyorDave says:

    @michael reynolds: Part of the reason why the Republicans win. They don’t worry about discussions about moral relativisim. Hell, most of them don’t do morality at all. Trump says on tape that he molests women, 16 women come forward and say he molested them, Trump says they are all liars. 90% of Republicans believe him. Wouldn’t matter, they’d still vote for him. Its just easier if you live in the alternate reality world where Donald Trump is a fine upstanding person with many admirable characteristics.

  14. SenyorDave says:

    @TM01: Clarence Thomas denied everything and said Anita Hill made it all up. And he was nominated for the SCOTUS. It sure as hell warranted a hearing.

  15. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Lewinsky and Clinton was consensual, so no he shouldn’t have resigned. Unless Newt Gingrich should have resigned too? After all he was having a consensual relationship at the same time – with future wife Callista while still married to his (second) wife. I don’t have a problem with condemning adultery in and of itself, but in that case it should be applied right across the board with no exceptions. And adultery is different from harassment and sexual assault.

    If any of the women who allege Clinton assaulted them were to charge him, that’s fine with me. Serious question: is there some reason why they can’t?

  16. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think equating a refusal to give a woman oral sex to misogyny is jumping the shark just a wee bit

    You know, I know the internet is a great place to learn things, especially those things sexual in nature, but what is this shark jumping thing?

    http://thehiggsweldon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/shark-sex.jpg

    🙂

  17. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    Meanwhile, while we’re all gyrating over which Democrats are pure enough to have represented us decades ago, the Republican senate tax bill, which will bankrupt grad students, make college unaffordable for millions, and deliberately punishes anyone who lives in a state that votes Democratic, also includes a lovely deduction for owners of private jets.

    The tax bill can only be stopped by Republicans. Doesn’t seem like that’s something they’re going to do.

    The Dems, of course, are going to be superficial and petty as long as that’s what gets them the kudos. Which the way the left wants it. Well they get it.

    I don’t like it any more than you.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    Another good man goes down!

    Far-Right Ohio Lawmaker Resigns After Liaison With Man in His Office
    Wes Goodman, a Republican, had touted his devotion to conservative values.

  19. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @James Pearce:

    The Dems, of course, are going to be superficial and petty as long as that’s what gets them the kudos. Which the way the left wants it. Well they get it.

    Yeah, that, and a tidal wave of blue (formerly red) voted in 2018 and 2020.

    Gin up some folks in a pre-election GOP rally, great. Tell them the wonders of clean coal and deny global warming, no problem. Start taking food off their tables or piss-on-them-and-tell-them-it’s-raining, and suddenly things are gonna get real.

  20. R.Dave says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Was the consent valid given that he was her boss and thus their was an implied threat to her career for refusing.

    Power differentials in workplace romances certainly warrant added caution, but I think it’s going too far to treat affirmative consent as inherently invalid or at least inherently suspect. If the person in the subordinate position claims they felt pressured or coerced into an unwilling “consent”, then sure, there’s a good chance that’s true, though it still leaves an open question as to whether the more senior person should reasonably have recognized that at the time. If the person in the subordinate position feels that they’re giving their consent freely and of their own accord, and we don’t have any reason to doubt that beyond the bare existence of the power differential, then that’s the end of the conversation, in my opinion.

    My understanding of Lewinsky’s evolving characterization is that she was a willing, even excited, participant in the affair at the time it was happening, but in retrospect, she now believes it was inherently wrong because of the power differential. Assuming that’s correct, then I think her consent was definitely valid when given, and her moral / ideological change of heart in later years doesn’t render it retroactively invalid.

    Of course, that’s all just the Lewinsky thing. Broaddrick and the others have said from day one that they never consented to what Clinton did to them.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Part of the reason why the Republicans win. They don’t worry about discussions about moral relativisim. Hell, most of them don’t do morality at all.

    True. But we aren’t them. There’s a reason why MSNBC is not the opposite of Fox News, we believe in reality. But we don’t have the option of being them, we aren’t quite dumb or hypocritical enough. Certainly dumb, certainly hypocritical, but to an entirely different degree.

    The difference between us and them was made clear to be on a Jet Blue flight during the first Obama-Romney debate. The flight was between Boston and San Francisco, so not the same crowd as a flight between Tulsa and Tallahassee. You could feel the consensus forming that Obama had lost. Then I attended a kidlit conference – people generally to my left – and the talk was all about Obama losing the debate, because he had.

