OTD in History… December 19, 1998, Bill Clinton becomes only the second president in American history to be impeached




OTD in History… December 19, 1998, Bill Clinton becomes only the second president in American history to be impeached

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Washington Examiner

On this day in history December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives votes to impeach President Bill Clinton on two counts of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for “lying under oath and obstructing justice” over his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton’s impeachment ended what historian Gil Troy called the “Lost Year of 1998,” while Lewinsky referred to it as a “living hell.” The Republican controlled House mostly voted on party lines approving two articles of impeachment while voting down two others. After the vote, Clinton speaking on the South Lawn of the White House surrounded by Congressional Democrats vowed to keep “working” “to do what’s best for our country… It’s what I’ve tried to do for 6 years; it’s what I intend to do for 2 more, until the last hour of the last day of my term.”

With the House’s vote, Clinton became only the second president in history to be impeached after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and the only elected president to face impeachment. Historians Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, Peter Baker, and Jeffrey A. Engel in their 2018 book Impeachment: An American Historynote, Clinton “thus avoided joining Nixon as only the second president to be driven from office by scandal. He could not, however, evade the dubious distinction of joining Johnson as one of the only two presidents ever impeached.” (Meacham, 7)

On January 7, 1999, the Senate convened to commence the first impeachment trial in 130 years, after a five week-trial the Senate voted to acquit, Clinton ending a constitutional crisis brought on because Clinton wanted to hide his inappropriate personal behavior. Meacham, Naftali, Baker, and Engel believe, Clinton “ultimately won this third presidential campaign of his two terms when the required supermajority of senators declined to convict him of perjury and obstruction of justice.” (Meacham, 7)

After a thirteen-hour debate on the House floor, which began on Friday, December 18, on Saturday, December 19, the House of the 105th Congress mostly voted down party lines, with the exception of some Republicans voting with the Democrats in opposition to the articles of impeachment, and some Democrats voting for impeachment with the Republicans. The impeachment or House Resolution 611 vote was delayed because of Clinton’s order to bomb Iraq. The House passed the first article of impeachment 228 to 206 at 1:22 p.m. for Clinton perjuring himself during his August 17, 1998, grand jury testimony, where he denied having any relations with Lewinsky.

Article I stated, “The president provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury regarding the Paula Jones case and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.” Five Republicans and five Democrats crossed party lines in their votes. The second article of impeachment passed article III, for obstruction of justice by a slimmer margin, the article accused Clinton of inducing others to commit perjury at his bequest. The article passed with a vote of 221 to 212, with 12 Republicans voting against the article and two Democrats voting in favor. Article III stated, “The president obstructed justice in an effort to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence related to the Jones case.”

The House defeated two of the four articles of impeachment, Article II accusing Clinton of perjury during the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit failed with a vote 229 to 205, with 28 Republicans voting against the article. The last article, Article IV accusing Clinton of abuse of power in his responses to the House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly failed in a vote of 285 to 148, where 81 Republicans opposed the article and just one Democrat voted in favor. The vote set up Clinton to be only the second president ever to go through a Senate impeachment trial. At the time, the American public opposed the impeachment proceedings. As the New York Times reported, “a CBS News Poll of 548 people showed only 38 percent wanted their representative to vote for impeachment; 58 percent wanted a no vote.”

The year 1998 began with the Drudge Report scooping, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff’s story on President Clinton’s affair with a former intern on January 17 launching the media frenzy over whether the president had or not with Clinton’s vehement denials. On January 21, the mainstream media including the Washington Post, Newsweek, and ABC News reported on the possible affair. Clinton went into full denial mode appearing on PBS’s Jim Lehrer,“There is no improper relationship.” Lewinsky recently recounted for the new A&E documentary “The Clinton Affair,” “With that, the demonization of Monica Lewinsky began. As it so often does, power throws a protective cape around the shoulders of the man, and he dictates the spin by denigrating the less powerful woman.” From the news media to the late night shows, comedians and everything in between shamed Lewinsky, mocking her and attacking her as a stalker and slut, bullying she could not escape even after Clinton’s resolved his legal issues.

Source: Time

The accusation led Clinton famously to declare at a press conference on January 26, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time — never.” Following up, First Lady Hillary Clinton decried the accusation on January 27, at a Today Show appearance as a “vast right wing conspiracy” by the Republican House of Representatives. The then dubbed Lewinsky Scandal dominated the news, the American public and the Clinton presidency throughout 1998. The news media and public questioned every action Clinton did as president as a diversion from the scandal that dominated.

The story actually started two and half years earlier in July 1995, when 21-year-old Monica Lewinsky became a White House intern. After intense flirting, they began a sexual relationship during the November 1995 government shutdown where interns worked as White House support staff. Lewinsky recalled how it started, “I blurted out, ‘You know, I have a crush on you,’ And he laughed and smiled and then asked me if I wanted to go to the back office. And I did.” Over the next year and a half, Clinton would have nine encounters of oral sex in the confines of the Oval Office and phone sex continuing until March 1997. In April 1996, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Evelyn Lieberman concerned that Lewinsky was getting too close to the president, transferred Lewinsky to work as the assistant to Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. Lieberman officially said the reason was Lewinsky’s “inappropriate and immature behavior.” The personal relationship and gift giving continued as the sexual relationship ended and Lewinsky began pressuring Clinton for a job after he failed to keep his promise and bring her back to the White House after the 1996 presidential election.

Source: History.com

In July 1996, Lewinsky frustrated began confiding in her Pentagon colleague Linda Tripp, who betrayed Lewinsky’s trust and told book agent Lucienne Goldberg about Lewinsky’s affair with the president, a blue semen stained dress as proof and the mutual gifts. Goldberg convinced Tripp to record Lewinsky, and beginning in August 1997, Tripp recorded her conversations with Lewinsky. Tripp also took her story to the news contacting Isikoff. In an October meeting with Goldberg, Isikoff and Jonah Goldberg offered to play a recording of her conversation with Lewinsky but Isikoff later recounts, “I had gotten what I wanted to get, which was the name.” In November 1997, Tripp tips off Paula Jones’ lawyers and leads to them to Lewinsky and her involvement with the president and she is subpoenaed to testify in the case. In 1994, Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton accusing him of exposing himself to her in an Arkansas hotel room in 1991.

Source: Clinton Library

Throughout the fall of 1997, Lewinsky pressured Clinton to help her find a job, Clinton’s personal secretary Betty Currie helped in enlisting the Vernon Jordon with the job search. After interviews with the United Nations and Ambassador Bill Richardson, MacAndrews & Forbes Burson-Marsteller, and Revlon in New York, Lewinsky settled on public relations at Revlon, and left the Pentagon on December 26, 1997, after the scandal broke Revlon revoked their offer. The Jones case haunted Clinton throughout his presidency and with the tip; Jones’ lawyers placed Tripp and Lewinsky on their witness list. On December 5, Clinton’s lawyers received the witness list with Lewinsky’s name included and ten days letter a subpoena. Clinton asked Lewinsky to give all the gifts he had given her to Currie to, who hide them in her home. Tripp already notified Lewinsky she would be on the Jones’s witness list, but early on December 17, Clinton phoned her about being a witness, claiming it “broke his heart.” Two days later on December 19, Lewinsky receives her subpoena.

