Thursday, September 13, 2012


I must give credit where credit is due  wasn't that a knock-your-socks-off, blow-the-roof-off speech Bill Clinton gave at the Democratic National Convention?  Wasn't it an unbelievably terrific speech?   [Click here if you missed it.]

I only wish President Obama had given that speech. I really, really wish he had.  But he didn't. Bill Clinton did and he's such a contradiction to me.

As my friend Aaron says, it’s hard to understand how someone so talented and so smart can be so self-destructive.  My husband says Bill’s bad behavior cost Al Gore the election, but then acknowledges that Gore didn’t carry his own state  so we can’t blame Clinton for that. But I can and do blame him for his bad behavior while in office.

This is an editorial I wrote in 1998 about then-President Clinton. Despite the stellar job he did it the other night, this still rings true for me.
Way back, when I was 22 and soon to graduate from college in New York City, I worked 15-20 hours a week as an editorial assistant at Random House, the book publisher.  Even though I usually dressed in saddle shoes and overalls, when I rode up that bank of elevators to the fifth floor I felt like a grown-up.  But I wasn't.

My core group of friends at the office were older, married, had taught school.  They looked out for me, took an interest in and worried about me when I wasn't making the best choices for myself.

For months I had been dating a man I was really excited about.  My buddies kept asking to meet him so one day I said, "He's picking me up for lunch, why don't you come downstairs to meet him?"

I can't remember his name now, but I do remember their faces as I waved goodbye from the backseat of his chauffeured Lincoln.  

"Your friends don't approve," he said as he began to nuzzle my neck and stroke my arms and ears on the way to lunch.

"Oh I just never told them anything about you," I replied and for me that was the end of it. I was happy to be with him and to have his attention.

When I returned to my cubicle, I was greeted with a steady barrage of "What are you DOING?"  He's old enough to be your FATHER!"

My lunch date, the man I'd been seeing for months, was the 51-year-old president of a company in Argentina.  He had a sexy accent, spent lots of money taking me exotic places for lunch (his wife looked the other way, but I guess not so at dinner), and I had fascinating conversations with him about his import/export negotiations.  He counseled me on my finances, worried over my studies, and half-urged me to "see some boys my own age."

In hindsight of course, I was looking for a father.  I was taken with is authority, his savior-faire, and his power  all of which were very appealing to me.

And though he didn't treat me as a daughter and I wasn't his girlfriend, I did feel as if I were his little pet.  Still, I was struggling emotionally, floundering in an adult world and I was flattered that he would make time to be with me.  The truth was, I was out of my depth.

I think of Monica Lewinsky that way  young and smart and feeling like the cat's meow to be working in Washington at the White House, just the way I felt in a big Manhattan publishing house.

And although my gentleman caller was only president of a chemical corporation and not President of the United States, I can understand the appeal and the excitement that must have been hers when the president of the country started calling.

What I can't understand is President Clinton.

I don't expect presidents to be flawless. We all make mistakes.  I've done things in my past that I wouldn't do today because I'm older, I'm wiser, and I have too much at stake.

Is it unreasonable to think that our president should have been able to exercise that same judgment?  Aren't we talking about a man who worked a good part of his life to achieve a goal that few dream of or attain: to be President?  Whatever past he brought with him, once he reached the White House, isn't it reasonable to expect that someone smart and savvy enough to become president would also be smart and sensible enough to avoid an inappropriate relationship with someone young enough to be his daughter?

I'm tired of hearing all this blamed on a right-wing conspiracy, a hounding media, and even on Mrs Clinton for not putting her foot down earlier in their marriage!  Whatever you're thinking, the basic facts are that as president, Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with a young woman who worked in the White House as an intern.  He showed horrendous judgment  first in having the relationship and then lying about it.  Then it was exposed, instead of owning up, he let her twist in the wind for months and months until his back was against the wall and he couldn't get away with denials any longer.

It more than troubles me that people keep saying we should separate his professional from his personal behavior.  Don't I have a right to expect that our president can be a skillful executive as well as a moral leader with enough integrity to serve as a role model for young people?  

I'm not ready to just let things move on.  And for anyone who can't understand that, just substitute the name of your daughter or sister for "Monica Lewinsky" and you may think differently.

To me it's reasonable to expect that while in office the President of the United States should uphold the honor and integrity of the presidency. 

If this kind of morality is too much to expect, then maybe it's time to revise the oath of office and make integrity a requirement of the job.

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