What the Left (and pretty much everyone else) still don’t get about the “Monica Lewinksi Scandal”

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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139 Responses

  1. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    Breathtaking, Tod. A tour de force.

    When John le Carre published Absolute Friends, the reviewer from Time (Lev Grossman) wrote, “This is le Carre in career form: his anger burns cold and clear.” That came to mind as I read this essay.Report

  2. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Powerful post and right on target.. Everybody and every side fails at times and needs constant pushing to live up to our best selves and highest standards.Report

  3. Avatar j r
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    says:

    Being an intern at this other division will not lead to the kind of career opportunities that she would have had with the executive office gig. Worse, in this particular industry being transferred from the executive offices to this other division communicates something lacking in her performance.

    I don’t believe this is true. I work in the relevant industry and people move around all the time. The fact that you got in the door in the first place is a much stronger signal than to where you move. I don’t know enough about Lewinsky’s erstwhile policy career to say for sure whether what happened to her after her liaisons with Clinton are tantamount to harassment or retribution.

    I do think that your insistence that this is a case of sexual harassment involves a bit of faulty logic. Or rather, it involves you defining sexual harassment in such a way that it encompasses a wide range of behaviors some of which we ought to find deplorable and some of which I’m not sure we ought to feel one way or the other about.

    To me, this is a situation in which two adults made series of decisions and both were held accountable for those decisions. I have a lot more sympathy for Lewinsky, because her decisions were made at such a young age, but lots of young people make bad decisions that follow them for life. In the grand scheme, what happened to Lewinsky doesn’t even crack my moral radar.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to j r
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      says:

      You don’t understand this piece because, to quote The Last Psychiatrist, it isn’t for you. It’s for the nominally pro-feminist Left.

      What Tod is doing is stating that in any context other than Bill MF’in Clinton we wouldn’t even be having this disucssion, because it would be obvious that sexual harassment had occurred, obvious that a power differential had been exploited, obvious that there would be millions of dollars in damages paid, obvious that careers would end over the issue.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        But isn’t that only if Lewinsky lodged a complaint? If I understand Tod correctly, she never pursued any action against him.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        But isn’t that only if Lewinsky lodged a complaint? If I understand Tod correctly, she never pursued any action against him.

        Yeah, that’s the part that Tod seems to keep ignoring.

        And he also seems to be making a lot of assumptions as to how Lewinsky regarded the relationship that Lewinsky’s actual words dispute.

        Likewise, what has Lewinsky said about being transferred?

        And there’s an awful lot of claims that Hillary attacked Lewinsky in ways that I simply don’t remember at all. Perhaps that happened, but, uh, can we have some cites about that? I mean, I know she said that she thought Lewinsky was lying, before it became clear she wasn’t, but it’s a strange interpretation to make that out to be anything other than a wife in denial that her husband had an affair.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        As I said in the other thread, what went on with Lewinsky is doubtful from a legal perspective. Doesn’t make it right; that’s not a Clinton apology. But to be legally actionable, the conduct has to be unwelcome, which is the legal hook upon which the slut-shaming defense occurs in litigation. As Tod argued in his first post and here, her willingness to participate in the sex act is not particularly the issue. His is, as is his conduct afterwards.Report

  4. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    I wish your hypothetical was just that.
    I wish Monica Lewinsky had a wonderful life that wasn’t marred by something she did when she was 20ish.

    But, in the grand scheme of things, they’re both unbelievably petty, as world-destroying as they are to the people involved.

    And that is the true tragedy of our times, that we do not have the luxury to fix everything that’s broken. I stride forth in a country that will soon start talking about disenfranchising women — and worse, if that is not stopped cold.Report

  5. Avatar North
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    says:

    I agree that Bill’s behavior was inappropriate (though I’m skeptical about impeachable worthy) and should certainly disqualify him for office in the minds of left minded voters going forward.Report

    • Avatar ktward in reply to North
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      says:

      Bill’s behavior wasn’t simply “inappropriate”, it was a textbook example of sexual harassment; it’s irrelevant that his behavior was enabled by a sincerely consenting intern named Monica. I mean, that’s pretty much the whole point. That Monica consented. If she hadn’t consented, even simply yielded– well, there’s another term for that. Sexual assault.

      I agree that Bill’s sexual harassment of Monica was not an impeachable offense. The impeachable part –to my mind way back then, and still– was his lying under oath. I understood why he lied under oath, even sympathized that he had legit reasons for doing it. But a line’s gotta be drawn somewhere, even when –especially when– it comes to our nation’s highest office. And lying under oath seems a good place to draw a very firm line.

      Meantime, us left-minded voters ceased fretting over casting a vote for Bill decades ago. His days of holding any elected office are long gone. In fact, his considerable influence on Team Blue is rather predicated on his not holding any elected office.Report

      • Avatar ktward in reply to ktward
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        Oops. That last graf … I meant to write “years ago”, not “decades ago”. (Holy hyperbole.)Report

      • Avatar North in reply to ktward
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        I have nothing to object to my dear lady except maybe the decade part that you already rescinded.Report

      • Avatar scott the mediocre in reply to ktward
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        says:

        @ktward

        I would be very surprised if *any* president, up to (or down to) and including Saint Jimmy*, would not lie under oath provided that:

        1) He (or, eventually, she) perceived the cost of telling the truth as high enough (very fertile ground for rationalization there); and

        2) He thought the odds were good that he could get away with it.

        Bill’s unique personality may have caused him to overweight 2) more than the median president would do – I dunno. It was partly Bill’s unique, err, personality that resulted in him being under oath in the first place.

        So, if you disagree with that evaluation, on what basis? If you agree, then do you still think he should have been impeached pour encourager les autres?

        *Who really said “I will never lie to yew”, and didn’t correct people’s misparsing of the homonym.
        Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to ktward
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        says:

        @scott-the-mediocre
        Bill’s unique personality may have caused him to overweight 2) more than the median president would do – I dunno.

        I think it may have been more complicated — until Clinton, the press and other politicians had pretty much worked to hide presidential philandering from public view. There was little reason to expect that the power of the office itself would not continue to be a shied; it certainly had been one for many, many previous presidents.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to ktward
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        says:

        @scott-the-mediocre
        I would be very surprised if *any* president, up to (or down to) and including Saint Jimmy*, would not lie under oath…

        I actually think that Clinton’s lawyers had it right…you should not be able to proceed in a lawsuit against a sitting president. At least, not unless you can show some ongoing damage.

        The sitting president being involved with the court system is just asking for fail, especially if Congress can then impeach him for things that happen in that system. The constitution *tries* to stop that, but, through what I suspect was an oversight, failed to consider the civil courts.Report

      • Avatar scott the mediocre in reply to ktward
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        says:

        @zic

        Yes, the times they were a’ changin’ around then anyway, to some degree at least (still far to go), which might have muddied the white waters.

        @davidtc

        Agreed that litigation against the POTUS (unrelated to acts asPOTUS) creates all sorts of interesting separation of powers problems. I remember some people suggesting that the statute of limitations be tolled during Bill’s presidency for specifically that reason. OTOH, justice delayed is justice denied, not to mention the longer the litigation was suspended (or whatever the right term is), the more ability the Friends of Bill had to tilt the field (although in this case, since the Enemies of Bill were pushing just as hard if not harder on the pinball machine in the other direction, other than further fading of memories, the passage of time effect might not be too significant).