The year 1998 would begin with the actions that would to Clinton’s impeachment eleven months later. On January 7, Lewinsky signed an affidavit for the Jones case saying, she “never had a sexual relationship with the president.” Lewinsky’s lawyer only submits the affidavit on January 12. Jones lawyers outlined in 92 words their “Definition of Sexual Relations,” Clinton would later argue that he was telling the truth based on the definition provided, a loophole in his lie. Robert Bennett recently recounted to The Atlantic, “the president took full advantage of in answering.” On January 17, Clinton responded in his deposition that Lewinsky’s response was “absolutely true.” Clinton also denied he had been alone with Lewinsky, a blatant lie. Lewinsky recounted they used Clinton’s personal secretary as a cover, she would go into the Oval Office with them but then leave and stay in the adjoining dining room, while Lewinsky and Clinton would be alone in the study.

Meanwhile, On January 12, Tripp contacted Kenneth Starr’s Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC) telling them about Lewinsky’s involvement with the president, offering and then providing them with 20 hours of taped conversations between Lewinsky and Tripp. Starr asked Tripp to wear a wire at her next meeting with Lewinsky, and on January 13, she did recording their conversation at a lunch. On January 15, Starr requests from the Department f Justice permission to expand the scope of his investigation into President Clinton. On January 16, after a three-judge panel and Reno gave Starr permission to expand his investigation, the OIC set up to entrap Lewinsky in what resembled a hostage situation and an “ambush.” Tripp set up a meeting with Lewinsky at the Pentagon Mall and then the FBI swooped in and held Lewinsky at a room in the Ritz-Carlton for 12 hours, preventing her even from having a lawyer present. Just minutes before, Currie gave Lewinsky the heads up about the press finding out about the affair and two FBI agents arrived forcing Lewinsky to come with them, as Tripp looked on. The OIC’s operation was defining moment in the scandal and Lewinsky’s involvement, both Lewinsky and Ken Starr have different recollections of the events from what Lewinsky wore to from where she was taken.

Starr wrote in his memoir Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigationpublished in 2018 for the twentieth anniversary, “Our team dubbed the operation ‘Prom Night.” Lewinsky was facing “facing federal charges of perjury and subornation of perjury.” Starr recounted, “For an hour, Monica screamed, she cried, she pouted, and complained bitterly about her scheming, no-good, so-called friend. After a while, she calmed down and began asking questions. The meeting turned into a marathon.” In her authorized biography Monica’s Story by Andrew Morton published in 1999, Morton recounts, “She was in shock and she was panicking, but most of all she was in deep, deep trouble. As the lift took Monica, her treacherous friend and the two cold-eyed FBI men to the Ritz-Carlton’s Room 1012, she found herself thinking, “How did I get here?”

Lewinsky recounted in her March 2018, Vanity Fair article, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” Starr’s staff “had hustled me into a hotel room near the Pentagon and informed me that unless I cooperated with them I could face 27 years in prison.” Starr and his lawyers “[threatened] to prosecute my mom (if she didn’t disclose the private confidences I had shared with her), [hinted] that they would investigate my dad’s medical practice, and even [deposed] my aunt, with whom I was eating dinner that night. And all because [Starr], standing in front of me, had decided that a frightened young woman could be useful in his larger case against the president of the United States.”

Recently, in the new A&E documentary “The Clinton Affair” Lewinsky retold how she felt during the questioning, “The ground completely crumbled in that moment. I felt so much guilt. And I felt terrified.” Visibly upset Lewinsky, she recounted, “There was a point for me somewhere within these first several hours where I would be hysterically crying and then I would just shut down… And in the shut down period I just remember looking out the window and thinking the only way to fix this is to kill myself…. I just felt terrible … and I was scared … and I was mortified.”

In March 2018, Lewinsky recounted meeting Starr for the first time since the investigation on Christmas Eve 2017, and seeing him “as a human being.” She was “paving the way” for Starr to apologize, telling him, “Though I wish I had made different choices back then. I wish that you and your office had made different choices, too.” All Starr did was respond, “I know. It was unfortunate.” Recently, Starr said he would not apologize to Lewinsky for his actions. In a June 2018, interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Starr responded “no,” “Monica — and I wish her all the best — her life has been disrupted. But the evidence is the evidence, and she was part, as we saw it, of an effort to obstruct justice and to commit perjury.” In October 2014, the Washington Postuncovered a Special Counsel’s Report from December 2000, which counters Starr and determined that Starr and the OIC staff mistreated Lewinsky during the twelve-hour interrogation.

The OIC realize Lewinsky was the real deal when later on Lewinsky’s lawyer brought them the gifts Clinton gave to Lewinsky. Since the fall of 1997, Currie hid the gifts in her home to hide any evidence from Lewinsky that linked her to the president. Paul Rosenzweig, the lawyers at OIC, who first spoke to Tripp, remembers, “They’re real gifts. They’re not like something the president gives everybody…. So the connection between the president and Monica Lewinsky — we know it’s real.”

As Starr zeroed in on Lewinsky, Isikoff finished his story about President Clinton’s affair, when on January 17; Newsweek informed him they were holding the story until the next week. When Goldberg found out that Newsweek held the story she told Ann Coulter, who advised her to go to conservative leaning Matt Drudge, who operated a website, the Drudge Report, a no hold’s bar site that was not afraid of exposing Washington scandals. Drudge broke the story on January 17, opening the floodgates, under the headline “Newsweek Kills Story on White House Intern.” Goldberg recounted to the Atlantic, “I think it was Ann, or my lawyer, or Tripp’s lawyer. Drudge broke it within the hour.”

In 1998, again Clinton’s personal actions led to scandal this time leading to a constitutional crisis over his lying, possible perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. Since his campaign in 1992, Clinton had been dogged by accusations of impropriety both personal and professional. From the start Clinton dealt with accusations of sexual affairs, while a 1978 land deal gone wrong, called Whitewater might have led to illegal campaign contributions. Accusations became legal issues for the president when former Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the president and in April 1997, the Supreme Court ruled the harassment suit could proceed against a sitting president, Clinton main argument against the suit. On January 12, 1994, Clinton’s scandals invaded his presidency when Attorney General Janet Reno appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Whitewater. In his role, Kenneth Starr, a former Pepperdine University Law School professor, former federal judge and solicitor general expanded his investigations to the White House Travel Office, White House Counsel Vince Foster’s suspicion suicide and then Jones and Lewinsky.

As winter 1998 turned to spring, Clinton’s and the White House denials seemed to be working on the American public, and in turn, the Clinton White House turned the tables in their attacks. As Troy recounts in his book, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, Clinton “and his aides argued that the accusations were not true, and besides, his accusers were worse, especially Monica Lewinsky, the emotional stalker, and Kenneth Starr, the legalistic stalker.” (Troy, 224) While, Historians Meacham, Naftali, Baker, and Engel in their 2018 book Impeachment: An American History recount, “Clinton refused to resign in shame, launching instead an orchestrated push to save his presidency by undermining his accusers’ credibility. (Meacham, 6)

Where there is smoke there is fire, however, and the news was circulating rumors of semen stained dress that would link Clinton to Lewinsky and prove he had been lying, but American public opinion did not seem to care, as Clinton’s approval ratings remained high. Clinton especially felt vindicated when on April 1, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright dismissed the Jones case. All the while, however, Starr was conducting his investigation amassing the evidence linking Lewinsky to Clinton. Starr called a former East Wing intern, Nicole Maffeo Russo and Special Assistant to the President Sidney Blumenthal in front of a grand jury among his witnesses.

