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Wed Nov 15, 2017, 06:39 PM

Making it Whole: The (Bill) Clinton Problem

As ever when I'm trying to organize my thinking on a complicated issue fraught with controversy, some caveats first:

1. I was a Harkin supporter in 1991-92. I never had much liking for Bill Clinton as a national Democratic candidate.

2. I never much cared for a number of his policy initiatives and I detested his economic approaches and his attempts to pander to the Oligarchy by dismantling the safety net.

3. I had great respect for a number of his executive actions, particularly his appointments to the Federal judiciary, his empowerment of Al Gore to begin the process of assessing and revamping government process, and his work on post-Cold War security, including nuclear arms reduction and the Middle East peace process.

4. As a person, I thought he was intelligent, politically shrewd, essentially kind, and pragmatic. Also emotionally needy, arrogant, and prone to self-delusion.

5. Overall, in respect to policy and the economy, I rated his Presidency a success. In respect to political capability, I rated it a triumph. In respect to long-term impact on the Democratic Party, I rated it an unparalleled disaster.


I met the man exactly once, backstage at a campaign event on the handshake line. Even while I recognized his enormous personal charisma and likability, a tiny little alarm went off in the back of my consciousness. I won't claim prescience or omniscience and say I identified that alarm with skeevitude. I knew nothing about his adventures in the Arkansas governor's office and his misuse of the State Police to further his extramarital shenanigans, then. No, I just put it down to "this guy may have a grasp of legal and constitutional boundaries and professional ethics, but he's got some serious personal 'end-will-justify-the-means' boundary issues, too."

But that certainly didn't disqualify him from political office, it's something that can fairly be said of 90% or more of America's elected officials. Not all of whom act on it, or act on it in any way more damaging than getting a big donor into a basketball game, or maybe accepting some introductions or post-office job offers that are a bit iffy. So I voted for him.

And then the stories started surfacing. You can read a pretty good retrospective from the late, truly great Marjorie Williams, written in 1998 when the wounds were still raw.

And I was one of those women she wrote about, who was willing to give the ol' Big Dog a pass on so many rationalizations and denials, who was skeeved out by his skeeviness, but who LOVED how much the GOPpies hated him. I'd voted for him reluctantly in 1992. In 1996 in the trenches with the bombs from Gingrich, Starr et al bursting in air he became MY GUY, because the value of their hatred totally outweighed the mild nausea I was trying not to experience.

You may or may not agree with me, but my capsule assessment is thus:

1. He skeeved on women.

2. He used the power of his office to skeeve on women.

3. He used taxpayer resources to skeeve on woman.

4. He exploited the power differential, he preyed on younger women, he let the gratification of his own skeeviness take precedent over any consideration for his prey as human beings, vulnerable human beings by reason of historical cultural oppression and conditioning as well as the power differential.

5. And then he lied about it. A lot. A WHOLE lot.

6. And all of the above did deep and lasting damage, not only to the human beings directly involved, but to the public trust, the dignity of his office, the reputation of his Party, and the credibility of the party's platform relative to feminism and our pursuit of legal, social, economic, and cultural equity for women in America.

Now, let's also look at mitigation:

1. While he skeeved on younger women, he at least kept it legal, and he doesn't seem to have done any teenybopper ass-grabbing. For the most part they seemed to be above the age of consent.

2. While the legality of several of his actions with respect to the use of taxpayer resources and lying to cover his tracks is questionable (at best) in civil law (more probably culpable or even illegal), he seems to have avoided the most egregious kinds of criminal offenses.

He did all this shit twenty years or so back. He may or may not have changed in that period of time. It looks like he has, but how the hell can I tell? And why the hell should it matter?

There's no statute of limitations on skeevery, in moral and ethical terms (see Moore, Roy).

It would certainly please the same people who've spent the last three decades attempting to annihilate anything Clinton to bring it all up now, and that's a lovely argument for holding it to some kind of statute of limitations and/or relevancy in the current public discourse.

But I don't think we can legitimately do that. It IS relevant, and there is no statute of limitations.

So what DO we do with this smelly mess we've been effectively ignoring for twenty years?