        Could someone more knowledgeable than me (large set, most of the commentariat) say what has happened before when a President takes office with litigation (or for that matter, a criminal proceeding) pending? IIRC there weren’t any usefully applicable precedents.
        Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to ktward
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        says:

        @scott-the-mediocre
        I remember some people suggesting that the statute of limitations be tolled during Bill’s presidency for specifically that reason.

        I wouldn’t think that would be needed, would it? As long as the suit is filed within the time limit, it shouldn’t matter if it can’t proceed forward. That’s how it works for crimes. Maybe it’s different for civil suits, though.

        In fact, if I understand how this all works correctly, the president could actually be indicted for a crime as president, stopping the statue of limitation countdown, and just not actually be arrested until after he left office.

        Although you run into the problem of the president hilariously pardoning himself.

        We actually have the absurd constitutional situation where, if the president literally committed murder in full view of everyone, he couldn’t actually end up in prison for that crime unless he was an idiot. Impeachment only allows removal from office, and barring from future officeholding. Now, after removal for office, the constitution says he could then be charged…but only if he was too dumb not to pardon himself before removal from office.

        Agreed that litigation against the POTUS (unrelated to acts asPOTUS) creates all sorts of interesting separation of powers problems.

        I actually think it would be an interesting question what would have happened if Bill had simply refused to show up in court. I think, much like the POTUS can’t be charged with a crime, the POTUS couldn’t actually be held in contempt of court either. (Or maybe he can be held in contempt, but such an order cannot be enforced.)

        He could, of course, be held in contempt of Congress if he failed to testify at his impeachment or conviction. Although that would be a weird-ass constitutional crisis, sending the Capitol Police to haul in the POTUS.Report

  6. Avatar LWA
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    says:

    What does this scandal have to do with Hillary Clinton, anyway? Why is Bill’s behavior being framed in terms of Hillary’s campaign in 2016?

    I mean, Don Draper behaves like a cad, and Betty Draper has to withdraw from society and hide in shame?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LWA
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      says:

      This is a really interesting question — one rife with its own ugly history of misogyny. I wonder how much of the left’s actions around the issue are motivated by fear (real or imagined) that the right will make it an issue and how much of the left’s actions are motivated by their own inability to see Hilary as someone independent of her husband in general and this scandal in particular.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Having a rapist/sexual harasser in the formal auspices of First Husband could be Awkward — to the extent that this is substantiated (and, I hesitate to say, “still a problem”, but I’m pretty sure I can point to studies on decreased sex drive…).

        (We’ve seen how much sh!t Michelle Obama takes, for not doing pretty much anything objectionable).Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LWA
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      says:

      “What does this scandal have to do with Hillary Clinton, anyway? ”

      Because she personally participated in, and in some cases led, the diminishment of her husband’s accusers that Tod described in this post and the last.

      She has, more than anyone else, put aside long held and long fought for principles in order to gain personal power. Now, not everyone gives birth to three baby dragons, so compromise and ethical ambiguity are almost certainly her only way to the Resolute Desk, but that’s what this scandal has to do with H. Clinton.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Kolohe
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        says:

        She has, more than anyone else, put aside long held and long fought for principles in order to gain personal power. Now, not everyone gives birth to three baby dragons, so compromise and ethical ambiguity are almost certainly her only way to the Resolute Desk, but that’s what this scandal has to do with H. Clinton.

        This is presuming a lot.

        I know nothing of her motives, and I’m not really fond of HRC as a politician. But there is no doubt in my mind that Bill and Hillary love each other deeply, and I’m sure she had had to confront (and make her peace with) Bill’s nature long before the scandal.

        The notion that she simply discarded her ethical standards for power is a story: and one we can never really know. It turns her into something Shakespearean: while it may be the case, I tend to think that she’s more like a regular human, trying to muddle through complicated situations in the best way she can.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    “Here’s one: If a person consented to a relationship, no sexual harassment occurred.”

    I’m struggling with this a bit. I understand that two people can consent to something which might still be inappropriate, improper, or even immoral. I get that a legal definition of sexual harassment might include consensual acts. But I think people tend to use the term with a meaning other than the strict legal one. When I think of “harassment”, I think of something that is inherently unwanted. Were you to ask me if Monica Lewinsky was sexually harassed by Bill Clinton, I would probably say that she wasn’t, because my understanding is that she fully consented to everything that happened. This doesn’t mean she wasn’t still a victim, wasn’t still harmed by him. Only that she wasn’t sexually harassed based on my understanding of that phrase in a more colloquial manner. And I’m not sure if or how this makes me misogynistic or otherwise hostile towards women.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I concur. My knowledge of sexual harassment jurisprudence is a bit dated, but from what I remember there are generally two different kinds of harassment: quid pro quo (“sleep with me or you’re fired”) and hostile environment (“is that a pubic hair on mt Coke?”).

      The idea that any time a senior employee has an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, he or she has engaged in sexual harassment seems like a stretch. Is there some case law that backs this up?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r
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        says:

        I’ve got to go with Tod on this, since he’s got the most experience on this, something I think everyone quibbling with him is overlooking. If he says the boss sleeping with an employee, then transferring her to a lower-status job is sexual harassment, I’m more inclined to take his word for it than the word of anyone else here. This was his job–he knows.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r
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        says:

        I will say this: regardless of whether it’s sexual harassment (and I don’t know, so I won’t speculate), it’s pretty damn shitty.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        I’m not arguing the law. I can’t. I don’t know it. I’m arguing a bit more for common sense. Speaking only about Lewinsky, if she is of the mind that everything she did she did of her own volition, it makes Bill many things, but guilty of harassment as that term is commonly (not legally) used is not one of them. Which might be why people hold the position Tod says they wrongly do: they aren’t thinking about a legal definition but a common one.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to j r
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        says:

        For those playing along at home, here is my professional opinion:

        1. Higher ranking employee engaging in relationship with someone directly or indirectly under them might or might not (depending upon circumstances) be construed as sexual harassment.

        2. Higher ranking employee transferring another employee directly or indirectly under them — without employee’s consultation or consent — due to feeling awkward/guilty/grossed out by sexual relationship relationship with them is almost defiantly harassment.

        3. Attempting to coerce same employee from testifying at the hearing of a separate sexual harassment based partially on what might come out about her own indiscretions is absolutely, positively, 100% sexual harassment.

        4. Being caught attempting to “smear” that same employee — both in the workplace and in public — in an attempt to discredit their testimony about all the above is what we you might refer to as a “it ain’t never gonna get to trial, because the insurance company is gonna settle out for a whole lotta money to make sure it don’t” case of sexual harassment.

        These all hold true whether or not the sexual encounter was consensual.

        (And as always, bear in mind that IANAL but rather a RM.)Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r
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        3. Attempting to coerce same employee from testifying at the hearing of a separate sexual harassment based partially on what might come out about her own indiscretions is absolutely, positively, 100% sexual harassment.

        4. Being caught attempting to “smear” that same employee — both in the workplace and in public — in an attempt to discredit their testimony about all the above is what we you might refer to as a “it ain’t never gonna get to trial, because the insurance company is gonna settle out for a whole lotta money to make sure it don’t” case of sexual harassment.

        This is so impossibly incorrect I’m not even sure you’re living in the same universe as us.

        Attempting to coerce people not to testify, and to smear them when they do testify, is wrong, and the first is almost certainly illegal, and the later might be, depending.