    We are prisoners of reality. They aren’t. But Rule #1 of fiction is never have your characters act out of character. We are who we are.

  22. wr says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: “I don’t have a problem with condemning adultery in and of itself,”

    I sure as hell do. I have no desire to live in Victorian England or Puritan America. Let consulting adults do what they want with their privates.

  23. drj says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Lewinsky and Clinton was consensual

    Sure, but their relation could also be qualified as workplace harassment.

    So in that regard I can understand why, theoretically speaking, Clinton should have resigned.

    Still, that conclusion doesn’t sit right with me, even though in different circumstances I really, really wouldn’t have minded at all.

    Mainly because I’m simply not willing to go along with a scenario in which a Democratic president is supposed to resign in disgrace following a questionable affair with an intern, while Republican presidents can stay in office in the wake of scandals such as Iran-Contra, missing WMDs, torture, etc.

    Getting a blowjob shouldn’t be worse than selling weapons to an enemy state behind Congress’ back or starting a war based on lies.

    I’m just not into unilateral disarmament, I guess.

  24. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “The tax bill can only be stopped by Republicans”

    I realize that you despise protest, but the fact is the tax bill can only be stopped by howls of outrage from constituents, just like the Obamacare repeal. And the only way people will know to howl is if someone tells them what’s actually in the bill. And Republicans aren’t going to do that. Who’s left?

  25. James Pearce says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Yeah, that, and a tidal wave of blue (formerly red) voted in 2018 and 2020.

    If your plan is to reap the electoral rewards of the public realizing the GOP is crap…..

    Get another plan.

  26. Slugger says:

    This is rather ex post facto in my view. I don’t think that it is possible for Bill to resign now.
    I do think that we are witnessing a social change in the status of women. The right of women to own property is only about 150 years old. The right to vote is about a hundred. Medical, veterinary, and law schools were 95% male bastions fifty years ago. The magazines of my youth were full of cartoons of bosses chasing secretaries around desks. Assaultive groping, cat calling, and denegrating talk were dismissed as comedy and “locker-room talk.” This is going away. It should go away. Now, every social wave like every real wave throws up some flotsam. Talking about what Bill Clinton should have done is flotsam.
    We need action going forward. The President should renounce the wrongs he has committed. He should denounce Judge Moore. And as I have previously stated, Al Franken should resign. These actions would clearly demonstrate an acceptance of the reality that our man/woman relations need to move in a better direction. I am not holding my breath.

  27. wr says:

    @drj: “Sure, but their relation could also be qualified as workplace harassment. So in that regard I can understand why, theoretically speaking, Clinton should have resigned.”

    That only makes sense if you take Clinton’s affair out of context. Yes, he acted badly in his personal/sexual life. and we can want to see him punished. On the other hand, he’s the democratically elected president of the USA and tens of millions of people voted to put him in office to accomplish certain goals. Does his personal weakness completely outweigh his obligation to the American people to do his job? Am I to be denied the person I chose as a national leader because he did something in his personal life that is not against the law and has no impact on the job?

    More to the point, are we now to impose a standard of perfection on everyone in public life — or, more likely, everyone who isn’t us, since we individually are all perfectly blameless in every aspect? What’s out standard for leadership now — faithfulness in marriage? Because Mike Pence sure acts like the most faithful guy around and he would shit all over the constitution in his haste to enact his pseudo-religious agenda.

  28. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I can’t think of any business where, upon discovering a manager was having sex at work with one of the interns directly under their supervision, would decide it was okay as long as the intern said it was consensual.

    Do you really think that the President is directly managing interns?

    I guess you could claim that the Vice President is the President’s intern… But that would be Al Gore, not Monica Lewinsky in this case. And he was more of an understudy.

    Also, it has been stated many times by Ms. Lewinsky that she approached the President, which removes many (not all, but many) of the elements of coercion. There is no implied “Do X, or I will use the full power and authority of the Presidency to end your internship.” In a workplace, this would be acceptable, if questionable.

  29. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @TM01:
    You support Trump…so you saying anything about this topic is hilarious.
    And no one needs listen to a word.