I go back to the legal term, "making it whole." That is the goal of the legal process in a situation where guilt has been determined, referring not just to punishing the guilty party, but redressing the losses and suffering of those harmed by the actions of the perpetrator.

And here, I believe, is where we can draw a line.

Because what the rabid Clinton-haters want more than anything is crushing, humiliating devastating, Final Solution PUNISHMENT of Clinton, not for skeeving on women, but for the awful crime of winning an election from an incumbent GOP office holder, then being very successful at the job, and getting re-elected in spite of everything they could do to stop him. That's the rat in their throats and NO punishment can ever be sufficient for those crimes.

But focusing on a "make this whole" agenda solely related to Clinton's skeevery is a positive and measured response that focuses on the actual damage, and opens a window for positive progress: How should such cases be handled?

I'm not entirely sure what it would look like, but I suspect it would have at least three parts:

One would address the actual civil damages, reimbursing the State of Arkansas for the cost of state trooper resources, etc. in a cash settlement, ditto for any expenses that could be linked to taxpayer funding during his Presidential administration.

Two would address the damages to the women involved, and would probably involve arbitration to work out acceptable "make whole" settlements. This may involve apologies and public statements, repudiation of past lies, potential additional liability to prosecution which might be waived in respect to those individuals if they feel so inclined. If not, they may proceed to litigation and negotiate cash settlements as well.

Three would address the damages to the public trust, the Democratic Party, etc. I believe a lot of this has already been accomplished, with respect to Clinton's own actions as Chief Executive (read the Williams article for details on the many accomplishments of his Administration to advance women's rights, equality in the workplace, etc.) But public discussion thereof among leadership might go a long way to both pointing out the irreversable nature of some damage as well as the tangible possibilities of restitution in public policy.

Yanno what?

I still actually LIKE the guy, for all his skeeviness. He's a damaged human, as are we all, and on the whole I think his positives do outweigh the negatives, especially in the past couple of decades. But pretending the negatives aren't there, and that they didn't do enormous and lasting damage, doesn't help much right now.

We are poised on a cusp, foot raised to take a solid step away from the patriarchal culture of oppression, if we don't trip over our own feet in our eagerness to portray everything in us vs. them, all-good vs. all-evil over-simplification.

This shouldn't be allowed to distract from the very real and very current issues. But it is part of the larger pattern and it's a Teachable Moment, so to speak. It can harm us or help us. Either way it won't be pleasant. But we have a choice.

thoughtfully,
Bright

::reads this over... corrects a coupla typos... dons asbestos undergarments... hits "Post my thread!"::

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Arrow 24 replies Author Time Post
Reply Making it Whole: The (Bill) Clinton Problem (Original post)
TygrBright Nov 2017 OP
marble falls Nov 2017 #1
rzemanfl Nov 2017 #2
guillaumeb Nov 2017 #3
Motley13 Nov 2017 #4
BeyondGeography Nov 2017 #5
TygrBright Nov 2017 #9
stuffmatters Nov 2017 #6
RockCreek Nov 2017 #7
Maraya1969 Nov 2017 #8
TygrBright Nov 2017 #10
Maraya1969 Nov 2017 #12
karynnj Nov 2017 #11
Nitram Nov 2017 #17
TygrBright Nov 2017 #19
Nitram Nov 2017 #22
karynnj Nov 2017 #21
GaryCnf Nov 2017 #13
TygrBright Nov 2017 #14
CanSocDem Nov 2017 #15
Nitram Nov 2017 #16
TygrBright Nov 2017 #18
Nitram Nov 2017 #23
appal_jack Nov 2017 #20
Blue_Tires Nov 2017 #24

Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 06:50 PM

1. I was a supporter of Bill Clinton, but you definately did a fine job of assembling your ....

argument.

You need not change a thing. It is past time to bury our patriarchal culture.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 06:51 PM

2. Bookmarking. K & R n/t

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 06:53 PM

3. Thoughtful indeed. Recommended.

None of us are perfect. But we must recognize our faults if we are to overcome them.

Assuming, that is, that we see them as faults and wish to overcome them.

As to your "make whole" agenda, one suspects that it would be rejected by the Clintons for a variety of reasons.