        But those actions aren’t sexual harassment. Random crimes and/or unethical behavior committed to cover up sexual harassment are not magically sexual harassment. The crime of sexual harassment isn’t contagious.

        Jesus Christ, words have actual meanings. Crimes have actual definitions. An act completely unrelated to sex at the time that the victim was no longer working for the party is pretty much not sexual harassment in any conceivable way.

        (Incidentally, I’m not sure we have any evidence that #3 actually happened, Lewinsky was rather unwilling to testify entirely of her own volition, and would hardly need to be coerced. But that’s irrelevant to the fact that while any hypothetical coercion might be a crime, that crime is not ‘sexual harassment’.)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to j r
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        Pardon me for saying this, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.

        If you don’t want to take me word for it, go talk to someone in your HR department tomorrow. Ask them this:

        “If someone accuses of someone in the organization of sexual harassment, can we attempt to coerce them into keeping quiet about it? If they proceed, can we start spreading rumors about that person to make them seem slutty? Why or why not?”

        Then be sure to tell them that words have meaning.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r
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        says:

        Well, best case scenario is he didn’t sexually harass her, but did sexually harass or assault a number of other women…and has still gotten a pass.

        It’s like Bob Marley pleading that he’s an innocent man because he did not shoot the deputy.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        If someone accuses of someone in the organization of sexual harassment, can we attempt to coerce them into keeping quiet about it?

        Did Lewinsky accuse Clinton of sexual harassment? This analysis seems to rest on the idea that the initial relationship was, in fact, sexual harassment. @davidtc ‘s question, while bristly, is an important one. Does harassment that flows from a prior sexual relationship, but is not sexual itself, automatically become sexual harassment? Or is it simply harassment? I ask because I legitimately do not know.

        I also think that we are playing a little loose with the details of what actually happened in real life. The administration certainly tried to get her our of the White House, but it’s not clear that it was an adverse action. Remember that they got Bill Richardson to offer her a job at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. That sounds like it would have been advancement. There was certainly a cover up, or an attempt at a cover up, but is a cover up sexual harassment?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        If someone accuses of someone in the organization of sexual harassment, can we attempt to coerce them into keeping quiet about it?

        Did Lewinsky accuse Clinton of sexual harassment? This analysis seems to rest on the idea that the initial relationship was, in fact, sexual harassment. @DavidTC‘s question, while bristly, is an important one. Does harassment that flows from a prior sexual relationship, but is not sexual itself, automatically become sexual harassment? Or is it simply harassment? I ask because I legitimately do not know.

        I also think that we are playing a little loose with the details of what actually happened in real life. The administration certainly tried to get her our of the White House, but it’s not clear that it was an adverse action. Remember that they got Bill Richardson to offer her a job at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. That sounds like it would have been advancement. There was certainly a cover up, or an attempt at a cover up, but is a cover up sexual harassment?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r
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        I didn’t say it was acceptable.

        I said it wasn’t SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

        Not all unacceptable workplace behaviors are sexual harassment.

        There is an actual fucking legal definition of ‘sexual harassment’, and I assure you it doesn’t include ‘attempt to suborn perjury’. That’s an entirely different crime. (Assuming such a thing happened.)

        And, as I pointed out, by the time your point 3 supposedly happened, and when 4 happened, Lewinsky didn’t work for the government anymore.

        So if Clinton had wandered over to the government’s hypothetical HR department and said ‘Hey, I’m going to get someone whose testifying in a civil suit against me, who does not work for the government, to see if I can get her to lie. If I can’t, I will smear her.’, the hypothetical HR department would have responded with ‘Uh, why are you asking us about that?’Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to j r
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        @j-r No, that’s wrong as well.

        I’m away for a computer and can give a more thorough answer later if people still want it, but as a bookmark:

        In a sexual harassment suit there are really two things being measured: the triggering event and the response from management/the organization to the claim. They are not different suits; they are part of the same complaint.

        Most people assume that the liability is realized when, say, some guy tells his admin assistant that he will give her a raise if she sleeps with him; this is not correct. The liability occurs when the person/people who know that a complaint has been or should be filed do not investigate and take corrective action. This includes protecting not only the accuser but also anyone with any pertinent knowledge of the actions in question, up to and including the general conditions of the workplace that might have lead to harassment.

        Regardless of what DTC thinks, all of his is part of the SH lawsuit and eventual EOCC ruling. Also regardless of what he thinks, it doesn’t matter if any of these people still work for he organization or not.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r
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        The liability occurs when the person/people who know that a complaint has been or should be filed do not investigate and take corrective action.

        Erm, as has been pointed out in this very thread, Lewinsky did not make any sexual harassment claim. At all.

        If Bill Clinton, or someone else, had acted as he did in response to such a claim, yes, that obviously would be part of the sexual harassment suit. That would be retaliation. However, nothing Clinton did can be construed to be retaliation to Lewinsky’s claims of sexual harassment, because, duh, she made no such claims.

        It’s like you’re actually living in bizarro world or something, where Lewinsky was attempting to sue Clinton for sexual harassment, or filed some sort of EOCC complaint against him. She wasn’t. That is not the actual event that happened.

        What happened is she was called as a witness in a lawsuit by a different person, a lawsuit she didn’t wish to testify in in the first place. And there’s very little evidence that Clinton did suborn perjury. It appears they basically conspired together to commit matching perjury, as neither wanted the truth to come out.

        Even if Clinton had outright asked her to lie, asking someone to lie under oath does not magically turn into sexual harassment because earlier the asker had sex with that person.

        Now, as for 2, you want to assert that moving her elsewhere was sexual harassment, as it was due to the relationship, I’m not entirely sure of that, as we don’t know the actual story there. (Maybe she just wanted to be in the Pentagon.) But, yes, I don’t dispute it…that *could* be part of some hypothetical case of sexual harassment if Lewinsky had wanted to assert sexual harassment…which, again, she didn’t, and doesn’t.

        But claims 3 and 4 are still nonsense. 3 and 4 were an attempt to derail an unrelated civil trial, and had nothing to do with any hypothetical harassment committed against Lewinsky. You could replace the oral sex with ‘Bill Clinton leaves a video of time he sexually harassed other women in the VCR and she watches it’ and the story would play out the same….he still needs her not to testify, and he still needs her testimony to not be believed.

        Again, possibly criminal. (Although in my mind, we sorta already settled the issue of Clinton committing perjury, and that’s really just an aspect of it. He did it, he was punished for it more than most people are, and it’s over.) And any slander is possibly a civil tort, and certainly shouldn’t be allowed by a president.

        It’s just not sexual harassment.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        @rtod, if that is your definition of sexual harassment, I accept it. It is not clear, however, that what you are describing is a very accurate description of what actually happened in the Lewinsky case. The atmosphere of the White House was never an issue of consideration at any point that Lewinsky worked there. Lewinsky was never the accuser. She was unwillingly pulled into a completely different investigation that was not about her and, in fact, she lied on behalf of Clinton right up until he very publicly threw her under the bus.

        If I am reading the arguments here correctly, there needs to be at least one of two things demonstrated to prove a claim of sexual harassment. There has to be (1) an initial inappropriate action or series of actions that one party was either an unwilling or coerced participant and/or there has to be (2) some adverse action or series of actions that resulted from the former actions. It seems pretty obvious that number 1 did not happen and there has been only the assertion of number 2. I am happy to be corrected by anyone who has a better understanding of the events than I do.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to j r
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        @j-r

        There does not need to be coercion; when one party is a boss with supervisory capacity over the other person, that’s always a problem. Even when they both consent. This is why the military has a full-out ban on relationships between personnel and COs. If the relationship goes sour, the work environment suffers.