  30. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:
    You support a confessed serial assaulter.
    Just STFU.

  31. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    And Republicans aren’t going to do that. Who’s left?

    I don’t know. I’ve been arguing for the last year or so that the Dems have been serving us poorly, if at all.

    And here’s Gillibrand falling over herself to prove me right.

  32. gVOR08 says:

    I hope our younger readers realize there really was a vast right-wing conspiracy out to get the Clintons. Apparently still is. Why are we sure there was such a conspiracy? Because not all conspiracies are secret. Richard Mellon Scaife really did spend a pile of money funding the Arkansas Project. Every conservative outlet in the country really did jump all over the BS the project produced. Ken Starr really was a protege of Mellon Scaife The investigation really did wander around every bush in greater DC and Arkansas, Whitewater, Paula Jones, Vince Foster, Travelgate, and a lot of etc., failing to make a case on anything until Linda Tripp ratted out Lewinski.

    Given all of the wolf crying that had occurred, it really was hard to take any allegation seriously.

  33. drj says:

    @wr:

    On the other hand, he’s the democratically elected president of the USA and tens of millions of people voted to put him in office to accomplish certain goals.

    There’s that, too.

    Am I to be denied the person I chose as a national leader because he did something in his personal life that is not against the law and has no impact on the job?

    It depends on the “something” in my opinion. At the time, I didn’t think Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky warranted a forced resignation, I’m a bit less sure now, because there could have been some abuse of power going on; and that is something that would have had an impact on his job.

    In short: it was unethical. But was it unethical enough? Perhaps not. I don’t have all the answers. In any case, it’s not the sex as such, it’s the potential abuse of power.

    Actually, I think Slugger has it right: we are witnessing a major change in social norms. And it’s more important that we do the right thing moving forward.

    But even so, that means we should be able to expect some form of reckoning of one’s past actions and judgements. Maybe that’s pretty much all we have a right to expect. (Except in cases of outright illegal behavior, of course.)

  34. Senyordave says:

    I’ve worked for seven companies in my life (four jobs but a bunch of mergers), and I can safely say that the CEO of any those companies would have been fired if that person had the incredibly poor judgment to have sex with a 19 year old intern. I wouldn’t want that person running the company I work for if they had that little self control. And it is different than Francois Hollande having an affair with a 41 year old actress/film producer.

    Of course, all of those companies would have fired the CEO if they had ever been caught on tape bragging about molesting women.

  35. the Q says:

    Boy, being a neolib boomer means never having to say you’re sorry or you’re WRONG….

    Go back over the years on this blog and I have been flamed and TORCHED incessantly for having the integrity and honesty of an old New Dealer to describe my incredible disgust and ethical opprobrium of what the Clinton couple has done to the modern Democratic party. Namely, almost ruining it. Call me old fashioned for dare opining that sticking a cigar up an intern’s puzzy in the oval office is just a tad revolting?

    Point # 1 was Bill’s incredible adulterous behaviour that should have seen him resign in shame and dishonor. But like the Moore supporters, you neolibs would have none of it. Even last week when i brought up Broderick, the flaming was over the top. My what a difference a week makes.

    You defenders of the Clinton crown prior to these sex scandals of the last two weeks, should have the balls and the guts to apologize for your enabling of this grifter couple who used the Party for their own narcissistic and financial interests.

    Do any of you boomer clowns really think President Gore would have lost to that moron W had he been the sitting incumbent of two years had Bill resigned?

    Do any of you boomer clowns really think Trump was even remotely electable had we run ANY candidate other than Hillary?

    Like I said in many of my past comments, Bill was a disgrace and it was mind boggling he was so embraced by so many of the party faithful after he lied and humiliated himself, his family, his friends and his country.

    Eat schite neolibs and now get the phuck out of the way as we purge the ghost of Hillary and Bill and set course for a new/old Dem party.

    Perhaps if we disguised the white working class as a transgendered illegal immigrant seeking an abortion and legal weed, maybe the Dems would pay more attention to their concerns.

  36. wr says:

    @drj: “In any case, it’s not the sex as such, it’s the potential abuse of power.”

    We have a president who is using the justice department to investigate and harass his defeated political opponent, while using the federal government to enrich his private businesses. Sorry, I don’t really have time for worrying about “potential abuse of power.” No such abuse of power was ever alleged by any party in Clinton’s case but we’re rending our garments over a trivial hypothetical when the country is burning down.

