It’s Not for Me to Say
It’s not for me to say. It’s not for men to decide what consequences are justified in responding to sexually inappropriate behavior of the powerful towards the powerless. Men should not co-opt the response from women (or from other men); that’s just another way of making the victim even less powerful: the whole problem in the first place.
It’s not for me to say. And it isn’t necessarily for Democrats to say either. Many are compromised already. Anyone who found a way to support Bill Clinton after Monica Lewinsky was revealed has “sold their own soul.” Senator Kristin Gillibrand of New York is right: Clinton should have resigned. That’s called taking personal responsibility for his actions – as opposed to: “…it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…”
The Clinton impeachment: impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice, NOT for his actions with Monica Lewinsky. The House leadership was itself compromised: Republican Newt Gingrich, just removed as Speaker of the House while having an affair with a staffer, and Bob Livingston, his replacement, resigning from the Speakership and Congress after revealing he too was having an affair. They couldn’t charge Clinton with the “sex” part of his actions, they would have had to take too much responsibility themselves.
But it shouldn’t have been Hillary paying the price. Her decision to “stand by” her husband was hers alone – none of us have the right to tell her what she should have done. Bill Clinton’s actions and his failure to ever take responsibility for them, have altered our political history. Reasonably its impact cost Al Gore the Presidency, and probably Hillary as well. They are two of only five Presidential candidates that won the popular vote but lost the election.
Think of the changes a Gore Presidency might have made: no Iraq war, more climate agreements, perhaps no economic collapse of 2008 – the world would definitely be a different place. And a Clinton win last year – well – we can see what differences that would have made.
It’s not for me to parse the differences between Al Franken imposing a kiss, Larry Craig reaching under a bathroom stall in Minneapolis, or Clinton’s actions in the hallway with Lewinsky. But here’s what I can say: the victims should not pay the consequences. Monica Lewinsky was unwillingly dragged into the Clinton mess, her “friend” Linda Tripp revealing her to the Starr investigators. Her life, twenty years later, is still controlled by those moments. And how many other victims were further victimized by being willing to tell their story – from Anita Hill (Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) to the sixteen women who spoke out about President Trump’s actions.
In the same way the Congress should not be able to “pay off” women (and presumably men) who have been harassed by Members. $15 million has been paid out in the past ten years in sexual harassment settlements, with non-disclosure agreements guaranteeing the silence of the victims and the anonymity of the perpetrators. That’s our money, protecting Congressional misbehavior. We all should have a say about that.
Last year we entered an era that said: no matter what transgressions “our” candidate may have committed, as long was we agree with them politically, it doesn’t matter. While Donald Trump was obviously a beneficiary of that view, many from the other side would say that WE accepted Hillary Clinton’s “corruptions” in this devil’s bargain (I obviously don’t agree with that.) Let’s hope that our nation can step back from that view.
And then there is clearly criminal behavior. Judge Roy Moore, currently playing the victim of the “Bezos-Amazon-Washington-Post,” is accused of committing sex crimes with minors. The statute of limitations has run out on these actions: it will be the voters of Alabama who will act as the jury. It IS for them to say, and I expect they will do what’s right, deny the devil’s bargain, and make sure Moore’s political career ends now.
In the final analysis, in this moment when our society is recognizing our responsibility to the victims, it should not be up to the “old white men” of the government to determine what size changes should be made. Sexual harassment is all about the powerful and the powerless: it should be the powerless who get to exercise the determination of what should happen next. IT IS FOR THEM TO SAY.