Starr, however, ramped up his investigation in July, when on July 27, he began interviewing Lewinsky. After threatening Lewinsky with prosecution, for nearly seven months her lawyers argued for immunity before she would speak to Starr. Starr blames Lewinsky for the time she took to tell the truth. Starr also interviewed for The Clinton Affair said, “The real shame is that, when you look back on it, if [Lewinsky] had said, ‘I was betrayed by Linda Tripp, there’s nothing else I can do, I’ve got to tell the truth.’ And you know what? The horror that the nation went through for eight months would have been essentially avoided. It would have been over very, very quickly.”

On July 28, after Lewinsky agreed to hand over the semen stained blue dress and other proof of the affair, Starr granted Lewinsky and her family transactional immunity. On August 6, Lewinsky gave her grand jury testimony, recounting her whole affair with the president and revealing about her blue Gap semen stained dress. On July 17, Starr subpoenaed the president and but on July 29, Clinton agreed to testify for Starr’s grand jury under conditions, “Clinton would appear via closed-circuit TV from the White House, his testimony would be limited to one day, and his lawyers could be present.” In a presidential first, on August 3, the White House physician drew blood from Clinton for DNA test to confirm a match with the dress.

On August 17, Clinton became the first sitting president subjected to giving testimony in front of a grand jury. After Lewinsky’s testimony and the physical evidence, Clinton was asked if “there is absolutely no sex of any kind” with Lewinsky, he responded, “It depends on what the meaning of the word is is.” After his testimony, in the evening Clinton went on television to speak to the nation. Clinton acknowledged his affair with Lewinsky after months of lying to the public. Clinton admitted, “As you know, in a deposition in January I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information. I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.”

One month later on September 9, Starr and the OIC transfer 36 boxes of evidence including their 445-page report recommending nine articles of impeachment to Congress. Starr never believed the report he and his writing staff, which included lawyers Brett Kavanaugh and Stephen Bates, would be made public. Their report relied heavily on Lewinsky graphic testimony to outline Lewinsky relationship with the president, however, the report left out some information. One of Clinton’s lawyers David Kendell, does not think the OIC wanted an accurate document because they never included a key Lewinsky grand jury statement, where she declared, “No one ever asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence.” Kendell told The Atlantic, “Starr used the compelled testimony of Ms. Lewinsky to paint a detailed, lengthy, and graphic account of their relationship. To what end? To humiliate and demean both people.”

The same day, Clinton speaking in Florida expressed, “I let you down. I let my family down. I let this country down. But I’m trying to make it right. I determined to never let anything like that happen again.” On September 11, at the National Prayer Breakfast Clinton admitted, “I sinned.” Finally, Clinton publicly apologized. Clinton expressed in his speech, “I don’t think there’s a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everyone who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine — first and most important, my family, my friends, my staff, my cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.”

Republicans had different reasons for believing the report should be made able to the public and each side felt it would be beneficial to their cause. Republicans thought Democrats were not taking Clinton’s impeachable actions seriously, while Democrats thought there would be a backlash to the report’s pornographic elements. On September 11, the House voted 363–63 to release the report to the public on the internet. Fledgling publishing house PublicAffairs took advantage publishing the Starr Report, which became a best seller on the new bookseller Amazon.com. On September 21, 2,800 pages of evidence and video of Clinton’s grand jury testimony was made public, another “three volumes” of evidence was made public on October 1, including transcripts of Lewinsky’s conversations with Tripp.

By October, the House Republicans geared up to impeach Clinton. The House Judiciary Committee recommended an impeachment inquiry on October 5. The first vote with the full House on October 8, decided on an impeachment inquiry, the motion passed 258–176, Republicans along with 31 Democrats voted in favor. Republicans won in proceeding with the impeachment but they faced a backlash in the 1998 midterm election. The scandal benefited the Democrats, Clinton’s popularity only increased, after the scandal broke in January, according to Gallup, Clinton’s approval rating went up from 59 to 69 support throughout 1998 it remained in the sixties and when the House impeached Clinton it went to 73 percent. The Democrats won five seats, and the Republicans majority became 223-to-211 seats with one independent. Clinton felt vindicated, ‘’If you look at all the results, they are clear and unambiguous. The American people want their business, their concerns, their children, their families, their future addressed here. That’s what the message of the election was. ‘’

Speaker of the House Gingrich gambled with the House majority betting impeachment would increase their hold and he lost, and after the election announced he would step down. Bob Livingston of Louisiana was voted the new speaker but with the discovery of his past affairs, he resigned on December 19, the same day the House impeached Clinton and urged Clinton to follow his example. Livingston was a byproduct of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt call offering a million dollars to anyone who had “an adulterous sexual encounter with a current member of the United States Congress or a high-ranking government official.” Other Republican casualties included “Dan Burton of Indiana, Helen Chenoweth of Idaho and Henry Hyde of Illinois,” the Chairman of Judiciary Committee who served as the chief House manager of Clinton’s Senate trial.

In November as the House Judiciary Committee moved forward on impeachment, they looked at the inquiry into President Richard Nixon and the Watergate cover up as their model. On December 8 and 9, Clinton’s lawyers presented their case, including witnesses, Watergate veterans, and historian Sean Wilentz, who warned the Republicans “History will track you down.” The Democrats tried to negotiate a censure with the House Republicans but they would not agree to anything less than impeachment. On December 11 and 12, the Judiciary Committee voted on three articles and then a fourth article of impeachment sending them to the House floor for hearings and a vote on them.

All four articles of impeachment related to perjury about his involvement with Lewinsky and influencing witnesses in the Paula Jones. According to the Atlantic, “The first article alleged that Clinton had committed perjury by lying to the grand jury in August about his relationship with Lewinsky, and in prior false statements. The second alleged that he had also perjured himself in his January deposition in the Jones case. The third accused him of obstructing justice — coaching Lewinsky and Betty Currie on their stories, concealing gifts he had received from Lewinsky, and attempting to find her a job. The fourth alleged that he had abused his office by attempting to stonewall the impeachment inquiry.”

Source: The New York Times

On December 19, after the House voted to impeach Clinton, Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois who presided over the House impeachment process, recalls the reaction, “I think people were surprised by the fact that Clinton was impeached by the House but not on all four impeachment articles.” Rep. James Rogan of California remembers, “We had maybe half the Senate standing along the back rail of the House chamber watching the vote. There was just absolute, utter shock. I walked by a bunch of them, and they were apoplectic: ‘What’re we going to do now?’ I said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to try the case, that’s what you’re going to do now.’”

Before the Senate trial, the Senate convened behind closed in the Old Senate Chamber to work out the process. Thirteen members of the House Judiciary Committee served as prosecutors and trial managers, including Reps. James Rogan and Bob Barr and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, they worked with Republicans’ chief investigator, David Schippers negotiating the process with the Senate. Despite support among House Republicans for impeachment, Senate Republicans including Majority Leader Trent Lott were not excited to impeach President Clinton they were more concerned how impeachment would affect their reelection chances. House Republicans were limited in making their case; they could not call live witnesses and were limited to the evidence that was already made available to the public.

