I don't like how both Clintons have really pulled the party to the right. I don't like their centrist message. I don't like the way he encouraged the Democrats to reinvent themselves as Republicans, only nice. I really, really resent his signing DOMA after all the hope and promise that we'd have a POTUS who believed in equal rights for gay men and lesbians. Still, with all that, there are many things I admire about him. He's smart, hard-working, a thoughtful person who explains why he does what he does and, of course, amazingly charismatic. I've always found both Clintons eminently likable and don't really understand how Hillary Clinton is viewed as not easy to like. It puzzled me when she was a candidate's wife, when she was First Lady, and it still puzzles me.
What puzzles me the most about the Clinton years, though, is the Lewinsky scandal. It all seems like a dream looking back. Did the whole country really spend a year talking about blow jobs? Did government virtually stop doing anything else in order to deal with this, at length? Did Kenneth Starr really write and publish a government document more sexually explicit than sex education materials under the Republicans? Did I and all my friends actually read it, and discuss it, for months on end? And did parents all over the country suddenly have to explain to elementary school age children what the scandal was about? Yes, Virginia. It all happened. I was there and lived to tell the tale. Here's one of the tales:
So, the Monica Lewinsky story had broken. I was eating dinner with my children: Doran (age 9), Kendra (age 5) and Zara (not quite 3). Doran said, "I heard at school the President might lose his job. Is the President going to lose his job?"
I told him that I didn't know, that nobody knew yet. "Tell me what you heard," I said, "and I'll try to explain what's going on."
"Some kids say he was having an affair, so he'll lose his job. Some other kids said that someone just said he was having an affair but there isn't proof."
And he wanted to know what the real story was. I thought that was really not too bad a starting place. So, I went into a long explanation of the Paula Jones case and what constitutes sexual harassment and depositions and sworn testimony and perjury charges and impeachment. I had to explain what perjury is and how it differs from simply lying (Kendra's comment; "It's not a good idea to lie, because usually your parents find out" Me: "And sometimes the independent counsel").
From there I went on to separation of powers and checks and balances, and sitting presidents can't be indicted, only impeached. So, back to Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial and fast forward to the Watergate break-in and subsequent coverup, Richard Nixon's resignation and unindicted co-conspirators and so forth. Lots of questions, from both him and Kendra. Good discussion, lots of issues, etc.
And there I was with a huge smile on my face, thinking I'm doing great. I'm thinking I'm having a real Educational Moment right here. I was humming Helen Reddy's song, having worked all day, made dinner and now explaining complex legal/social/governmental issues to three kids. I wanted to shout, "Look at me! I'm turning a national scandal into a civics lesson."
And then I summed up by saying, "So, nobody knows right now if he did have sex with this woman. He said in his sworn testimony that he didn't. She said in her sworn testimony that they didn't have sex. But she also said on tape that they did. So she was lying one time or the other, but we don't know which. Now we just have to wait and let the process work and see what happens."
And Doran, who had been absolutely into it up until this point, stares at me dumbfounded through this last bit, jaw dropped open, eyes wide, and said "Sex?!? Sex?!? You mean an affair is sex?"
Every time I think I've got this parenthood thing buttoned down, something like this happens.