    Unlike MR, I don’t hate liberals. But times like this sure make me understand why he does. (Not meant at you personally, by the way… only as a group!)

  37. wr says:

    @the Q: “Like I said in many of my past comments,”

    Hey, you know what would be really cool? If for once you actually said something you hadn’t said in many of your past comments. We know that sex disgusts you and the notion of equality for anyone who isn’t white and straight strikes you as ludicrous. We know you like wacky misspellings of naughty words. We know you hate the Clintons and aren’t crazy about minorities.

    So now why don’t you try saying something new?

  38. Mister Bluster says:

    @the Q:..Eat schite neolibs and now get the phuck out of the way as we purge the ghost of Hillary and Bill and set course for a new/old Dem party.
    Perhaps if we disguised the white working class as a transgendered illegal immigrant seeking an abortion and legal weed, maybe the Dems would pay more attention to their concerns.

    When R U going to make an appearance on Hannity?
    I want to C what U look like!

  39. the Q says:

    PS, you people keep bring up Monica as if she was Bill’s only accuser. And then justify Bill’s behavior by claiming it was consensual.

    What about the other women you conveniently ignore? As if Wiley and Broderick don’t exist or their claims of rape aren’t valid.

    Again, tell me the difference between your denials of Bills rape charges and Moore’s pedophilia charges?

    Senyor Dave hits it perfectly….ANY other CEO/General would have been forced out.

  40. Todd says:

    Bill Clinton has been an Achilles heel for Democrats for quite a while on this issue. Regardless of whether or not Republican hypocrisy is even worse (especially after the election of Donald Trump), looking back, it’s really hard to justify any defense of Bill Clinton’s behavior (I was as guilty as anybody on that account from time to time). It’s also hard to square the way Clinton’s accusers have continued to be treated over the years, with our new prevailing wisdom that victimized women should be believed unless there’s credible evidence to support doubting their stories … and especially so when there are multiple women telling similar stories.

    Obviously we don’t have a time machine, so we can’t go redo the past. But there should be a serious discussion about Bill Clinton’s place in society in general and the Democratic party in particular, given the numerous examples of his treatment of women. Just one could possibly be attributed to the “vast right wing conspiracy”, but if we’re honest and objective, it’s really hard to avoid seeing a pattern of behavior throughout his life.

    I’m not saying that we need to focus on this instead of continuing to press Republicans to hold their own (including the President) to account. It’s not an either or. If anything, ostracizing Bill Clinton from having virtually any part in the future of Democratic politics would strengthen the moral case that Democrats can make against Republicans who continue to rationalize abhorrent behavior by their own candidates and elected officials.

  41. the Q says:

    WR, you are the poster boy for my contention that you neolib infants should shut the phuck up and say you’re sorry and wrong about this issue.

    How about YOU saying something new like “yeah, you might have a point about the spectacularly bad judgement of sticking a cigar up a woman’s crotch in the office where Lincoln fought the Confederacy or where FDR destroyed the Republican Party and the Nazis” you insufferable twit.

    How you can conflate my disgust at this cigar episode with a disgust with sex is asinine.

    And wacky misspellings of “knotty” words is intentional to avoid the censor bot.

    And for you to twist and burlesque my view on equality and minorities is trite and superficial.

    WR, nowhere do you mention the OTHER 7 women that accused Clinton of harassment, conveniently leaving them out as you try and rationalize “consensual” Lewinsky tryst.

    Again, in light of current events, your constant refrain of defending Clinton’s sexcapades only makes you seem even less credible than usual.

  42. the Q says:

    Todd, thank you for being far more eloquent than I in summing up the Clinton dilemma.

  43. Tyrell says:

    I always thought that Bill was to be forgiven for what he did and did not want him to resign. He should have disqualified himself from further political involvementas far as campaigns go. His trips overseas have been helpful.

  44. An Interested Party says:

    …FDR destroyed the Republican Party and the Nazis…

    Ohhh, so you’re cool with FDR having extramarital affairs? Good to know…

    And for you to twist and burlesque my view on equality and minorities is trite and superficial.