The Senate trial began on January 7, 1999, as the 106th Congress commenced. The trial was only the second time in American history a sitting president faced an impeachment trial that would determine if he remains in office. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist presided as the judge. On the first day, the trial consisted of formally presenting the charges of impeachment against Clinton and swearing the participants for both sides including the entire Senate which served as jurors. Attorney Cheryl Mills defended Clinton and had a staff of eight other lawyers. The trial lasted for five weeks, on January 8, they adopted the trials “rules and procedures,” both parties submitted briefs, the House on January 11, Clinton’s attorneys on January 13. The House managers presented their case on January 14 through 16, while the defense presented from January 19 to 21. January 22 and 23 were reserved for questions from the prosecution and defense, which were written down and read by Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was the first to call for the case to be dismissed on January 25, and on January 26, Rep. Bryant of the House managers called for witnesses. The Senate voted on both motions on January 27, the motion to dismiss failed 56–44, while the motion to dispose witnesses passed 56–44. Between February 1 and 3, behind closed doors House managers deposed three witnesses Lewinsky, Jordan and Blumenthal. On February 4, the Senate agreed with a vote of 70 to 30 just to use the videotaped deposition as opposed to live witnesses. On February 6, the House Managers played 30 excerpts from Lewinsky’s deposition discussing her affidavit from the Jones case.

On February 8, both sides gave their closing argument, White House Counsel Charles Ruff argued for Clinton’s defense, “There is only one question before you, albeit a difficult one, one that is a question of fact and law and constitutional theory. Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the President in office? Putting aside partisan animus, if you can honestly say that it would not, that those liberties are safe in his hands, then you must vote to acquit.” Chief House manager Rep. Henry Hyde counter-argued, “A failure to convict will make the statement that lying under oath, while unpleasant and to be avoided, is not all that serious. … We have reduced lying under oath to a breach of etiquette, but only if you are the president. … And now let us all take our place in history on the side of honor, and, oh, yes, let right be done.”

Source: The New York Times

The Senate as jury began their closed-door deliberations on February 9, 1999. The House Republicans needed a two-thirds majority, 67 senators to convict Clinton. On February 12, 1999, the Senate voted to acquit Clinton on the two articles of impeachment and charges. The Senate voted not guilty 55 to 45 for Article I, the perjury charge, including 10 Republicans voting with the Democrats to acquit. The Senate split 50–50 for the obstruction of justice charge with five Republicans voting with the Democrats. There were five Republicans Senators that voted to acquit on both charges, John Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of Maine, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who voted “not proved,” the equivalent of not guilty. Afterward, a victorious Clinton expressed from the White House, “Now that the Senate has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility, bringing this process to a conclusion, I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.”

Despite, the Senate impeachment trial in his favor, Clinton’s legal problems and their ramifications were not over. In November 1998, Clinton settled with Jones while she was appealing the court’s dismissal of the case, for $850,000 without admitting any wrongdoing. However, in April 1999, the same Federal District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who dismissed the Jones suit cited Clinton with civil contempt of court for his perjury and “willful failure” to obey her orders. Wright claimed, “Simply put, the president’s deposition testimony regarding whether he had ever been alone with Ms. (Monica) Lewinsky was intentionally false, and his statements regarding whether he had ever engaged in sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky likewise were intentionally false.”

Kenneth Starr left the independent counsel position in 1999 and Robert Ray served as his replacement. Although Clinton escaped impeachment, he still had the possibility of facing criminal charges. In December 2000, to end the independent counsel’s investigation, Clinton’s lawyer drew up an agreement with Ray. There would be no criminal charges, but Clinton would admit to “testifying falsely” in his deposition in the Jones case, he would pay a $25,000 fine, his Arkansas law license would be suspended for five years, and with that, the Supreme Court Bar suspended him.

Twenty years after the scandal broke and Clinton’s impeachment, the perspective is different. The tables have turned, as Republicans have a president who admitted to inappropriate behavior to women on video, and is facing an independent counsel’s investigation over Russian interference in the 2016 election that got him elected. The #MeToo movement, which began in 2017, gave greater sympathy to women who faced sexual assault, sexual harassment and were in relationships with a power imbalance. No longer is Clinton’s actions dismissed as they were in 1998. In the spring of 2018, when Clinton said in a televised interview on NBC TODAY SHOW he did not owe Lewinsky a personal apology he faced a backlash. When host Craig Melvin pushed the issue Clinton responded, “No. I do not — I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry.” Before the #MeToo movement asking Clinton about the scandal and Lewinsky would have taboo, now even he has to be accountable. Instead, of the scandal recessing in the American mind, it has come to the forefront to Clinton’s detriment. The backlash pushed Clinton to the defensive and to clarify his original comment, “So first point is, I did. I meant it then, and I meant it now. I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, and to the American people before a panel of ministers in the White House, which was widely reported. So I was… I did that. I meant it then, and I mean it today. I live with it all the time.”

Recently, Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair, “So, what feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it… and we, in turn, a better society.” Lewinsky, however, would like to apologize personally to Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton, “My first public words after the scandal — uttered in an interview with Barbara Walters on March 3, 1999 — were an apology directly to Chelsea and Mrs. Clinton. And if I were to see Hillary in person today, I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her — sincerely — how very sorry I am.” Continuing Lewinsky writes, “I know I would do this because I have done it in other difficult situations related to 1998. I have also written letters apologizing to others — including some who also wronged me gravely. I believe that when we are trapped by our inability to evolve, by our inability to empathize humbly and painfully with others, then we remain, victims, ourselves.”

Historian Taylor Branch in his book The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History in the White House sheds light why perhaps Clinton does not feel he owes Lewinsky an apology for his behavior, especially how he demonized her to the press after the scandal broke. Branch recounts, Clinton “pointed out that Starr had been threatening to jail Lewinsky all year over her sworn denial of the affair. If Clinton had come forward with anything at all about their relationship, he said Starr could have turned him into a witness against Lewinsky, betraying her discreet silence. Such subtleties, while original, struck me as tendentious. The president never claimed chivalry as the real motive for his steadfast denials, nor did he dispute the essential truth of Lewinsky’s account.” (Branch)

The Democrats behavior and blind support for Clinton in 1998 contrasts with the post- #MeToo era and in the context of times seems hypocritical. As Troy recounts in his 2000 book, Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons, “Democrats defended their president’s privacy while exposing Republicans’ affairs. The Democrats instinctively expansive reading of law narrowed into a strict construction of perjury standards and the Constitution’s impeachment clauses. The Democrats also decided that women did not always tell the truth about male predators, especially if the accused was a pro-choice president. Democrats who had skewered Nixon indulged Clinton…. All the while, reporters and citizens played both sides of the fence — as usual — condemning the spectacle while feeding it.” (Troy, 378)

Now twenty years later, history, the public and the characters involved are revising how they viewed the affair and scandal in light of the #MeToo movement, Clinton’s scandals are no longer “dismissed.” Historians Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, Peter Baker, and Jeffrey A. Engel in their 2018 book Impeachment: An American History note, “Twenty years later, though, the view of history has shifted a bit. Once dismissed as a national distraction while more serious such as international terrorism and Wall Street corruption went ignored, the Clinton scandal looks a little different in the age of the #MeToo movement… Today some of the key figures in the Clinton impeachment are reassessing.” (Meacham, 203) MSNBC one of the key Clinton defenders in 1998, now host Chris Hayes said, “Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.” (Meacham, 203)

In light of this, Lewinsky, who persistently claimed their relationship, was consensual and she was not a victim, is currently reconsidering whether it was consensual in light of the #MeToo movement. In her March 2018, Vanity Fair article, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo Lewinsky wrote, “We now recognize that it constituted a gross abuse of power…. Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern.” “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)”

In November 2018, Lewinsky wrote of Clinton’s lopsided power, “As it so often does, power throws a protective cape around the shoulders of the man, and he dictates the spin by denigrating the less powerful woman… If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn’t want to answer.” Lewinsky is not the only one reconsidering the relationship and President Clinton’s actions, so is the media and even fellow Democrats. Democratic New York Senator and former Clinton ally Kirsten Gillibrand caused shock waves when in November 2017 when she told the New York Times she believed Clinton should have resigned during the scandal in 1998, telling the Times, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.” It was the first time a high-ranking Democrat, indicated Clinton should have resigned.

