The main focus of the Bill Clinton book tour is not his new novel, it’s the #Me Too Movement question. Past accusations of sexual misconduct, most famously his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, have been given fresh scrutiny in recent months. When asked if he felt differently about his Lewinsky affair he said “no”, is this proof that Bill Clinton is guilty of being a #Me Too abuser?
Unfortunately, Bill Clinton showed the same poor judgment in his response to MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin’s question, should he offer Monica Lewinsky a private apology about their sexual affair, as he did when he entered into the consensual relationship with Lewinsky. His response gave the impression that he was the only victim of their clandestine affair. While this may be proof that Bill Clinton didn’t learn or grow from his mistake it does not make it a #Me Too offense. The following 3 reasons are why Bill Clinton’s behavior should not qualify for the latest #Me Too events of sexual misconduct.
1) Relationship was consensual
All sexual activity between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski was totally consensual. Lewinski admitted that she was the one who initiated their first sexual encounter, by voluntarily with no suggestion or prompting from Clinton exposing herself to him. Sadly for Lewinski, Hillary Clinton and America, Clinton failed to be the adult 49-year-old man and leader of the free world that he was and ignore her advance. Instead over the course of a year, he engaged in several more consensual sexual encounters. It was morally wrong for Clinton as a husband to cheat on his faithful wife Hillary, he was irresponsible and set a bad example as President by committing adultery, he selfishly took advantage of the adult but naive mind and heart of Monica and he was disrespectful of the nation’s citadel of power, the White House, by engaging in adulterous activity on its hallowed grounds.
These moral lapses as disgraceful as they are do not add up to the transgressions that the #Me Too Movement was formed to combat. Moral shortcomings should not prevent #Me Too due process and fairness. Based on its own vision statement the #Me Too Movement was started to prevent and fight sexual harassment and violence against women. In other words women who have been forced to commit sex acts against their will, either through physical rape or through power intimidation from a workplace superior.
2) Changing rules of behavior don’t change rules of persecution or prosecution
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution says people cannot be prosecuted for something that’s illegal now but was legal at the time they committed the act. The #Me Too community can expand the definition of sexual harassment to include any consensual sexual activity between a workplace superior with a workplace subordinate, but they cannot seek to hold people accountable now for something that when they did it was not considered sexual harassment.
During the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, the #Me Too Movement didn’t exist and few feminists at the time spoke up in support of Lewinsky. America’s leading feminist Gloria Steinem herself called for support for Clinton despite the allegations. Those citing #Me Too criticism of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair to now say that he should have resigned from office, are retroactively persecuting Bill Clinton for something that at the time was considered a mutual, consensual but an adulterous affair. He is correct when he said “If the facts were the same today, I wouldn’t … I did the right thing,” when pressed about whether he would resign from the presidency had the events taken place today.
Today Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Kevin Spacey are all rightfully experiencing #Me Too backlash, they have either been accused or convicted of forcing people to perform sexual acts against their will. In the case of Weinstein and Spacey, they are accused of using their power and authority in the workplace to force subordinates to perform sex acts. The sex acts between Clinton and Lewinsky definitely occurred in the workplace, Clinton was definitely the superior and Lewinsky was definitely the subordinate, but the sex was definitely consensual. In fact, Lewinsky has stated that she the subordinate was the aggressor making the first sexual advances. The clear consensual facts of the affair and the 3rdreason mean even in the #Me Too era, Bill Clinton would be right not to resign from office.
3) The President is the President!
The American constitution gives enormous power to our president. It sounds good to say in America that no person is above the law, but the American president does sit above the law. Fortunately, the constitution gives us remedies to impeach and replace an unlawful president if the need arises. But the fact that the president can forgive and wipe away a guilty verdict with a pardon, free a life convicted felon to time served through clemency, can veto laws passed by the House and Senate, can’t be indicted or tried in any court of law, can only be sanctioned for wrongdoing or removed from office by the U. S. House and Senate, and can deploy American troops anywhere anytime for any reason means he does sit above the law with good reason unlike any other American citizen.
This enormous above the law power is the reason that the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution limits to 10 years that anyone after President Franklin Roosevelt can serve as president. It’s also the reason that the president is democratically elected by all the people and not selected by a privileged few. An election of the president is a sacred and irreversible act, which is why resignation or removal of a president should only occur in extreme circumstances.
Unlike Bill Clinton, I would have shown more contrition when asked to reflect on the Lewinski affair. Like Bill Clinton, I would question the logic of overturning the election of the world’s most important leader because of a consensual adulterous affair with a subordinate, even if I were opposed to the politics of the president and did not vote for the person. Resignation or removal from office of a president should only happen when the person can no longer lead the country because of mental or physical health reasons or because of major acts of law-breaking that endanger the country. The latter being at the discretion of both Houses of Congress.
At the time of the Clinton impeachment, the majority of Americans thought that Bill Clinton should not resign or be removed from office. This did not mean that had he been eligible for a third term that America would have re-elected him, it simply meant that as immoral as what he did America didn’t think we should un-elect him for lying about cheating on his wife. Now looking back to the Clinton/Lewinsky affair through #Me Too lenses it’s still right that Bill Clinton did not resign and served out his elected term as President. Because even though the affair was morally wrong it was both legal and consensual, and the will of the American people expressed through democratically cast votes should never be overturned on a whim!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at isaacnewtonfarris.com on June 5, 2018.