        Secondly, the adverse action occurred first when Lewinsky was reassigned. And of course, even worse occurred when Star began investigating and the relationship went public. Personally, I feel the worst of it came from the impeachment hearings and the media frenzy, what Bill did was down right creepy, but the biggest problem for Lewinsky was the public trashing she received. That, in and of itself, was a massive amount of harassment; and while I might not expect a barely more than 20-year-old woman to understand the potential for what happened, Clinton should have known what he was potentially exposing her to happen; he’d already seen the appetite the press had for this stuff during his presidential campaign.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to j r
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        Sometimes I wonder what it is like to be Monica Lewinsky. I mean, you only get one life, and this is hers. What opportunities has she lost, just to feel normal on any particular day? To just go shopping, to get a normal job, live your normal day to day? Does she get to do those things like I get to do those things?

        The men she meets, how do the treat her? What do they expect from her? It is even possible for her to meet a man who just likes her?

        Many celebrities deal with this stuff, but they have some compensation: they are (often) revered; plus this is a life they chose. Monica Lewinsky did not choose this.

        It’s really fucked up and horrible. It makes me want to cry.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to j r
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        says:

        While there might possibly be situations where having a relationship with someone who was your subordinate in the same organization wouldn’t be sexual harassment (perhaps if there were regulatory barriers in place to you being able to affect their promotion/demotion/transfer/work evaluation/etc.), when there’s a power differential as large as “president of the United States” and “unpaid intern”, I would read that as being inherently coercive. There’s just no way that power considerations don’t come into that.

        If the Clinton sex scandal made that kind of behaviour by a president less accepted, that’s all to the good. Makes the White House a safer place to work. Some of the stuff that’s become public about Kennedy makes my skin crawl.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        There does not need to be coercion; when one party is a boss with supervisory capacity over the other person, that’s always a problem.

        Fine, it’s a problem. A problem however does not equate to sexual harassment. And I’m not sure you want to use the standards of the military to make points about civilian workplaces. There is a lot of stuff in the UCMJ to which no civilian ought to be subject.

        Secondly, the adverse action occurred first when Lewinsky was reassigned.

        I’ve seen nothing more than an assertion that the action was adverse. Lewinsky was even offered a job at USUN that seems like it would have been a promotion.

        And of course, even worse occurred when Star began investigating and the relationship went public. Personally, I feel the worst of it came from the impeachment hearings and the media frenzy, what Bill did was down right creepy, but the biggest problem for Lewinsky was the public trashing she received. That, in and of itself, was a massive amount of harassment…

        A person cannot be sexually harassed by the media or by the general public.

        I have no problem accepting that Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky was inappropriate, but it wasn’t sexual harassment. I have no problem accepting that the administration’s treatment of her was deplorable, but all of that happened after she left the government. And I have no problem accepting that the press’ treatment of Lewinsky was less than admirable. Unless someone can present some actual evidence, however, I continue to maintain that she was not the victim of sexual harassment.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to j r
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        says:

        The worst of it was

        1. Someone Lewinsky thought of as a friend she could confide in taped all of their conversations and turned them over to a third party (Kenneth Starr.).

        2. Starr made all of the tapes public without a thought for how that would affect her. There was no need to do that to make his case; it was purely an attack on Clinton with Lewinsky as acceptable collateral damage.

        That’s not sexual harassment, just complete shittiness.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to j r
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        says:

        When all this went down, I was only barely seasoned as a lawyer and had never handled a sexual harassment case. That has changed in the years between then and now. I think that’s why at the time, it seemed an astonishing ado over a married guy getting a blowjob.

        Maybe it would be helpful to remember that sexual harassment is one of several species of gender discrimination. Sexual discrimination, in turn, is one genus of a kinds of tort called an “unlawful employment practice.”

        If the hypothetical private CEO transfers the consenting intern to a less-desirable position after the tryst, that’s treating her differently than he would have treated a subordinate with whom he’d not have had a tryst. That is gender discrimination. In some jurisdictions, the CEO doing that, by itself, puts liability on the employer. In others (or under Title VII), you need some sort of endorsement or ratification by other actors within the organization to impute liability to the entity.

        For those of you playing along at home, do we have entity liability in the Lewinsky matter? Yes, yes we do. Even if the intern was an enthusiastic participant in the initial tryst? That’s how you can have no liability for the sex act, but still have liability for gender discrimination.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
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        says:

        I think we’re getting weighed down on the wrong things here.

        Tod’s piece seems to be asserting that liberals who didn’t view the Lewinsky situation as workplace sexual harassment are guilty of misogyny. Some of us are pushing back against that because we find Clinton’s behavior deplorable on a number of levels but not necessarily fitting the definition of “sexual harassment” as we understand it. And we might be understanding that term wrong — particularly from a legal sense — but using words slightly differently does not necessarily give rise to misogyny. No one here is defending Clinton or blaming Lewinsky. Those of us (in this thread at least) who’ve pushed back against the notion of this being sexual harassment have done so on definitional grounds, not on moral or ethical grounds.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        I think I agree. It’s not just the thinks individual actors did; either. What Bill did may not have been harassment as defined by the law, or so says @burt-likko. Hillary’s response was generous, yet Hillary swept Lewinsky up in the vast right-wing conspiracy instead of speaking of her as a victim of it. Tripp betrayed Lewinsky to Starr, who used her as a tool and not a person in his multi-year effort to unseat a legitimately elected president. The press repeatedly violated her dignity. And just imagine the tone of comments targeted at Lewinsky on line.

        It’s all those individual actions, each in itself hurtful, aggregated into a mountain that rises to heady levels of harassment, and harassment that will probably hound Lewinsky for the rest of her life. Every time there’s some mention of her in the press, there’s the litany of jokes that follow. I’ve watched people in bars, drunk and having a great time, go at Lewinsky as if she were just the butt of a joke and not a real person.

        But she is a real person, and I don’t have to respect her poor choices, but I think it’s important to defend her from a culture that finds it so easy to see her as a joke because she’s a sexual person and acted upon that with the wrong person.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @zic

        Very good points. It is fair to criticize the liberal establishment for their treatment of Lewinsky. It was indeed deplorable. How much of it was motivated by misogyny and how much by politics (and how much the presence of the former allowed them to engage in the latter) is hard to know, but suffice it to say there was a healthy dose of both and those who threw Lewinsky under the bus because it was politically expedient to do so should be shamed and ashamed. Whether they were being specifically or explicitly misogynistic matters less than recognizing that the fair and proper treatment of women was low on their priority list, a problem in and of itself and something that rightly calls their character into question.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        “Those of us (in this thread at least) who’ve pushed back against the notion of this being sexual harassment have done so on definitional grounds, not on moral or ethical grounds.”

        And I think Tod’s other point is that nobody would be parsing this down to a nat’s nit if it weren’t focused on the center of power in the Democratic party.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        I think I linger at the point I do because Tod’s clear-eyed analysis chagrins me.

        I’ve used the Clinton-Lewinsky tryst when teaching sexual harassment to students and clients. The superior’s sexual conduct is welcomed by the subordinate, so likely no sex harassment. Questionable judgment by the superior officer, but in this case not an unlawful employment practice.