The woman that brought the whole affair to Starr’s attention, Linda Tripp still maintains that she always saw what Clinton did as an abuse of power. Tripp say s that was the reason she revealed what was going on. Tripp recently spoke to Slow Burn’s host, Leon Neyfakh telling him, “I mean, how it was presented to the country initially is how it continues to be referred to today, which is an affair, the Lewinsky affair. But by virtue of using that word, one assumes it was in some way an actual relationship of sorts — romantic, physical, whatever, it was a relationship — which couldn’t be farther from the truth. What it was was a series of encounters to address a physical need, a use of a young girl, and then the sort of cold, hard dismissal of her on any human level.”

The only two involved who do not believe Clinton abused his power, is he and former First Lady Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton appeared in October 2018 for an interview on CBS and she was was asked if Clinton’s actions were an abuse of power, to which she responded it was not because Lewinsky “was an adult.” Hillary Clinton also responded “absolutely not” when asked if the former president should have resigned over the affair.

For the twentieth anniversary of Clinton’s impeachment and the scandal, A&E made a new documentary, entitled, “The Clinton Affair.” The documentary produced by women gave a different perspective on the scandal, starting with the name giving the responsibility over to Clinton where it rightfully belonged, because he was the president and the one in control. Lewinsky has said she liked “that the perspective is being shaped by women.” In a recent Vanity Fair article “Who gets to live in victimville?: Why I participated in a new docuseries on the Clinton Affair” Lewinsky explains her decision to “relive the events of 1998.” Lewinsky explains, “Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could. Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words.” She also indicates the significance for the series to call it the Clinton Affair as opposed to the Lewinsky Scandal as its been dubbed from the onset another by-product of the #MeToo movement. Lewinsky writes, “Bye-bye, Lewinsky scandal. I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle.”

Early on, journalists or jurists, legal scholars wrote most of the books on Clinton’s impeachment, it takes time for a historical perspective. Jurist Richard Posner in his book, An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton published just after the legal issues of the scandal resolved in 1999, argued for writing a history so close to the contemporary events having occurred. Posner explains, “The judgments in it are informed by knowledge of how the story ends, although not by knowledge of how it will come eventually to be judged by history,” before “the danger that the history of it will pass rapidly into myth,” because “hindsight bias is a serious problem in historiography.”

In August 1998, after Clinton admitted to the affair with Lewinsky, historian Douglas Brinkley indicated, “In judging a president, there is a considerable world of difference between the long view of history and the volatility of the political moment.” At the time, historians believed Clinton’s legacy would be affected by the scandal. Famed historian Arthur J. Schlesinger Jr. also questioned Clinton’s legacy, saying, “It all depends on what he does, not what he says. Instead of going off to Martha’s Vineyard, he should be gaining control of his demoralized administration. He should be making decisions about Ireland and the Middle East. Obviously, what he said last night is going to tarnish his legacy. But he can overcome these things if he begins fighting for real social change and reform. That’s his very best hope.”

Some historians, however, believed that the scandal might define his presidency. Alan Brinkley believed, “While I don’t believe the Lewinsky matter will constitute the final judgment of him, the scandals and a limited agenda will be what people remember.” Historian Joyce Appleby thought Clinton made scandal more a fixture of the modern political landscape. Appleby stated, “When people look back at the Clinton years, I think they’ll see him as the epitome of a time when our nation became permanently scandalized.”

Historians found that Clinton’s scandal and impeachment was worst than Richard Nixon’s resignation over his impending impeachment over the Watergate Scandal because of Nixon’s presidential accomplishments and the supporting cast. Historian Joan Hoff the author of Nixon Reconsidered, finds that Nixon had more accomplishments as president and had ideological positions that he championed. Hoff remarked Nixon “took risks, he had some success. But what does Bill Clinton stand for? He has no strong inner compass, he wavers a lot, and that’s not much to build a legacy on.” While Troy in his book, Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons, published in 2000 during Clinton’s last year in office compared Watergate to Clinton’s scandal. Troy points out, “The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was an ugly moment in American history. Unlike during Watergate, no heroes emerged, few ideals triumphed. Reputations shattered. Public language coarsened. Truth became pliable. Partisanship raged. Deathbed conversions predominated.” (Troy, 378)

In 2017, Clinton ranked a respectable number 15 in C-SPAN’s third Presidential Historians Survey, where a hundred historians and biographers ranked the presidents. They marked each president on ten qualities including, “public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision and setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times.” Clinton’s overall reputation has improved with time, but his ranking on moral authority has remained dismal and at the bottom of the rankings. When he left office in 2000, historians ranked him twentieth overall but number 41, second to last on moral authority. In 2009, Clinton’s overall reputation improved to fifteenth but his moral authority remained low at number 37. In 2017, Clinton’s overall reputation with historians remained the same, his overall score improved, but his moral authority fell to number 38. The ranking was published months before the #MeToo movement burst onto the scene and months after the 2016 presidential election, where former First Lady Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee and the media drudged up Clinton’s scandals.

Pulitzer Prize historian Taylor Branch a friend of Clinton’s wrote the revealing The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History in the White House. Throughout Clinton’s presidency, Branch sat down with Clinton to discuss his impressions of his presidency, which were recorded on tape, retained by Clinton, Branch’s book was based on his personal notes, and give insights no other historian can have on Clinton’s thoughts including the scandal and impeachment. According to Branch, Clinton explained the reason he became involved with an intern within the confines of the White House, “I cracked; I just cracked.” Clinton felt “beleaguered, unappreciated, and open to a liaison with Lewinsky” after “the Democrats’ loss of Congress in the November 1994 elections, the death of his mother the previous January, and the ongoing Whitewater investigation.” Branch’s view of President Clinton attempts to reshape the narrative and softens Clinton’s intentions throughout the scandal but spends too little time to have lasting consequences for how history views Clinton, the scandal and his impeachment.

Historians writing in the context of nearly twenty years after scandal have argued the range of the scandal affected Clinton’s legacy and American history. Historian Russell L. Riley writing for the Miller Center at the University of Virginia indicates how Clinton affected his legacy with the scandal. Riley explains, “The damage done to Clinton’s place in history is far more pronounced and probably permanent. Future historians will likely evaluate not just what Clinton did, but also what he did not accomplish, because he was tied-up in a second-term struggle for political survival. It is this consideration of ‘what might have been’ that may be Clinton’s greatest obstacle to gaining historical stature.” Troy lamented the problems with writing about Clinton and having the rest of Clinton’s presidency taken seriously, writing, “The Monica Lewinsky sex scandal upstages,” Clinton’s “astute statements about family, work, community, responsibility, and freedom, but “modern readers must compartmentalize, just as the American people did. Ultimately, the majority of Americans accepted his argument to judge his presidency by his public record.” (Troy, 22–23)

Clinton’s scandal and impeachment affected not only his legacy but also the course of American history in the early twenty first century. Meacham, Naftali, Baker, and Engel argue, “Impeachment thus disrupts the American political landscape as few other events do, leaving scars for generations while dimming the political careers of all involved. Clinton was not only the second president impeached; he was also the first impeached after having been elected president, a stain his two-term vice president and would-be Democratic successor found impossible to wash away during his subsequent razor-tight campaign for the presidency in 2000…. Bill Clinton’s impeachment thus directly contributed to the election of the two subsequent Republican presidents in 2000 and 2016, respectively. But for his behavior, the twenty-first century might have unfolded completely differently.”


