Hillary Clinton’s view on the Lewinsky affair reveals a huge blind spot – one that cost her the presidency Suzanne Moore
Clinton is right to say Trump should be investigated for sexual misconduct, but this does not excuse her husband. Now it is Monica Lewinsky who is emerging with class. The last time I looked, Bill Clinton was leering at Ariana Grande as she was singing at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. Bill, as his wife described him, was always “a hard dog to keep on the porch”. She lived with his many infidelities, often dismissing the kinds of women he went for as trashy and insignificant.
Indeed, when his affair with Monica Lewinsky was finally revealed, she, too, was scorned, not just by Hillary, who was lied to by her husband, and lied for him, but by many other prominent feminists. Erica Jong was nasty about her; so was Tina Brown. The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called her predatory. She was spoken of as blousy, stupid, unattractive, scheming – and having bad breath. Some solidarity.
Lewinsky has since grown in courage and spirit, survived this public shaming and contributed considerably to debates about bullying. Writing for Vanity Fair in light of the #MeToo movement, she said: “Now, at 44, I’m beginning to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern.” He was 27 years older than her. It was her first job.
Hillary was asked this week on CBS about this affair. After all, she stood at his side after he was impeached for lying. She was asked in retrospect if he should have stood down. “Absolutely not,” she said. “It wasn’t an abuse of power?” “No, no,’” she replied. Lewinsky was an adult. The context was different.
It was not that different. Everything here is wrong. Hillary is right to say Trump should be investigated for sexual misconduct, but this does not excuse her husband. At the time, I could not understand the “feminist” support for Hillary; now, I see it clearly. This was a feminism for entitled, privileged woman; other kinds of women were dispensable. Now it is Lewinsky who emerges with class and Hillary with a blind spot so big that she never did get the prize she felt entitled to.