        But this was incomplete at best — Tod reminds me that what comes after may count for much more than the tryst itself. In past instruction, I’ve elided that facet of the story because everyone wants to pay attention to the sex act itself. So I feel bad for dispensing incomplete instruction and advice. I should have done better. I will do better in the future and thank Tod for the reminder.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
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        says:

        Tod,
        Hm. it seems clear that you are categorizing the harassment as “related to sexual matters” when you say “sexual harassment.” This may be the legal term, but I kinda understand why everyone else is kinda confused. Because however adverse a forced personnel transfer is, it’s not in any way sexual.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @kolohe

        I disagree. For myself, at least. I don’t give two shits about Clinton (Bill). He was President before I really knew what was going on and I have no particular attachment or fondness for him. I care a bit about Clinton (Hillary) insofar as she might be the Presidential candidate for the party I prefer.

        What bothered me was Tod’s implication that calling what happened between Bill and Lewinsky anything other than sexual harassment amounted to misogyny. I don’t think it necessarily follows that thinking “consent” matters when determining whether “harassment” occurred is necessarily a misogynistic position. If I’ve misread @rtod in this regard, my apologies for the confusion.

        Bill is a dog. He’s a monster who abused his power and made a habit of mistreating women. If he didn’t harass Lewinsky, he certainly harassed other women. Nothing excuses this. My objection to Tod’s statement has nothing to do with Clinton and everything to do with those he is applying to.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @kim
        Because however adverse a forced personnel transfer is, it’s not in any way sexual.

        Yes and no.

        Tod is correct in that, if there was sexual harassment before that, and the transfer was in some way related to that, either as retaliation for claiming harassment, or turning down harassment, or even just to remove their ‘access’ to each other, that transfer would, indeed, be part of the sexual harassment suit. It is not sexual harassment itself, but if it’s a result of that, it’s part of the damages.

        Of course, as I have pointed out, you sorta need the original claim of sexual harassment to exist for that to compound it, and Lewinsky hasn’t made any such claim. So the entire thing rather falls apart there.

        Although, as Burt pointed out, even without her asserting any sort of sexual harassment, that could still be gender discrimination. Although I ask: Do we actually have any evidence it was an adverse transfer? Do we know how long interns usually last at the White House? Once you get into gender discrimination by itself, you have to have some evidence of what the norm was.

        The idea that the administration would cause any sort of harm to Lewinsky, exactly as she was being called to testify and they needed her to lie under oath, seems rather dubious in my mind. This is the same administration that seemed to go to extreme length to try to track down a private sector job for her when she left the Pentagon. (Although admittedly I have no idea of how much they’d help a random ex-intern that *wasn’t* about to testify.)

        I mean, stupider things have happened, I’m not trying to say it couldn’t happen, and maybe they thought getting her away from the POTUS so ‘he didn’t keep doing it’ was more important (Which would indeed be gender discrimination and compound any hypothetical sexual harassment.), but I’m not willing to just assume that without someone producing something to that effect.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        If the hypothetical private CEO transfers the consenting intern to a less-desirable position after the tryst, that’s treating her differently than he would have treated a subordinate with whom he’d not have had a tryst. That is gender discrimination.

        That is a pretty big if in the Lewinsky case. I defer to you guys on the legal analysis, but I don’t get the sense that you understand the nature of WH internships and political appointments. For a number of reasons the private sector analogy does not really work.

        I am a civil servant. It is much harder to fire me than it is a private sector employee. By law, my management has to make clearly aware of my performance criteria and I have to be warned in advance of any adverse personnel moves. And all of this has to be documented. Political appointees exist at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. The work under an extreme form of at-will employment and they get moved into different positions all the time for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with their performance.

        It would be very difficult to establish in court that Lewinsky was treated adversely. Look at the facts of her time in Washington. She graduated from Lewis and Clark college with BA in psychology and landed an internship in the Office of the White House Chief of Staff. That internship turned into a paid position in the WH public affairs office. She was moved to the Pentagon, but continued to visit the WH regularly. And someone went to bat to get Bill Richardson to offer her a position at USUN. As DavidTC pointed out, her behavior is much more in line with a co-conspirator than with a victim.

        At some point the administration turned on Lewinsky, but that happened after she was no longer employed by the administration. So yes, the administration behaved deplorably in regards to protecting Clinton and throwing Lewinsky under a bus, but the claim that this is an obvious case of sexual harassment seems very forced.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy — I think your problem is this: you are seeing “misogyny” as something only bad people do, as individual acts of willful hate. But that is not the case. Try analyzing the situation this way: misogyny fuels what happens to women in our patriarchal culture. It lies deep and its perpetrators are usually aware of it.

        And there is not doubt that Monica Lewinsky has been the target of bitter, sustained, and extreme misogyny. For some examples, simply Google her name.

        Now, Tod’s point seems to be this: the liberal establishment actively encouraged this misogyny against Ms. Lewinsky for callous political gain.

        It seems abundantly clear that he is correct.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire

        Good points, all of them. I am no doubt guilty of misogyny in any number of ways.

        But I’m focusing on a very narrow slice of Tod’s piece here: his assertion that holding the position that people in disparate positions of power can engage in a consensual relationship that does not qualify as sexual harassment are necessarily being misogynistic. That is the particular part I’m really struggling with.

        If Lewinsky says, “I was not sexually harassed,” it seems more misogynistic than not to say, “Yes you were!”Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        Even if it was consensual, even if she made the first move, it’s the responsibility of the supervisor to not take advantage of the opportunity. The teacher does not react to the high schools student with a crush. The 25-year old does not respond to the 15-year-old with a crush. The misogyny* here is more akin to statutory rape; it’s that the employee, the student, the younger potential romantic partner may consent, but the power differential means the responsible party should know better and step away from the overtures.

        *and I’m not sure misogyny is the correct term here, except that it’s generally men with a position of authority over women, so it falls into the misogyny bucket. In Lewinsky’s case, the overall response was highly misogynistic, however; and it was not necessarily Clinton’s predatory behavior in accepting her advances (presumed she made that first move), it’s the response to the fact that things happened that’s misogynistic. He kept his presidency despite a proportionally small amount of mud dragging (small, in context of keeping the most powerful office in the world). She, on the other hand, basically wears a scarlet letter the remainder of her days; she’ll probably get an obit in the NYT laying the story out.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to j r
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        says:

        @kazzy — You are trying to make simple something that is very complicated.

        But yes, the victims of sexual crimes should be given much leeway in naming their own experiences. But at the same time, we should provide these people (usually but not always women) with the tools to understand what happened to them, the proper names for these things.

        And this is really tricky. And it is something I’ve handled first hand, both as a victim and with others who were a victim. And there are no easy answers.

        But Ms. Lewinsky has been made the victim of an inexcusable crime, from Clintion, from Tripp, from Star, on and on. And Clinton was a serial sexual abuser. And Lewinsky was a target of his sexual abuse. And for that we ruined her life.

        Somehow we have to figure out how to respect her and at the same time call things by their proper names.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire and @zic

        I don’t really disagree with anything you’ve said here. You make really good points. I’m being hyperspecific and probably splitting hairs more than is necessary.