105th Congress (1997–1998). “H.Res.611 — Impeaching William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.”Congress.gov. December 16, 1998. https://www.congress.gov/bill/105th-congress/house-resolution/611

Branch, Taylor. The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Clinton, William J. “Remarks Following the House of Representatives Vote on Impeachment.” The American Presidency Project. December 19, 1998 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-following-the-house-representatives-vote-impeachment

Cosgrove, Alexandra. “A Clinton Timeline.” CBS News. January 12, 2001. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-clinton-timeline/

CNN. “A Chronology: Key Moments In The Clinton-Lewinsky Saga.” http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/resources/lewinsky/timeline/

CSPAN. “William J. Clinton, C-SPAN Survey on Presidents 2017.” https://www.c-span.org/presidentsurvey2017/?personid=1651

Engel, Jeffrey A, Jon Meacham, Timothy J. Naftali, and Peter Baker. Impeachment: An American History. New York: Modern Library, 2018.

Getlin, Josh. “Clinton Legacy May Be History, Say Historians Standing: They cite Lewinsky matter, detect flaws in the president’s character,” Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1998. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/aug/19/news/mn-14568

Garber, Megan. “The End of The Clinton Affair.” The Atlantic, November 22, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/11/clinton-affair-how-we-remember-women/576271/

Graham, David A. and Cullen Murphy. “The Clinton Impeachment, as Told by the People Who Lived It,” The Atlantic, December 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/clinton-impeachment/573940/

Harris, John F. “President Responds With Simple Apology.” The Washington Post, February 13, 1999, A1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/president021399.htm

Lewinsky, Monica. “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo.” Vanity Fair, March 2018. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/monica-lewinsky-in-the-age-of-metoo

Lewinsky, Monica. “Who gets to live in victimville?: Why I participated in a new docuseries on the Clinton Affair.” Vanity Fair, November 2018. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/11/the-clinton-affair-documentary-monica-lewinsky

Nicks, Denver. “Report: Investigators Mistreated Monica Lewinsky in Clinton Probe.” Time, October 24, 2014. http://time.com/3536555/report-lewinsky-clinton-starr/

Mitchell, Alison. “IMPEACHMENT: THE OVERVIEW — CLINTON IMPEACHED; HE FACES A SENATE TRIAL, 2D IN HISTORY; VOWS TO DO JOB TILL TERM’S ‘LAST HOUR’.” The New York Times, December 20, 1998. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/12/20/us/impeachment-overview-clinton-impeached-he-faces-senate-trial-2d-history-vows-job.html

Morton, Andrew. Monica’s Story. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Posner, Richard A. An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 1999.

Riley, Russell L. “Bill Clinton: Impact and Legacy.” Miller Center, University of Virginia. https://millercenter.org/president/clinton/impact-and-legacy

Starr, Kenneth. Contempt : a Memoir of the Clinton Investigation. Penguin Publishing Group, 2018.

Starr, Kenneth. The Starr Report: The Findings of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr on President Clinton and the Lewinsky Affair. Bridgewater, N.J: Replica Books, 1998.

Troy, Gil. Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to Clintons. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

Troy, Gil. The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

Washington Post. “Approved Articles of Impeachment.” December 20, 1998. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/articles122098.htm?noredirect=on

Wikipedia. “Clinton–Lewinsky scandal.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton%E2%80%93Lewinsky_scandal

Wikipedia. “Impeachment of Bill Clinton.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment_of_Bill_Clinton

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has over a dozen years of experience in education & political journalism.

Politics October 9, 2016: Clinton’s hypocritical reaction to Trump’s lewd comments as she stood by her man




By Bonnie K. Goodman

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, NY - JULY 14: (L-R) Rudolph W. Giuliani, Donald Trump, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Joe Torre, and Billy Crystal attend the 2008 Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation Golf Classic at Trump National Golf Club on July 14, 2008 in Briarcliff Manor, New York. (Photo by Rick Odell/Getty Images)

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, NY – JULY 14: (L-R) Rudolph W. Giuliani, Donald Trump, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Joe Torre, and Billy Crystal attend the 2008 Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation Golf Classic at Trump National Golf Club on July 14, 2008 in Briarcliff Manor, New York. (Photo by Rick Odell/Getty Images)

After hearing the news about an audio recording of Republican nominee Donald Trump making lewd comments about women, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton responded with outrage. On Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, The Washington Post released a report about the 2005 recording of Trump bragging to then Access Hollywood reporter Billy Bush about his sexual exploits, groping, and kissing women when he wanted and his unsuccessful attempt at bedding a married TV host. Trump immediately faced a backlash mostly from fellow Republicans especially those in Congress. Clinton also responded with outrage, calling his remarks “horrific.” Clinton’s reactions come off as hypocritical considering her husband’s past sex scandals, with the nation needing a refresher in Clinton history to put it all in perspective.

Clinton had a much different response when news broke of her husband then President Bill Clinton’s greatest sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky broke in January 1998. Hillary’s appearance on Tuesday, January 27, 1998, edition of NBC’s “Today” show is legendary for the unabashed defense of her husband, blaming the Republicans for being out to get her husband and sabotage his presidency. Her remarks came as Clinton denied ever having “sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Lewinsky was all of only 22 when the affair began in 1995, while Clinton was 49.

Speaking on “Today” to host Matt Lauer Hillary said: “This is-the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.”

Later in the interview, she gave additional remarks, now perceived as threats towards Lewinsky and any other women that have or would come forward against her husband. Hillary attacked these women, saying, “I think we’re going to find some other things. And I think that when all of this is put into context, and we really look at the people involved here, look at their motivations and look at their backgrounds, look at their past behavior, some folks are going to have a lot to answer for.”

It would take over six months, finally in August 1998; Clinton admitted to having a relationship with Lewinsky after DNA from her blue dress proved he had a relationship with the intern and committed perjury. The president was forced, to tell the truth in his grand jury testimony. The president later appeared on national television acknowledging his wrongdoing and apologizing. Clinton in his speech said, “I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.” Hillary was furious, but she forgave him, and stood by him through the humiliation, forever the good wife, parlaying the public pity into a political career and fruitful run for a New York Senate seat in 2000. Her political career’s foundations were built on her husband’s scandals.

The Starr Report written by independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr about his findings on the president’s wrongdoings was released the next month in September 1998. The report with testimony from Lewinsky read like a soft porn movie, with Lewinsky and Clinton’s trysts happening in the Oval Office or adjacent to it, even as the president was conducting official business. Reading the Starr Report, one felt they needed a cold shower to clean up and this is coming from an official government document.

The Lewinsky scandal was hardly Clinton’s first time dealing with sex scandal accusations; he was an old pro throughout his political career in Arkansas and the presidency. In January 1992, his candidacy for the Democratic nomination was nearly derailed from the news he had a 12-year affair years before with cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers. There too, Hillary’s fierce defense and forgiveness on national TV, this time, a CBS News’ “60 Minutes” interview with Steve Kroft saved his political career. At the time, Hillary blamed Flowers for being out to ruin her husband’s aspirations. Then Hillary famously said “I’m not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” and that, “I think it’s real dangerous in this country if we don’t have some zone of privacy for everybody.”

