Grubby. That’s what I felt. Uncomfortably grubby. Voyeuristic even. It was a bit like watching sexual activity on the small screen that goes beyond what you feel to be acceptable and necessary given the context of what it is you’re viewing. But these were words, not images – intimate words about what a president did to a naive, young and obviously smitten intern.
These were words I found so hard to listen to, even to the stage I felt like turning ‘The Clinton Affair’ (SBSonDemand) off – despite the fact I found so much of it bloody interesting. But not this aspect. These were the words the Republican right and their ‘take no prisoners’ lawyers used to try and get their quarry. There’s little doubt that, in his younger and middle years, the man was a womaniser, preying on the opposite gender and perhaps even abusing them, in a similar way to what our present odious incumbent was well known for. But, of course, the oranged one is from the far right and therefore immune. In Clinton’s instance no one now doubts it was a consenting relationship that, in the days of Roosevelt or Kennedy, all in the know would turn a blind eye to so they could get on with governing. This POTUS was already under pressure from his previous embroilment with Paula Jones, but that case was mired in legalese and going nowhere. When Lewinski’s affair with the Leader of the Free World came to light, they went in for the kill.
The treatment, what we would now define as slut-shaming, as revealed in the programme, was vicious – both from the public officials, the media and the popular entertainment world. It was revolting, completely without consideration for the well-being of the victim. Mental health wasn’t much of a factor in those days. But what I found was reprehensible was the way they went for Monica’s mother in an attempt to further entrap her daughter. The mother knew any misspeak would have dire consequences for her much loved offspring and it broke her. They destroyed this hither to resilient woman who had been, up to then, one of Monica L’s few supports. Of course the girl herself became so notorious she had to virtually spend decades underground. She has only just re-emerged into a new public life and is now largely respected. That is a credit to her.
Then and now it is patently clear she’s no bimbo. Lewinski, in her interview for this, comes across as intelligent and articulate, although the events still pain. She used her assets to win over the man she was in the thrall of and she was his willing partner in those small rooms off the Oval Office. Of course, the argument the Reps et al used was that it wasn’t the relationship, as such, that was the issue, but the misleading. But even to the layman it’s hard to fathom the reasoning that it amounted to grounds for impeachment, as indicated by the end judgement. But to get there they were determined to use the intensely private accounts of what actually happened in those small rooms luridly to enhance their case. Why? It was so heartlessly shaming for the woman involved, if not the Pres.
Thinking people commended the American public, at the time, for not being taken in. They realised, even if they relished reading about the scandal and listening to the shock-jocks, that here was a man who ran a competent administration and was working hard for their benefit and that of the country. That, for all his personal faults, he didn’t deserve this. He carried on with aplomb throughout, this genial, charismatic leader. His popularity actually increased in his second term while all this was going on.
And what of his wife in all this? She went the Tammy Wynette route, as we all know. I doubt I’ll read ‘Rodham’ – see following article – but I’ll be watching the forthcoming series ‘Hilary’ when it debuts on SBS soon. In this, according to Ms Lester, Bill puts forward an excuse for his actions back then. ‘You feel like you’re staggering around – you’ve been in a 15-round prize fight that was extended to 30 rounds, and here’s something to take your mind off it for a while…’ Make of that what you will, but what many of us wouldn’t give for a Bill or a Barak in the White House with the US in free fall, instead of the creepy, pompous, divisive, disastrous arse who inhabits it now.
‘The Clinton Affair’ on SBSonDemand = https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/the-clinton-affair
Amelia Lesters opinion piece = https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/what-would-have-happened-to-hillary-if-she-had-never-married-bill-20200424-p54n0i.html