        As I read @tod-kelly , it seemed he was proposing a litmus test: “Call what Clinton did to Lewinsky sexual harassment or you are a misogynist.” Maybe that is an unfair reading of him (It seems rather un-Tod-like, so it very well may be). To the extent he or anyone thinks that, I would continue to push back against that very specific line of thinking.

        That said, yes, what Clinton did was wrong (whether or not it qualifies as SH) and what was done to Lewinsky by scores and scores and scores of people was similarly wrong. Not just on a, “That is no way to treat a person” level, but also on a, “This reinforces layers of misogyny that is inherent to our culture” level.Report

  8. Avatar LWA
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    says:

    @jim-heffman –
    I actually agree with you, on all counts. I felt so then, I feel so now. I was a conservative when the scandal began, and a liberal by the time it ended.

    What is more interesting though, is the part you left out, the part which caused me to shift my political allegiances.

    Is it obvious this scandal should encourage people to vote Republican?

    Other than the obvious benefit of being able to embarrass an opponent, what does a sex scandal mean? I ask that since its given that they occur with regularity all across the political spectrum.

    Are the Republicans asserting that they are the best choice for women? That they offer more respect and self-determination? That they are the best hope for minimum wage employees, that they offer more benefit to those who are powerless and disenfranchised?

    See, that was the trigger for me, the straw that caused my latent disgust with the conservative movement to flame into open contempt.

    That after 6 years of a Clinton presidency, that’s all they had. They couldn’t find another weapon, another complaint, another criticism of Clinton other than a sex scandal, the same sort they themselves had glossed over a million times themselves.

    All the criticisms we had of the fear of a Liberal President failed to materialize. Russia didn’t invade, dogs and cats didn’t start living together. But Bill behaved like a jerk, and we were supposed to impeach him, and presumably install a Republican in his place.

    It isn’t a charge of hypocrisy, although there’s plenty of that. Its the charge that without phony ginned up outrage of FEMA camps, Ameros, Benghazi, and God knows what else, you got nothin’.

    Things are better for most Americans as a result of Bill Clinton, and Obama. Women know that, working people know that, young people know that. So all the crocodile tears from Rush Limbaugh about Ms. Lewinsky are just bullshit, and we know that too.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to LWA
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      says:

      “Is it obvious this scandal should encourage people to vote Republican?”

      If the Democrats are going to sell themselves as the pro-feminist pro-woman anti-privilege no-excuses party then they need to actually be that party. If they’re going to say “Republicans will abuse their power to literally force you to have sex with them and then claim that you’re a crazy liar” then they need to not lionize party members who act that way, or minimize and excuse and hide it when they do. Because people are going to take a hard look at the Democratic Party and say “you know, they can’t deliver on women’s lib, why should we trust them to deliver on any other thing?”Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        The obvious problem, Jim, is that while D’s fail on the Clinton thing they are far better on all sorts of other issues then R’s. If a person thinks Uni HC is a good idea or is strongly pro-choice or can’t deal with the variety of hateful misogynistic attitudes in the R and also dislikes Clinton what do they do. Vote R out of personal dislike and spite their own self-interest.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        “while D’s fail on the Clinton thing…”

        Sure honey, I hit you sometimes. But I’m such a good, kind, loving guy all those other times, aren’t I? Doesn’t that make up for the bad stuff that I sometimes do?Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        So let me get this straight. Republicans can be as shitty as they please and we should still prefer them over Democrats as long as there’s any Dem anywhere that isn’t absolutely perfect in all respects?

        Uh… Why, exactly?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        @road-scholar exactly.

        It’s that damned liberal purity test that — if the liberal doesn’t pass on all liberal issues, them other liberals should vote for the conservative.

        Dems don’t have to play the purity game, and Democratic candidates do not have to be the candidates conservatives would like them to be. Plus, I don’t see Republicans flocking to vote for D candidates when their own nominees are RINOs and fail Republican purity tests.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        “I am better than you because you do (thing)!”

        “Yes, but you also do (thing).”

        “We’re talking about YOU, not ME!”Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      “Russia didn’t invade,”

      Well, true, I haven’t had an opportunity to shout “Wolverines!” in the Rockies yet, but Russia has invaded as many countries in the current presidential administration as the previous one.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      In fairness LWA, while I generally agree with your sentiments the subject of this article is about Bill Clinton, Ms. Lewinsky, the left and the principles of the left. The GOP isn’t even at this table; they’re at the kids table back in kitchen banging their plastic spoons and flinging creamed cauliflower around. I don’t think they can be invoked in this argument effectively.

      Tod’s point is that, whoever he was, the acts Bill Clinton did constitute sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. I think he’s successfully made that point and that some people on the left have definitely been threading a difficult line that’s either cynical, practical, hypocritical or all of the above and that they should speak a lot more softly on the subject of Ms. Lewinsky.

      Now, what Tod didn’t do (and didn’t try to do I think) is link this subject very strongly to current political concerns. That’s fine of course, he doesn’t need to.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s simultaneously possible for the Republicans to be completely insincere about this, and for it to matter. Events in politics can matter even if they don’t make you change your vote from one party to another.

      This is something we should be sensitive to, because of late it seems like any possible criticism of Obama – for indiscriminate drone strikes, for mass surveillance, for attacks on whistleblowers – are brushed off by Democrats with “well, Republicans would be worse! And any criticism of Democrats gives the Republicans a better chance to win, so shut up or else you’re just helping the Republicans!”

      That, to me, feels like putting the cart before the horse. I support political principles (and moral principles) and policies first. When I support a party, it flows from those principles. And if the party violates those principles, then I will oppose their actions. Putting party first and principles second doesn’t make sense to me.Report

  9. Avatar dragonfrog
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    says:

    Only justification I can come up with for the term “Lewinski scandal” – there was a war a while back that is called “the American war” in Vietnam, and “the Vietnam war” in America, for what I think are obvious reasons.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog
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      says:

      I think this is right, if you mean what I think you do. Calling it “The Clinton Scandal” makes one wonder which scandal we’re talking about. Calling it “The Clinton Sex Scandal” sadly doesn’t help (or “The Clinton Sexual Harassment Scandal”). They are sufficient in number that you almost have to go by the woman’s name. I’m not sure what else you could call it, but I’m open to ideas.

      I don’t think this does much damage to Tod’s overall thesis, however.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        Exactly as you & Snarky McSnarkSnark say.

        Bill Clinton was in the public eye, and in several scandalous and manufactured-scandalous incidents, over at least a decade; from the perspective of the general public, Lewinsky was the distinguishing characteristic of this scandal, versus all the others that also involved Clinton.

        Monica Lewinsky and her friends and family might usefully refer to the sorry business as the “Clinton scandal” to distinguish it whatever other private dramas may have happened in the family over the years.

        And, as you say, it doesn’t weaken Tod’s thesis in the least.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to dragonfrog
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      says:

      Well, there were so many “Clinton” scandals being manufactured in that time (Travelgate, the “murders” of Vince Foster and Ron Brown, Whitewater, etc, etc, etc.) that calling it the “Lewinsky Scandal” makes sense if only for its economy of expression.Report

  10. Avatar Sierra Nevada
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    says:

    Douglas Adams:

    “…On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”Report

  11. Avatar zic
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    says:

    Again, thank you.

    This is exactly right.

    Now I’ll still vote for Hillary Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee; and in the primary, I’ll hope there’s a fresher option. Because the Republican alternatives, particularly when it comes to women’s concerns, are pretty repulsive.

