By Heidi Stevens
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The book tour isn’t over. The questions will continue. With that in mind, columnist Heidi Stevens describes what she’d like to hear the former president say regarding his past behavior and the #Metoo movement.
I’m as tired of Bill Clinton as the rest of you, more tired, probably, since every time I write about #MeToo, I get flooded with emails asking why I’m staying silent on Slick Willie.
(I haven’t stayed silent on Slick Willie, for the record. I wrote about my outrage at his treatment of women back when Hillary Clinton was running for president.)
Anyway, here I am writing about him again, despite my/our Clinton fatigue, because his bumbling, disingenuous thoughts this week about #MeToo were a missed opportunity, and it’s not too late to course correct.
Clinton’s on a book tour with James Patterson. They wrote a novel together, “The President Is Missing,” about a progressive Southern president facing impeachment. Interviewers, naturally, have been posing questions to the former president about his own impeachment.
He had to see this coming. And yet …
“Nobody believes I got out of that for free,” Clinton said on the “Today” show Monday when Craig Melvin asked about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. “I left the White House $16 million in debt, but you typically have ignored gaping facts in describing this, and I bet you don’t even know them. This was litigated 20 years ago.”
He offered a similarly tone-deaf response when CBS’ Mo Rocca asked him how he looks back at his own impeachment.
“It wasn’t a pleasant experience,” Clinton said. “But it was a fight that I was glad to undertake. They knew there was nothing impeachable. And so, we fought it to the end. And I’m glad.”
When Melvin asked if Clinton would, in light of the #MeToo movement, handle his response to the affair any differently today, Clinton whiffed again.
“If the facts were the same today, I wouldn’t,” he said.
If you’re paying any constructive attention whatsoever to #MeToo, you’re examining and re-examining your past and current relationships through a new lens, a lens that hones in on exploited power imbalances, missed (or deliberately ignored) cues, coercion loosely disguised as flirting.
If you slept with an intern 27 years younger than you and then repeatedly lied about it; if rumors of affairs and allegations of assault have dogged you for decades; if President Trump was able to assemble a table full of your accusers in an attempt to intimidate your wife pre-debate; if your reputation is such that the opposition party can evoke your name every time it needs to dodge an allegation of sexual misconduct … you best be thinking how you’d handle things differently today.
And you best, for the good of the country, say as much.
The book tour isn’t over. The questions will continue. (The questions will continue, obviously, long after the book tour is over.)
Here’s what I’d love to hear the former president say.
“The #MeToo movement does have me examining my past behavior. It should have all of us examining our past behavior.
“I’m not proud of the way I’ve treated the women in my life. I have abused my power. I have betrayed my wife’s trust. I have dodged questions about my behavior with women to the degree that it’s still the narrative that dominates everything I or my wife tries to do. I take full responsibility for that.
“I’m sorry to the women I’ve mistreated and exploited. On that front, I set a lousy example as a president, a husband and a father.
“I realize this will strike some people as too little and others as too much. I can’t control that. But I can control my habit of dodging this stuff, and that ends now.”
I’m not holding my breath, but I am holding out a glimmer of hope, hope that he crafts an answer to the inevitable impeachment/#MeToo questions that gets a little closer to the truth we’re all living with in 2018.
That truth is that Bill Clinton got a pass that he wouldn’t get today, and that pass hangs like an albatross around progressives’ necks.
He’s the only one who can lift it. And a sincere apology would go a long way.