    Oh really? You’re the one who constantly implies that working for, or even worrying about, the rights of certain minorities is counterproductive and not as important as, say, appealing to the white working class…talk about trite and superficial…

  45. Mister Bluster says:

    @Tyrell:..I always thought that Bill was to be forgiven for what he did and did not want him to resign.

    Ah, these times are so uncertain
    There’s a yearning undefined
    And People filled with rage
    We all need a little tenderness
    How can love survive in such a graceless age?

    The Heart of the Matter

  46. Yank says:

    If anything, ostracizing Bill Clinton from having virtually any part in the future of Democratic politics would strengthen the moral case that Democrats can make against Republicans who continue to rationalize abhorrent behavior by their own candidates and elected officials.

    No, it won’t.

    Removing Bill won’t strengthen any moral case against Republicans because they don’t care. Democrats keep making this dumb mistake assuming that the GOP is operating in good faith when it comes to morality and sexual misconduct.

  47. wr says:

    @the Q: You are so obsessed with this particular sex act it goes beyond a fixation. Maybe it’s your own personal fetish. Hard to tell. What two consenting adults choose to do together is none of my business and it sure as hell is none of your business. You can sniff panties and peep through windows all you like — it doesn’t make you a political savant, just a dirty old man.

    Aside from that, if you weren’t so obsessed with making sure that blacks stay just a couple of steps behind the truly deserving uneducated white guys, you might have noticed that my “defense” of Bill Clinton mostly comes down to saying that constantly relitigating issues from 20 years ago does nothing to help us in the present day. Since you are stuck in 1936, I don’t expect you to understand that.

  48. Kari Q says:

    @the Q:

    I believed Broaddrick at a time when I think I was the only Democrat who did (at least I never met another one), but I don’t blame anyone for dismissing the accusations against him. Just think of all the insane things that the right accused him of: being a Russian mole, having Vince Foster killed, running drugs into a small airport in Arkansas, killing dozens of people to protect his vast criminal enterprise, and more. Those are just the most sensational claims.

    When they have literally accused a man of being a mass murderer, it’s easy to assume that the rape accusation was just another made up story with no basis in reality, designed to destroy him to further the political goals of his opponents.

    Kind of like the McCarthy hearings actually did catch one genuine spy (Hiss was guilty) but by then no one took it seriously because so many people had been accused for no real reason.

  49. al-Ameda says:

    The Q may have something here:
    These Boomers: Bill Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Clarence Thomas, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore …. It make one wonder: How did the so-called Greatest Generation fail so miserably as parents?

  50. drj says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Exhibiting a pattern of sexual harassment is about having the power to keep getting away with it.

    So it’s no suprise that powerful(*) men of a certain age are the main culprits. There is really no need to blame the bad parenting skills of a particular generation.

    (*) Power being relative, of course. A small-town restaurant owner, for instance, may be able to get away with harassing his waiting staff, because of his power as one of the few employers in a particular area.

  51. B. R. Bong says:

    So what we’re saying here is that Monica let Bill grab her by the pussy.

    And we’re all ok with that obviously.

    But when Trump SAYS that, we all get upset.

  52. michael reynolds says:

    @B. R. Bong:
    Except for the fact that one event was 20 years ago, and your people freaked out. Then 20 years later those same virtuous voters voted for a man far worse. Which would make Trump voters the biggest hypocrites in the country. Right?

  53. Zachriel says:

    @MBunge: It had been just eight years before with Gary Hart and nothing had changed in our political/moral expectations when Clinton came around.

    Actually, the standard of the time was to ignore shenanigans as inconsequential to the important issues of the day. The reason it became an issue in Hart’s case was because he taunted the press, so it became an issue of Hart’s credibility.

    @the Q: Point # 1 was Bill’s incredible adulterous behaviour that should have seen him resign in shame and dishonor.

    Clinton engaged in a consensual affair that would never have become public except for the abuse of the independent counsel law. Republicans knew Clinton had a weakness, and they chipped away at it until they had exposed it. Most Americans, rightly, saw it as a destructive attempt to overturn the election based on frivolous charges. That doesn’t mean the vast majority of Americans thought Clinton’s behavior was acceptable by any means.

  54. Zachriel says:

    @Zachriel: shenanigans

    Darn. Should have said “Monkey Business“.