    But what you’ve outlines here is repulsive, too. And even as I’ll support her for office, I’ll be pretty vocal: this slut shaming was and is reprehensible.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic
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      says:

      Yes, two things are possible at once: Bill Clinton is a sleazoid and Hillary an enabler, and that she might be the best choice running.

      About which, we are allowed to complain, but still, when it’s time to cast your vote…Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to zic
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      says:

      Okay, as one of the actual reasonable people, zic, can you actually point me *to* some documentation of this ‘slut shaming’ on the part of Hillary?

      Because I don’t remember any such a thing happening, and everyone keeps *talking* about it, but I have yet to see a single quote from Hillary, at all.

      I asked this in the last article, and didn’t get an answer.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        @davidtc do you remember Gennifer Flowers? Early in the campaign, she claimed she had a 12-year affair with Clinton, while she was an Arkansas State employee.

        ‘If that’s not enough … don’t vote for him’: Bill and Hillary Clinton go on “60 Minutes” in January 1992, in an interview that airs immediately after the Super Bowl, to deny that he had had a 12-year affair with an Arkansas state employee, Gennifer Flowers. In the interview, Hillary Clinton says: “You know, I’m not sitting here — some little woman standin’ by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.”

        When asked about Lewinsky:

        In January 1998, just after allegations surface of a presidential affair with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, Hillary Clinton goes on TODAY and dismisses the matter as a “feeding frenzy.” She stresses that the president has denied the suggestions of an affair. She goes on to tell Matt Lauer: “The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

        Source for both: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/01/16791796-the-making-of-hillary-clinton-15-moments-that-define-her-public-life?lite

        Papers were recently found in a cache where she called Lewinsky “narcissistic loony toon”.

        So Clinton’s misdeed here, (if it is a misdeed, we can certainly debate that), is perhaps standing by her man when she shoulda been saying, ‘you know, this is not how we should be treating women.’

        I say this recognizing she’s between a rock and a hard place; very much a product of her time, and without her standing by Bill as she did, it’s unlikely he’d have won the oval office. I think it’s a sad thing that we live in a world where she cannot admit to a somewhat open marriage; their marriage certainly seems sound and strong, but his infidelity is part of it. It’s like everyone knows he’s a philanderer, but it cannot be said out loud. If she wants to be Potus, she’s going to have to find a way to thread this needle, I think; find a way to recognize that personally, he was unable to live up to the standards of feminism he supported in public policy and harmed individual women in a very unacceptable way; and she abetted that harm.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        Erm, two seconds of googling “narcissistic loony toon” produced the quite obvious fact that Hillary said that in private, and it just now came out.

        That’s evidence of a woman badmouthing someone who had sex with her husband, to a friend.

        This is not evidence of her participating any sort of concentrated public attack to discredit Lewinsky, which is what other people here are asserting.

        And I have no idea how ‘slut shaming’ enters into it at all. Not a single word of that has anything to do with sex. It is, perhaps, using ableist language toward mental illness, but it was the 1990s, so perhaps we could cut her some slack for not seeing the future.

        And I don’t understand how the Flowers quote is even supposed to be insulting to anyone.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        @davidtc I really don’t know what you’re pushing for here; but Hillary stood by and watched as women who’d been hit on by her husband while he was in a position of authority over them be slut shamed by the Democratic machine and the media. She may not have specifically said something that’s the equivalent of a smoking gun here (and I don’t blame her, it would have erupted), but she let those women get publicly trashed. To her, that was the lesser of evils.

        I can understand this, too. But like I said, now, she’s seeming to run for office herself. And her actions, in a world where the progress of women’s rights is getting a lot of push back, matter. To me, she needs to show growth here.

        Doing nothing when you see a wrong being done, or allowing the wrong to continue because it’s the lesser of two evils still leaves the wrong a wrong. When you wanna be Potus, you have to deal with that stuff. Particularly when the domain of that wrong is the place where, supposedly, you’re on the side of right.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        I really don’t know what you’re pushing for here

        I’m not pushing for anything. I was just completely confused as to what the hell people were talking about. I remembered Lewinsky commenting about Hillary’s insult of her, but I had no idea what it was, I assumed Hillary had made a public comment about her book. But then people started talking about how Hillary had acted in the past, and I thought I had missed something.

        Now that you’ve clarified it as ‘She remained silent in public, and said a mean thing once on the phone to a friend’, I’m incredibly annoyed.

        Uh, guys? Are you seriously wondering why she didn’t leap to the defense of someone that helped cause major problems in her marriage? Hillary had her own things to deal with during that, and perhaps should be given a pass in this specific instance based on how it affected her personally.

        There is literally an entire establishment of people that should be condemned before her. Literally every other Democrat had more of an obligation to say something.

        How about we start with the actual people who attacked Lewinsky, and condemning them? Then we can move on to the Democratic leaders who weren’t married to someone who had sex with Lewinsky and has a semi-valid reason to loathe her?

        Seriously, this is amazing as something that people are complaining about. No, Hillary Clinton did not have to defend Lewinsky from unfair attacks in the 90s. Other people needed to be doing that.

        Now, there might be a point there if people were attacking Lewinsky now (Which a few are.) and they were Democrats and it was four years later and Hillary was president and the presumptive leader of the party. Then, she might have to put aside her disdain and say something. But, right now, Hillary is officially nobody, and doesn’t need to run around commenting on how some random liberal blogs are unfairly attacking Lewinsky.

        And if elected Democrats start to do that, Obama should probably step in and say something, considering, you know, he’s still in charge.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m with David here. If you’re going to accuse Hillary Clinton of slut-shaming, that you’ve got to have something more than “she didn’t actively defend women with whom her husband cheated on her”. You’ve got no examples of her making any public statements, or public campaigns, to discredit or comment on the morality of any of the women Bill Clinton harassed.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        “If you’re going to accuse Hillary Clinton of slut-shaming…”

        Welp

        Rush said some vaguely bad stuff about Sandra Fluke

        And that means all Republicans always slut-shame

        So there you are, I guessReport

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        Calling someone a whore and telling her to show you her tits for the offence of testifying in front of Congress on a policy matter is cruel, mysogynistic, and disgusting, not “vaguely” sexist.

        And then a bunch of Republican commentators and spokespeople decided to defend him for saying those things.

        Do not bring up that matter again in a way that tries to defend him or them; you’ll only make yourself look bad.Report

  12. Avatar tgm
    Ignored
    says:

    The real scandals are 1) how Monica Lewinsky got her internship in the first place and 2) how fake “scandals” allowed Moneyed Interests distract attention from how they were waging war on the working class.

