August 20, 1998
Like most of America, which claims to be disgusted and uninterested in the Monica Lewinsky affair, and yet is glued to the TV like it's a moonshot or an OJ trial, I tuned in for President Bill's 4 minute Confession to the American People. I must say, I was disappointed. So much so that I decided to make myself a button. It says "IMPEACH CLINTON," and it's styled after an "IMPEACH NIXON" button that Kristin used to wear during her college days (which oddly enough were during the eighties).
Naturally, wearing this button has provoked questions from people, so I wrote up a list of my reasons for feeling as I do today, and posted it here on the web. Read on only if you haven't heard enough of these arguments already...
1.) Bill Clinton has shattered the trust of everyone in this country, including that of his own wife. He has proven himself to be a liar and a cheater and no longer deserves to hold the most respected office in the land. He has disgraced his family, his office, and his nation. How does he have the right to continue to serve as our leader? Since he refuses to resign, we have only one option available to us, which is impeachment. We hired the man, we can fire him, too.
2.) Clinton said he was taking full responsibility for his actions, yet he stopped short of doing the honorable thing and resigning, instead requesting that attacks on him cease and charges against him be dropped. How does that fit with taking responsibility for your actions? If those actions have no consequences (like losing your job) then what does it mean to take responsibility for them? Pleading guilty doesn't wipe away the penalties, it just cuts to the chase.
3.) Like I said, I was very disappointed with his confession speech. At a time when he should have shown sincere feelings of regret, he seemed instead only to regret having been caught. He very clearly did not apologize for his actions, failing to use the word apologize or even the classic 2 word heal-all statement we're taught to use during childhood: "I'm sorry." I don't see why anyone should forgive him until he at least offers up a proper apology.
4.) My opinion of him wasn't helped by his failure to apologize specifically to Monica. After months of trashing her reputation by engaging in a contest of "Who's Lying?", in which his word, as President of the United States, carried much more weight than hers. Her voice only became strong enough to force a confession from him because, unlike the other woman who've made claims that were disputed by the prez, Monica thought to keep a souvenir. But now that the game is "Will the Real Liar Please Stand Up," it's clear that Bill was out of line in calling Monica a liar. He definitely owes her something. She ought to sue him for defamation of character.
5.) Clinton supporters like to point out that this case is trivial compared to Watergate, and stress that he's done nothing illegal, and even claim that his answers under oath have always been "legally accurate." But while adultery may not be illegal, it is certainly grounds for divorce and cause for concern when committed by someone who is a world leader and a role model for the nation. Further, let's remember that Bill is the commander-in-chief of the same military that recently discharged some high ranking officer dishonorably because of adultery. (I don't remember the details but I heard about it on CNN a few months ago.) Adultery may not be illegal but if it's grounds for dismissal at a mid-point in the organizational chart, then it sure ought to be similarly treated when committed at the top level of that chart. And just because his crime was less serious than Nixon's doesn't mean it isn't severe enough to call for the man's removal from office.
6.) In a successful relationship, either between Man and Woman, or between Nation and President, trust is everything.
It's a very common story, played out in kitchens and bars all across America every day. A woman confides in a friend: "My husband's been cheating on me. It's been going on behind my back for years, but whenever I've confronted him with my suspicions, he's always flatly denied it -- and so convincingly that I always believed him. But this time I had proof, and so he's finally admitted it to me. Now, of course, he wants me to forgive him, he's telling me it was a mistake, it was wrong, he regrets it, it'll never happen again, you know, the whole line. So what should I do? Should I throw him out, or should I forgive him? And if I do forgive him, how can I ever trust him again -- about anything?"
Sadly, it's a very common story. Many families are torn asunder by situations like these. But this time, for the first time ever, it's not between a man and his wife. It's between a president and his people.
The thing that really disturbs me about this is not the affair itself; I'm grown up enough to know that those happen sometimes and that it's a part of life. No, the thing that really outraged me was his admission that he'd kept this, not only from the American People, but from his own wife.
As the stories from various different women claiming to have had encounters with Bill have accumulated in my brain over the years, I've begun to assume that if they were really happening, Hillary had to have known about them. Of course he'd deny them publicly, but she at least had to be aware of what was really going on, even though she obviously wasn't going to make a scene over it. Maybe she's very open-minded, or perhaps it's like the film "Dave", with the marriage being just a well groomed facade, but the love-life between them dead and each of them quietly pursuing other lovers. I didn't really know, and I really didn't care.
But the sense I'm getting now is that this was actually a surprise to Hillary, and that Bill had been looking his own wife in the eye and lying to her, on a subject that certainly ought to be her business, even if it really isn't the business of the country as a whole. That he could be as dishonest as that, and so successful at it, says to me that this man should not be allowed to stay in office.
I know that in my own relationship, the most important thing of all is honesty. My wonderful wife of 8 years would far more easily forgive an "inappropriate physical relationship" than a pattern of lies and cover-ups like those demonstrated by the current President of our country.
I will readily agree that this should never have become the public's business, but now that it is, we have to deal with it. And while this matter should be private as far as the public is concerned, it surely cannot be Bill's private business to Hillary. For him to have repeatedly lied to his own wife, whom he publicly holds so precious, is to destroy his credibility with me at every level.
7.) Politicians often claim to be concerned that certain actions, or inactions, will send the "wrong message" to our children. For example, concern about the message that decriminalization of marijuana would send to children is the last ditch argument being used by those who still oppose such a move. But what kind of messages does the President's Affair send to our children?
To remove him from office would send the message that this sort of lying and cheating by a public figure is inexcusable. But by supporting the president, we, as a culture, are condoning his behavior. We're saying it's OK for a married man to have a secret affair with a young woman who works for him, and then to lie about it to everyone, including his wife, in order to protect his own interests. We're saying that actions like this have no serious consequences. Is that a good message? Is Bill a good role model for our youth?
A beloved story we tell our children in order to teach them virtues and ethics is the tale of George Washington and the cherry tree. He did something wrong but then demonstrated strength of character by owning up to it right away. Set this against the message sent by the story of Bill Clinton, who lied and stonewalled for 7 months before finally telling the truth, and then only because he was backed into a corner by a multi-million dollar investigation that he could have stopped long ago had he offered a more timely acceptance of the responsibilities which he only this past week chose to accept.
I was just a kid when Nixon resigned, but the lesson I got from Watergate was that if you do something bad, you have to pay the penalty, and that no one, not even the President of the United States, was immune to this rule. What lesson will today's youth take from all of this?
If you'd like an Impeach Clinton button, go to the Gift Shop and order a "How's It Going to End?" button and say in the comment field that what you really want is an Impeach Clinton button.