In fact, Hillary also blamed all the women for her husband’s scandals leaving him blameless. The women still accuse Hillary of being the mastermind who sucked private detectives on them and went about destroying their lives and credibility to the nation to save her husband’s and as we now know her presidential goals. Now all of a sudden, Hillary has become puritanical. To her Trump’s actions, here words are far worse than anything her husband has done to her and the nation?  Clinton tweeted, “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president,” yet she wanted the country to allow her husband to remain president in 1998.

Hillary and the country have a short memory of who exactly they are letting back into the White House when they elect Hillary Clinton in November. Hillary stood by her man, not for him but her ambitions to become president, she forgave him; she has condoned his actions by remaining with him. She was his co-president in the 1990s, and he has been her co-campaigner in 2008 and 2016 and will be her co-president. Only a divorce, could give her moral superiority, but we will never see that.

For Republicans abandoning Trump so quickly they are letting back their greatest foe into the White House and the presidency, as the repeatedly clashed with Clinton the first time around in the 1990s and tried even to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors. Yes, Clinton was only the second president ever impeached by the House of Representatives, the other Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868. Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury in his testimony for the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. Only the Senate’s Democrats and 10 Republicans saved Clinton from being forced out of the presidency in shame and altering the Clintons’ reprise to power. Still, he was found in contempt of court in civil proceedings and fined. Clinton also had his license to practice law suspended for five years by the state of Arkansas and the Supreme Court.

For the nation, Clinton had an over 60 percent approval rating during his impeachment. In that midterm election year, the Democrats gained seats in Congress, at a time when the ruling party usually loses seats, as is often the case in the last midterms of the presidency. The American public forgave Clinton quickly, stood by him, and even revered him for loathsome, offensive, sexist and disrespectful sexual actions he did while president. He is now the respected elder statesman, but by the grace of his party, he could have been as disgraced as Richard Nixon who resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal.

Trump was right to bring up the Clinton’s scandals in his apology. In the video statement released Friday evening, Oct. 7, Trump said, “I never said I’m a perfect person nor pretended to be someone I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret and the words released today on this more than decade-old video are one of them. These words don’t reflect who I am. I said it; I was wrong and I apologize.” Then the GOP nominee decided to go on the attack, contrasting his words to Bill Clinton’s actions as president. Trump continued, “I’ve said some foolish things, but there is a big difference between the words and actions of other people Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, intimidated and shamed his victims.”

Although Trump’s remarks are reprehensible, no one should deny it, but as his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski noted ‘We’re not electing a Sunday school teacher,’ but world leader, a president. Trump’s words are probably less offensive than what former President Clinton did to the women he was involved with. His hijinks with Lewinsky in the Oval Office were a disgrace, a disgusting offense done in the nation’s house while conducting official duties of the presidency.

In contrast, Trump was a private citizen. He was speaking off the record in an entertainment news interview on one of the trashiest television news shows Access Hollywood, on the way to filming a cameo on a soap opera, Days of Our Lives, where the characters’ sex romps outshine the story lines, and actors have to be sexy to succeed. Trump, the aging man, attempted to recapture his youth and wild oats with embellishing talk of sexual exploits. Trump’s comments also come in another lifetime just months after the Clintons and Trumps were caught laughing together at Trump’s wedding to Melania, 11 years later they are arch rivals for the presidency.

Trump is right if not tactful or politically correct is it was “locker room banter,” the type of sexist talk, unfortunately, men all over the country if not the world engage. Unfortunately, as much as political correctness wants to believe otherwise men are not that evolved. Trump’s previous public personas and time as a celebrity in the limelight were in the 1980s as the yuppie millionaire dandy, the 1990s as the beauty pageant operator or later in the oughts as the reality TV star. Throughout Trump has been known for his antics, big talk, relationships, and two divorces; Republicans cannot be shocked, nobody can by his remarks.

Why has the public forgave Bill Clinton’s actions from 18 years ago, but are aghast by Trump’s words from 11 years ago? Why is there a double standard when it comes to the Clintons, where they are forgiven, but everyone has to pay penance for the same or lesser actions? Let’s not forget Clinton’s sex scandals were not all consensual as the star struck Lewinsky. He was accused of raping Juanita Broaddrick in 1978, sexually harassing Paula Jones in 1991, and fondling and groping Kathleen Willey in 1993 as president in the Oval Office.

We have to all remember there were reasons why Trump and Bill Clinton were ever friends; they had in common their behavior or sexist talk about women. As Trump brought up in his first apology statement, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.” Now the American voter has to realize that neither nominee is morally pure but only one brings baggage that had sex scandals in the White House, and that is Hillary Clinton until she divorces Bill she carries his weight, his scandals are “with her.”

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Full Text Political Transcripts March 19, 2015: Monica Lewinsky’s speech at TED 2015 Conference about Bill Clinton Scandal and Cyber-Bullying Transcript



Monica Lewinsky’s speech at TED 2015 Conference about Bill Clinton Scandal and Cyber-Bullying Transcript

Monica Lewinsky speaks at TED2015 - Truth and Dare, March 19 2015, Vancouver Convention Center. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Monica Lewinsky

You are looking at a woman who was publicly silent for a decade. Obviously that has changed, but only recently.

It was several months ago that I gave my very first, major public talk at the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit.

1500 brilliant people, all under the age of 30. That meant that in 1998 the oldest among the group were only 14 and the youngest just 4.

I joked with them that some might only have heard of me from rap songs. Yes, I am in rap songs. Almost 40 rap songs.

But the night of my speech, a surprising thing happened. At the age of 41, I was hit on by a 27-year-old guy. I know, right? He was charming and I was flattered and I declined. Do you know what his unsuccessful pickup line was? He could make me feel 22 again.

I realized later that night I am probably the only person over 40 who does not want to be 22 again.

At the age of 22 I fell in love with my boss. And at the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences.

Can I see a show of hands of anyone here who  didn’t make a mistake or do something they regretted at 22? Yep, that’s what I thought. So like me, at 22, a few of you may have taken wrong turns and fallen in love with the wrong person. Maybe even your boss.

Unlike me, your boss probably wasn’t the President of the United States of America.

Of course, life is full of surprises.

Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of my mistake. And I regret that mistake deeply.

In 1998, after having been swept up into an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal and media maelstrom like we had never seen before. Remember, just a few years earlier, news was consumed in just three places: reading a newspaper or magazine, listening to a radio, or watching television. That was it.

But that wasn’t my fate. Instead, this scandal was brought to you by the digital revolution. That meant we could access all the information we wanted, when we wanted it, anytime, anywhere. And when the story broke in January, 1998, it broke online. It was the first time the traditional news was usurped by the internet for a major news story. A click that reverberated around the world.

What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly-humiliated one worldwide. I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on the global scale almost instantaneously.

This rush to judgement enabled by technology led to mobs of virtual stone-throwers. Granted, it was before social media, but people could still comment online, email stories and of course, email cruel jokes. News sources plastered photos of me all over to sell newspapers, banner ads online, and to keep people tuned to the TV.

Do you recall a particular image of me, say, wearing a beret? Now, I admit I made mistakes, especially wearing that beret. But the attention an judgement I received, not the story, but that I personally received, was unprecedented.

I was branded as a tramp. Tart. Slut. Whore. Bimbo. And, of course, “That Woman”. I was seen by many, but actually known by few. And I get it. It was easy to forget that “that woman” was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.

When this happened to me 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyber-bulling and online harassment.

Today I want to share some of my experiences, and talk about how those experiences helped shape my cultural observations, and how my past experiences can lead to a change that can lead to less suffering for others.

In 1998 I lost my reputation and my dignity. I lost almost everything. And I almost lost my life.