And yes, the GOP will continue to use President Clinton as an excuse for their own misogyny, while excusing their own guilty parties when it serves their purpose of retaining power.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:00 PM

4. I agree with you, I do remember a photo of Monica Lewinsky flirting with him

I feel she went after him, and being the horn-dog he was, no way he could say no.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:21 PM

5. Great post

We should ask ourselves what it would be like for HRC to be President in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. If we're honest about it, "uncomfortable" is the word that should immediately come to mind. The Clintons are forever and sadly compromised by Bill's sex life and Hillary's reaction to it. What do I mean by the latter? Would you call her attitude to Bill's accusers sympathetic? Were they all liars just as Roy Moore's lawyer is labeling his accusers? False equivalency...no matter. As President, she would have been praying for this issue to go away and she wouldn't have been able to lead. What's true is Bill's behavior was and is an albatross for the Democratic Party. It was a reason why many of us jumped at the chance for a trouble-free alternative in 2008. It's also a reason why we need to finally move on from the Clintons.

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Response to BeyondGeography (Reply #5)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:51 PM

9. There were no "correct" choices for her to make, politically.

It's apparently a good marriage and she didn't want to divorce him.

Had she been sympathetic to Bill's accusers without being publicly angry with him, she'd have been tarred as massively insincere if not outright lying, manipulative, etc.

Had she been sympathetic to Bill's accusers and publicly angry with him, she'd have gotten the "angry, bitchy, disloyal" treatment. And if she didn't divorce him she'd STILL have gotten the "massively insincere" accusations.

Had she been unsympathetic to Bill's accusers and publicly angry with him, she'd have gotten a double dose of "angry, bitchy, disloyal", once to her spouse and once to her gender.

She went with unsympathetic to Bill's accusers and not publicly angry with him, leaving her as "disloyal to her gender" but sincere and loyal to her spouse.

There were no good options.

But yeah, time to move on and then some.

I still have massive respect for her, and gratitude for everything she's achieved, which is a truly amazing list.

But she's my generation. We need to step back and be the elder eminences, the resources, the connectors and negotiators, etc. Younger leaders are waiting a chance and some of them are damned exciting.

hopefully,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:21 PM

6. Very compelling and significant. TY..

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:38 PM

7. K and R n/t

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:47 PM

8. What is your point?

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Response to Maraya1969 (Reply #8)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:58 PM

10. "If everything has to have a point... then I must have one, too!"



amiably,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #10)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 09:09 PM

12. It is just that anytime a Republican wants to divert attention from one of their

horrible "Owns" they bring up Bill Clinton or another of the handful of people in the Democratic party that have had issues. Similar but not usually as horrible as what their own have done.

They only stopped bringing up Ted Kenedy after he died!

That's all

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 07:59 PM

11. Wow, I was not for Clinton in the primaries either

and was very disturbed that he was never willing to just admit the truth on any past transgressions until he had no other choice. On Vietnam there was never a reason to lie about everything he did to avoid going.

The truth, that he was completely against the war and by 1969 and an intern for Fullbright, he knew facts that meant he could say that he absolutely knew that there was no US interest in fighting this war. In contrast the price to fight would have been to give up an earned year as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. How many sons of single mothers growing up in Arkansas ever had that chance. I was female, in college at the same time. I did not face the same fate of serving in a war I did not believe in - nor - though a good student - did I have the opportunity of being a Rhodes scholar. I doubt anyone in my generation, who would consider voting for a Democrat, would not accept the truth and admire that he found a legal way out. (the snotty letter to the military official who gave him the ROTC out was uncalled for and unnecessary, but written by a man in his twenties.)

He was given a pass for his affair, but before getting it he trashed the woman - completely unnecessary. That actually bothered me more than the affair.

None of that was why I was not for him. He was too conservative and he had a terrible environmental record in Arkansas. However, when he became the nominee, I supported him and read his putting people first and found the areas I agreed. When I next questioned supporting him was when his minions, Begala and Carville, attacked John Kerry in the general election by labeling him "Anybody but Bush" - a meme that really hurt and not really reasonable in a general election, in anger I realized that had I followed the logic of his minions -- I was not a supporter of Clinton, I was "anybody but Bush". I think I was better canvassing and calling when I thought I supported Clinton ... rather than just being ABB.