  55. Todd says:

    @Yank:

    No, it won’t.

    Removing Bill won’t strengthen any moral case against Republicans because they don’t care.

    Fair enough,

    You’re almost certainly right about Republicans … they are experts at hypocrisy with a straight face.

    How about we just ostracize Bill Clinton because it’s the right thing to do then? It really does make us (I’ll include myself in this group) look ridiculous trying to find ways to explain how Bill Clinton’s situation is somehow different from the way that we would (rightly) react to similar actions by other men.

    To me, the main difference between the left and the right as that for the most part those on the left are more capable of admitting when we are wrong … and this case we really were. If partisanship is such a strong of a force that Democrats can’t admit to their ongoing Bill Clinton problem, then maybe those who insist on pushing “both sides do it” type stories aren’t so far off base after all.

  56. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    All of this Clinton, Franken, Trump, Gary Hart blather begs the question. Should a man so demonstrably unfit to be President as Trump have ever been elected at all? The fact that he’s a pig weighs little in my assessment of him. He. Is. A. Doofus. Who. Can’t. Lead. He is the most hapless of the doofuses we have elected to date and becomes more hapless by the minute. I didn’t care at all about what he said to Billy Bush. Clearly, not many other people really do either. They, as I, made up their minds apart from issues of character.

    Now if Bong, tm01, Jack, JKB, or Drew would like to present concrete observable evidence of Trump’s ability and accomplishments as POTUS, I’m all ears. But as a guy who cancelled a trip to Korea because I couldn’t be sure I would be able to leave the country because World War III had started the day after my plane landed, they’ll need to be better salesmen than Trump is.

  57. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Todd: I’m not sure that the hypocrisy element matters as much as we’d like to believe. It’s the same problem that we see in school reform: we want to want school reform, but when we see what it looks like we don’t want to have it.

    Same thing here, we want character to matter, but the choices cause us to decide that character is not as important as other issues. What we need to want is better candidates, but that is futile too. A friend of mine tells a story about his mom being friends with an influential GOP party leader in the LA area in 1960. My friend asked this man if Nixon was a good person. The party leader answered

    it really doesn’t matter; the people don’t want to elect a good person of office.

    Sad. Pathetic. 1960!

  58. wr says:

    @Todd: “How about we just ostracize Bill Clinton because it’s the right thing to do then?”

    Ostracize him how? From what? I don’t know — maybe we could all agree to snub him next time we see him. Or possibly we could say mean things about him on the internet. That’s truly a valuable use of our time, and will teach him a lesson.

    You’ve got no power over Bill Clinton or anyone in any of the circles he travels in. Yes, it’s true, that time I shook his hand at a charity golf tournament, I could have declined. Do you think he would have noticed that one less complete stranger wasn’t interested in meeting him? Do you really think “we” have any influence at all?

  59. Todd says:

    @wr: Ok fine again. How about we (collectively) just quit defending him? Can we at least do that?

  60. Yank says:

    @Todd: No one defends what Bill Clinton did with Lewinsky. But no one thought he should be impeached and removed from office for it.

    Same thing here, we want character to matter, but the choices cause us to decide that character is not as important as other issues. What we need to want is better candidates, but that is futile too. A friend of mine tells a story about his mom being friends with an influential GOP party leader in the LA area in 1960. My friend asked this man if Nixon was a good person. The party leader answered

    Yeah, character is one of those things people care about in theory (like bipartisanship), but don’t really care about in practice.

    Bill Clinton is the perfect example of this. Many Americans wouldn’t let their daughters intern for Bill Clinton, but a good portion of them would vote for him to be president.

  61. CET says:

    Two observations:

    1) The ‘Trump is worse’/’Trump supporters are hypocrites for criticizing Clinton’ reflex is certainly true, but in this context it also looks a whole lot like the ‘what-about-ism’ that folks love to call Bunge et al out on.

    2) If I’m reading Reynolds’ concern correctly, I think he is absolutely right to be leery of the absolutist (dare I say ‘fundamentalist’) undercurrent among progressives. If things like ‘affirmative consent’ policies are an accurate gauge of where this movement is headed, we are approaching a point where virtually every male will have been guilty of inappropriate behavior at some point in his life.