Let me paint a picture for you. It is September of 1998. I am sitting in a windowless office room inside the Office of the Independent Counsel, underneath humming flourscent lights. I am listening to the sound of my voice. My voice on surreptitiously taped phone calls that a supposed friend had made the year before. I am here because I’ve been legally required to authenticate all 20 hours of taped conversation. For the past eight months, the mysterious content of these conversations has hung like the Sword of Damocles over my head.

I mean, who can remember what they said a year ago?

Scared and mortified, I listened. Listened as I prattled on about the flotsam and jetsam of the day. Listen as I confess my love for the president. And of course, my heartbreak. Listened to my sometimes catty, sometimes churlish, sometimes silly self being cruel, unforgiving, uncouth. Listened deeply, deeply ashamed of the worst version of myself. A self I don’t even recognize.

A few days later, the Starr Report is released to Congress and all of those tapes and transcripts, those stolen words, form a part of it. That people can read the transcripts is horrific enough. But a few weeks later the audio tapes are aired on TV, and significant portions are made available online.

The public humiliation was excruciating. Life was almost unbearable.

This was not something happened with regularity back in 1998. And by this, I mean the stealing of people’s private words, actions, conversations or photos, and then making them public. Public without consent, public without context, and pubic without compassion.

Fast forward 12 years to 2010 and now social media has been born. The landscape has sadly become much more populated with instances like mine, whether or not someone actually made a mistake. And now it is for both public and private people. The consequences for some have become dire. Very dire.

I was on the phone with my mom in September, 2010 and we were talking about the news of a young college freshman from Rutgers University named Tyler Clementi.

Sweet, sensitive, creative Tyler was secretly webcammed by his room mate while being intimate with another man. When the online world learned of this incident, the ridicule and cyber-bullying ignited. A few days later, Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death. He was 18.

My mom was beside herself about what happened to Tyler and his family and she was gutted with pain in a way I just couldn’t understand.

And then eventually, she was reliving 1998. Reliving a time when she sat beside my bed every night. Reliving a time when she made me shower with the bathroom door opened. And reliving a time when both of my parents feared I would be humiliated to death. Literally.

Today too many parents haven’t had the chance to step in and rescue their loved ones. Too many have learned have of their child’s humiliation and suffering after it was too late.

Tyler’s tragic, senseless death was a turning point for me. It served to recontextualize my experiences and I then began to look at the world of humiliation and bullying around me and see something different.

In 1998 we had no way of knowing where this brave new technology called the Internet would take us. Since then it has connected people in unimaginable ways, joining lost siblings, saving lives, launching revolutions.

But the darkness, cyber-bullying and slut-shaming that I experienced had mushroomed. Every day online people, especially young people who are not developmentally equipped to handle this, are so abused and humiliated that they can’t imagine living to the next day. And some, tragically, don’t. And there is nothing virtually about that.

ChildLine, a UK-based service that is focussed on helping young people on various issue, released a staggering statistic late last year. From 2012 to 2013, there was an 87 per cent increase in calls and emails related to cyber-bullying. A meta analysis done out of the Netherlands showed that for the first time, cyber-bullying was leading to suicidal ideations more significantly than offline bullying.

And you know what shocked me, although it shouldn’t have, was other research that determined that humiliation was a more intensely felt emotion that either happiness or even anger.

Cruelty to others is nothing new. But online, technologically-enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained and permanently accessible.

The echo of embarrassment used to extend only as far as your family, village, school or community. But now it is the online community too. Millions of people can stab you anonymously with their words, and that is a lot of pain. And there are no perimeters around how many people can publicly observe you and put you in a public stockade.

There is a very personal price to public humiliation. And the growth of the internet has jacked up that price. For nearly two decades now we have slowly been sowing the seeds of humiliation and shame in our cultural soil, both on and offline.

Gossip websites, paparazzi, reality programming, politics, news outlets and sometimes hackers all traffic in shame. It has led to desensitization and a permissive environment online which lends itself to  trolls, trolling, cyber-bullying and invasion of privacy. This shift has created what Professor Nicolas Vilas calls a culture of humiliation.

Consider a few common examples just from the past six months alone.

Snapchat, the service which is mainly used by the younger generations and claims that its messages only have the life span of a few seconds. You can imagine the range of content that gets. A third-party app that SnapChatters used to preserve the life span of the messages was hacked, and 100,000 personal conversations, photos and videos were leaked online to now have a lifetime of forever.

Jennifer Lawrence and several other actors had their iCloud accounts hacked and private, intimate nude photos were plastered across the internet without their permission.

One gossip website had over one million hits for this one story.

And what about the Sony Pictures cyber-hacking? The documents that which received the most attention were private emails that had maximum public embarrassment value.

But in this culture of humiliation, there is another kind of price tag attached to public shaming. The price does not measure the cost to the victim, which Tyler and many others, notably women and minorities and members of the LGBTQ community have paid, but the price measures the profit of those who prey on them.

This invasion of others is a raw material efficiently and ruthlessly mined, packaged and sold at a profit. A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry.

How is the money made? Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. We are in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we become to the human lives behind it. And the more numb we get, the more we click.

All the while, somebody is making money off of the back of someone else’s suffering. With every click we make a choice. The more we saturate our culture with public shaming, the more accepted it is, the more we will see behaviour like trolling, cyber-bullying, some forms of hacking and online harassment.

Why? Because they all have humiliation at their cores. This behaviour is a symptom of the culture we’ve created. Just think about it.

Changing behaviour begins with evolving beliefs. We’ve seen that to be true with racism, homophobia and plenty of other biases today and in the past. As we have changed beliefs about same-sex marriage, more people have been offered equal freedoms. When we began valuing sustainability, more people began to recycle.

So as far as our culture of humiliation goes, what we need is a cultural revolution. Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop. And it is time for an intervention on the internet and in our culture.

The shift begins with something simple, but it is not easy. We need to return to a long-held value of compassion. Compassion and empathy. Online we have a compassion deficit and an empathy crisis.

Researcher Berne Brown said, and I quote, “shame can’t survive empathy. Shame cannot survive empathy.”

I have seen some very dark days in my life. It was the compassion and empathy from my family, my friends, professionals, and even strangers, that saved me.

Even empathy from one person can make a difference. The theory of minority influence proposed by social psychologist Serge Muscovici says that even in small numbers, when there is consistency over time, change can happen.

In the online world we can foster minority influence by becoming “up standers”. To become an upstander means instead of bystander apathy, we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation.

Trust me, compassionate comments help abate the negativity. We can also counteract the culture by supporting organizations that deal with these kinds of issues, like the Tyler Clementi Foundation in the US. In the UK there is anti-bullying Pro, and in Australia there is Project Rocket.

We talk a lot about our right to freedom of expression. But we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression. We all want to be heard. But let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.

The internet is the superhighway for the Id. But online, showing empathy for others benefits us all

and helps create a safer and better world.

We need to communicate online with compassion, consume news with compassion and click with compassion. Just imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.

I’d like to end on a personal note. In the past nine months the question I have asked most is why.

Why now, why now was I sticking my head above the parapet. You can read between the lines in those questions, and the answer has nothing to do with politics. The top note answer answer was, and is, because it is time. Time to stop tip-toeing around my past, time to stop living a life of oppoprium, and time to take back my narrative.

It is also not just about saving myself. Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know on thing. You can survive it.

I know it is hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy. But you can insist on a different ending to your story. Have compassion for yourself.

We all deserve compassion. And to live both online and off in a more compassionate world.

Thank you for listening.

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