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Response to karynnj (Reply #11)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 11:26 AM

17. Was there truth to the charge of "past transgressions"?

What transgressions did he "admit" to other than the well-known and documented affair with Monica Lewinsky? Was he found guilty in a court of other past transgressions?

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Response to Nitram (Reply #17)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 02:37 PM

19. Was James Toback? Was Mark Halperin? Was Brett Ratner?

This is NOT a court of law and the standard of "innocent until proven guilty" is not at issue.

The issue is: Do we believe women who accuse the famous, the powerful, the well-known and even the well-beloved, of skeevy behavior? Or do we write them off, enable those accused to avoid having to face courts of public opinion, culture, and even civil and criminal law? And if we choose to believe them, what is the ethical, progressive response?

I'm assuming you didn't click the VF link and read the long, thoughtful, and painful article there all the way through. Ms Williams covers the credibility of the women who came forward, the evidence assembled, the corroboration of other sources and their varying levels of presumed bias and involvement, in some detail.

We DO have to be alert for the rare phenomenon of false accusation, particularly in a politically divided environment. But we have to balance the potential damage of such false accusations against the established fact of their rarity. And against the long-established "benefit of the doubt" extended to the accused perpetrators that has become so routine it's yet another form of enabling.

patiently,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #19)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 05:20 PM

22. I admit that I suspect Republicans would do whatever they could to bring the Clintons down.

We saw that in action during the Clinton administration. They accused Hillary of murdering Vince Foster. More recently they accused Hillary of running a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor.

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Response to Nitram (Reply #17)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 04:49 PM

21. He basically admitted to "causing pain in his marriage" - a reference to

Gennifer Flowers. The accusations on that led to the 60 minutes interview with him and Hillary Clinton.

By transgressions, I was speaking also of his series of lies on how he avoided Vietnam. It and the Flowers situation both were made worse by lying and then gradually having to admit the truth.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 09:46 PM

13. That was a courageous OP

 

And, of course, you got the silent treatment

Well K&R from me

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Response to GaryCnf (Reply #13)

Wed Nov 15, 2017, 10:58 PM

14. Thank you!

Plenty of thoughtful comments, though. More than I usually get!

And Editorials & Other Articles isn't exactly a high-traffic forum.

What traffic we get here is "cherce", though.

It's not an easy topic.

appreciatively,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 07:27 AM

15. Finally....

 



...somebody noticed 'the elephant in the room'.

And, as another poster noted, the history of it all directly affected how HRC was perceived.

K&R

.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 11:23 AM

16. This post exaggerates and uses adjectives designed to evoke disgust without providing evidence to

back it up. The repetition of the same charge over and over again using the word "skeeve" is propagandistic and melodramatic. I find this post extremely offensive. the fact that it presents a balanced view of the pros and cons of Clinton's policies does nothing to mitigate an extreme bias.

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Response to Nitram (Reply #16)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 02:26 PM

18. The term "skeeve" is a description of the behavior.

To be sure, I could have typed "engaged in predatory, exploitive, unethical and repulsive sexual conduct" over and over again, but "skeeve" is both a shorter, more expressive term (making the post more readable), and carries the emotional load of MY response to the conduct itself.

There is nothing defensible about this kind of behavior and it merits being described in opprobrious terms whether it's done by a Democrat or by a GOPpie.

I'm sorry you find the post offensive, although I did know that it has controversial aspects I tried to keep a sense of distance between the larger picture of Bill Clinton as a politician, elected official, and human being, and Bill Clinton as someone who skeeved. Or, if you prefer, someone who engaged in predatory, exploitive, unethical and repulsive sexual conduct.

We have a unique opportunity, here on DU, among the larger community of Democrats and progressives, and in the greater context of American and even Western civilization, to focus on one of the most entrenched, damaging, regressive and devolutionary flaws in our culture: The conferring of privilege on males to use and exploit females sexually without sanctions or consequences. And all the concatenated evils associated with that, from the inherently patriarchal valuation of half of our species based on characteristics of physical attractiveness as defined by males, to the economic and social disempowerment of women, to the culture of enabling, the protection of perpetrators, and the dismissal, devaluation, punishment, and retraumatization of the victims.