    My read of the situation is that a lot of progressives lack the ability or the willingness to make distinctions of degree in these things, and we’ll see the same kind of societal zero tolerance policy on this that progressives are trying to implement with respect to racism. It looks like we’re also eliminating any kind of statute of limitations on publicly shaming someone for past behavior. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see this ending badly for pretty much everyone.

  62. Moosebreath says:

    @Yank:

    “Democrats keep making this dumb mistake assuming that the GOP is operating in good faith when it comes to morality and sexual misconduct.”

    And the deficit. And health care. And (to save time) everything else.

  63. Davebo says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’d say bragging about presidential knee pads means it was pretty consensual.

    ndy Bleiler, who presented the details of his years with Lewinsky through his attorney, said there was no indication of who Lewinsky was referring to, although his wife said that when Lewinsky first left for Washington, she vowed “to get my presidential kneepads.”

    link

  64. Yank says:

    My read of the situation is that a lot of progressives lack the ability or the willingness to make distinctions of degree in these things,

    Bingo.

    You are seeing it with those who call on Franken to resign. What he did was inexcusable, but it is not something that should end his career. For starters, he apologized and more importantly the woman accepted the apology.

    Compare that to Moore, who is accused of something far worse and is completely defiant.

    But yet, there are many on the left who want Franken gone because of fears of being called hypocrites. I give the GOP and media crap for “both-sides” schtick, but sometimes the left plays right into the argument with their timidness.

  65. Todd says:

    @Yank: I’m not actually talking about Lewinsky per se. I’m much more disturbed by the automatic dismissal of say Juanita Broderick’s story. But even when it comes to Lewinsky, Ezra Klein was on NPR yesterday and he broke it down something like this: “You have the most powerful man in the entire world, and a 21 year old intern. The whole concept of consent in that scenario is kind of muddied.”

    To me, without the partisan lens, I just don’t see anyway to explain away Bill Clinton’s actions.

    It really is a pretty simple exercise. Just imagine an (R) instead of (D) after President Clinton’s name, (or even take it outside of politics and imagine these stories about a fortune 500 CEO) then ask yourself if you’d be as willing to extend quite so much “benefit of the doubt”.

  66. Todd says:

    @Yank:

    But yet, there are many on the left who want Franken gone because of fears of being called hypocrites.

    I do agree with you there. The Franken story has immediately killed any whispers about a run for President, and probably even precluded his running for reelection to the Senate next time around. But anybody (on the left) calling for him to resign is likely (unless more comes out) taking things much too far, much too fast.

    Likewise, there are some other recent allegations that just don’t seem to pass the smell test … such as those against George Takei. I’ve done my best to remove my partisan glasses in his case, and I still can’t see anything to be too exercised about.

    By the same token, I have a hard time getting too outraged about George H.W. Bush’s pats on the behind. On the one hand, I totally get how the women who had to be on the receiving end of that must feel. But at the same time, the idea of lumping a “dirty old man” in the same boat with actual sexual predators such as Weinstein, Spacey, Trump and even Bill Clinton feels a bit absurd.

  67. wr says:

    @Todd: “To me, without the partisan lens, I just don’t see anyway to explain away Bill Clinton’s actions.”

    I can: Some young women are attracted to powerful men.

    I understand that we are momentarily required to ignore what we’ve known about human nature for centuries so that we can all achieve Peak Purity, but as far as anyone involved has ever said this was a consensual relationship initiated by her, and apparently without any goal of career advancement.

    This was a mutually beneficial transactional relationship that should have stayed none of anyone’s business, except the Republican party wanted to destroy a Democratic president, and didn’t care if they destroyed a young woman in the process.

    You want to go after someone for harassing Monica Lewinsky? Try Ken Starr and Newt Gingrich.

  68. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Yank: Why did you plagiarize my comment?

  69. gVOR08 says:

    @Todd:

    By the same token, I have a hard time getting too outraged about George H.W. Bush’s pats on the behind.

    HW was president in an age when reporters didn’t look too hard for powerful peoples’ peccadillos. My local paper ran a wire story about HW having spent a night in a residence owned by the US embassy in Italy with a woman other than Babs. Pre internet. A couple years later our paper introduced their new, electronically indexed, archive. I had reason to look for the story and couldn’t find it. It seemed to have gone down a memory hole. Lest one conclude the obvious, my wife also remembered the story.