This is not a partisan cultural flaw. Democrats have done it, enabled it, dismissed it, covered it up, claimed it doesn't matter, attributed it to partisan rancor. Republicans have done it, enabled it, dismissed it, covered it up, claimed it doesn't matter, attributed it to partisan rancor.

What we now have the opportunity to do is differentiate between how Democrats will respond to this flaw: Changing behavior, requiring accountability from perpetrators and enablers, supporting victims and advocates, and working for long-term change; and how GOPpies respond: Claiming "Mary and Joseph did it so GAAAAAAWD must want it!" and further enabling, dismissing, covering-up behavior.

A close friend used to quote her grandmother: "Not a good idea to look in your neighbor's window and criticize the dishes in the sink when you got a sink full of dirty dishes at home."

DU is a place where we can, and should, engage in lively, vigorous discussion of all kinds of issues that affect the Party's strength, capability, policies, and future successes. Not a place where we leave flaws unexamined and shameful episodes euphemized, sanitized, and minimized into a "we're not like that" closet of denial.

One reason I chose to place this OP in the "Editorials & Other Articles" forum was my perception of this forum as a place where longer reads, more in-depth discussion, and a slower, less emotional pace of give-and-take applies. With such an emotionally-fraught topic, it could easily blow up into a long thread of flaming, personal inferences, assumptions of malicious intent, and serial alert button nightmares for the moderators, in one of the more heavily-trafficked fora.

I knew we couldn't avoid that altogether, of course. But I still think it's possible to have a discussion that's both passionate AND thoughtful here. I still don't think I'm wrong.

contextually,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #18)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 05:29 PM

23. Your gratuitous repetition of the term while essentially repeating the same charge substantially

weakens your argument in my view. When I looked up the term "sleeve" it seems the term is neither very precise nor is it very descriptive. Basically, it amounts to you repeatedly expressing your disgust. While you make a brave attempt to come across as calm an rational, your emotional bias takes over.

Miriam Webster:
Skeevy is slang, often used informally by a subset of English speakers to refer to someone or something that is physically or morally repulsive. While the word shows up more often in speech than in print, our files are nonetheless full of skeeviness: skeevy bathrooms, skeevy suitors, skeevy characters, skeevy towels, and even skeevy skivvies. The word has a few slangy cousins, too—most notably, the verb skeeve out, which describes being disgusted or unsettled by someone or something (“That creep skeeves me out”).Skeevy, originally spelled skeevie, first showed up in print as a noun—a 1955 article in American Weekly notes that skeevie is youth slang for a disgusting person, as in “He’s a skeevie.” Sometime between the 1950s and the 1970s, skeevy moved from noun to adjective, originally to describe something that’s morally questionable:

Urban dictionary
(verb) to gross out; to digust; to make your skin crawl, sometimes with undertones of sexual deviance/perversion

verb 1. to cause disgust (in someone). 2. +that: to be disgusted by (something)

a woman of loose virtue that is extremely like to perform a sexual act on any individual who pays her attention. The term is derived from the Italian "schifosa", the feminine form of the word for disgusting.

(Noun) A slang term used when referencing someone who is distastetful and/or uncomplimentary of the kind of person the user would hold in regard. Whom this describes is entirely based on opinion of said user.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 02:43 PM

20. Well-said, Bright. k&r, nt

 

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Thu Nov 16, 2017, 06:26 PM

24. Fuck that shit....

Let the GOP do something about Moore and Trump *FIRST* and then we'll think about sacrificing Bill to the altar of moral superiority (Note: Even if we did nothing to Bill, we'd still lead the GOP on the moral superiority scale by a score of infinity to negative infinity)... This isn't some package deal where we hope the GOP will burn Moore+Trump if we first burn Bill...

Bill is a totally separate issue... It's very curious that no liberal pundits wanted to have this conversation until THIS EXACT MOMENT IN TIME... No matter how well-intentioned, liberals who have muddled the Moore-Trump controversy by interjecting Bill's antics from 20+ years ago are only making the GOP's crisis management easier... And now that the Franken thing has happened, it is a near certainty that Moore+Trump will skate with no consequences whatsoever.

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