    1) white house internships are very difficult to get many ivy leaguers aren’t able to get them yet Monica Lewinsky was somehow able to get one while attending Santa Monica Community College. people like Lewinsky play by different rules than the rest of us, they use their influence in government enrich themselves at our expense. the so called “scandal” was just Lewinsky taking one for the team in order to prevent the public from focusing on more important subjects. she is very wealthy today and she was not harmed at all

    2) while the public was distracted by fake scandals like Travelgate, whitewater, vince foster and Monica Lewinsky, Clinton advisers such like Robert Rubin, Rahm Emanuel, Dan Glickman, Gene Sperling, Alice Rivlin, Janet Yellen, Jay Footlik and Many Grunwald were able to enact policies that benefited the Capitalist Class at the expense of the working class. these policies are:

    NAFTA Allowed Plutocrats to fire Americans in order to move factories to Mexico. at the same time if allowed agribusiness to destroy mexican farmers with low cost grain, this forced people who had been in the mexican agricultural sector to move elsewhere. many of these people later immigrated to the United States providing the Moneyed Interests with more cheep labor.

    the telecom act of 1996 allowed Moneyed Interests to take complete control of the media. as a result of this act the Dixie Chicks and others were blacklisted for opposing the Neocons war in Iraq and as a result few people are willing to speak out today.

    the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act allowed Internationalist Bankers to get rich while creating a housing bubble that destroyed the economy while at the same time charging people 30% interests on credit cards.

    the Media is controlled by the Capitalist Class so they did everything they could to distract the public from what the Moneyed Interests were doing. why is Monica Lewinsky suddenly in the news again? because Occupy Wall Street was gaining traction talking about the the 1% is screwing the 99%. the Plutocrats don’t want attention focused on themselves so they brought up Lewinsky again in hopes the public would stop talking about inequality.Report

  13. Avatar Miss Mary
    Ignored
    says:

    Nice work, Mr. Kelly.Report

  14. Avatar KatherineMW
    Ignored
    says:

    Thank you for that elaboration on what the whole Clinton scandal was about. I was a kid when the whole thing was going on, and the only thing I really picked up about it was that the US president had a sex scandal, along with the general sense that the opposition party was overreacting to it to a massive degree. After I started paying attention to politics, I never bothered to find out much more about it, because sex scandals of former presidents didn’t seem like important or relevant news when there were things like the Patriot Act and the Iraq War going on.

    I wasn’t aware of how many other women had come forward with accusations, and I really wasn’t aware of Clinton and his administration responding by slandering/smearing them for doing so, or of how they altered Lewinsky’s internship. And I agree that all of that is serious, that it raises this above the level of a simple affair or sex scandal. It’s a more systematic, deliberate, and longstanding abuse of power than I had understood it to be.

    I still don’t take issue with the ThinkProgress post that you linked in your previous post, because it’s not “making it about what Lewinsky did”; it’s discussing what Monica Lewinsky experienced, how she describes and interprets that experience, and how our discussion of the whole thing fits into broader considerations about how we should treat people who have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault.

    Aside from that article, the first ThinkProgress ones you find when you search “Monica Lewinsky” are 1) one mentioning a sexist comment about her from conservative commentator Richard Cohen as one among many pieces of evidence that he has a long record of bigotry; 2) the scandal used as a marker of time (“[x] happened before you had even heard the name Monica Lewinsky” and 3) one that defends her, albeit in passing (giving her as an example of women that have suffered “slut shaming” after liaisons with male politicians were discovered).

    So while you may accuse them of having insufficiently grappled with Clinton’s actions and culpability, I’m still not grasping why you find those pieces problematic in and of themselves. Where Lewinsky is mentioned, it’s sympathetically or, at worst, neutrally.Report

  15. Avatar Stella B.
    Ignored
    says:

    My husband’s first wife dumped him for the vice president of the company where she worked. Twenty years later they are still married. Sometimes an affair is really just an affair and not sexual harassment. There were large sums of money beng waved about in the search for dirt on Clinton and that makes at least some of the claims at least a little bit suspect.

    That being said, I’d rather be groped by Bob Packwood who led the fight for policies that were positive for women as a group than be treated with respect by Rick Santorum whose preferred policies are very much to the detriment of women.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Stella B.
      Ignored
      says:

      Yep,
      Just as several women commented that they’d be perfectly willing to give Bill Clinton a blow job for all the forward moment on women’s rights. Perhaps I’m misremembering, but I seem to recall they weren’t single women either.

      I guess it’s preferable to be harassed by someone “on your team” than get respect from an opponent. Classy.Report

  16. Avatar Brian Murphy
    Ignored
    says:

    The article use of phrase “the Clintons” is grossly intellectual dishonest. Blaming a wife for her husband’s sexual harassment counts ad misogyny in my book.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Brian Murphy
      Ignored
      says:

      He doesn’t blame HRC for Bill Clinton’s infidelity. He blames HRC, to the extent that she is a subject in this post, for being a part of the group that responded to the accusations by demonizing the women.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        being a part of the group that responded to the accusations by demonizing the women

        How? What specific demonizing of women did Hilary participate in? I think Tod’s post is fairly accurate in it’s accusations of Bill and the Clinton campaign, but I don’t see any of Hilary’s fingerprints on this aside from her being his wife and not publicly splitting.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        The campaign (and political wing of the presidency) is the “group” to which I refer. It’s possible to say that she knew nothing about this or was the overruled objector to it. Tod is assuming this is not the case. Subsequent comments that have been revealed, as I understand, support this argument, though it is not proven.Report

  17. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    Tod,

    Were you of the opinion at the time that President Clinton should have resigned for having sexually harassed a White House intern? Are you of that opinion now?Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Michael Drew
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m with Dick Morris, he should have come clean and moved on. Instead he lied about it.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Michael Drew
      Ignored
      says:

      I won’t speak for Tod but to me this is a tough question.

      If the CEO of my client did the equivalent, it’s an easy answer. Bye. Intolerable conduct is, by definition, intolerable.

      The President of the United States is NOT the CEO of a private company. In some ways he should be held to an even higher scandal; in some other ways (e.g., the people chose him) he has a degree of immunity. And there was GOP hounding that, institutionally, needed to be defeated. The play book hasn’t really changed since, but Obama hasn’t been nearly so squirreley as was Clinton, and the Senate is too closely divided, so there’s less ammunition to fuel a shot at impeachment.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Heh. Autocorrect strikes again, most interestingly. POTUS is in some ways held to a higher “standard”, of course, not “scandal.”Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        “And there was GOP hounding that, institutionally, needed to be defeated. ”
        Why?
        One of the elegancies of our form of gov’t is that it specifically allows actions of this sort, and some may think that this was an inappropriate reason for the opposition party to go after a president, they are the opposition after all.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        The President must resist impeachment, lest impeachment a become commonplace whenever Congress is dissatisfied with the President. The partisan permutations do not matter here: the institutions have diametrically opposed interests in strengthening or weakening the ability of this check on Presidential power through precedent.Report

      • Avatar Aaron david in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Burt, the people also elected the representatives. Again showing that this was what they wanted.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        “If the CEO of my client did the equivalent, it’s an easy answer. Bye. Intolerable conduct is, by definition, intolerable.

        The President of the United States is NOT the CEO of a private company. In some ways he should be held to an even higher scandal; in some other ways (e.g., the people chose him) he has a degree of immunity. ”

        Note that Bush I and Reagan would have gotten into a lot of trouble over illegal drug-dealing and gun-running.

        Bush II would have been the first CEO to have literally taken down the leading megacorp of the time.Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        So what you’re saying is the balance of powers depends on all sides exerting their power. That is a congress has a duty to try and impeach, if they find anything impeachable, and a president has a duty to fight it, and this holds regardless of the actual case?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @matty

        No that’s not what I’m saying.Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko OK would you mind spelling it out for me? I’m clearly a bit slow on this one.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @matty it is necessary from executive’s perspective to disincentivize impeachment so that executive can get on with its business. It should be rendered politically unappealing (that is to say, craven and basely partisan, as with Johnson) and unlikely to succeed. If there appears to be merit to the reason proffered for disqualification of the incumbent a well as a substantial chance of success, the Nixon route mitigates that loss of executive prestige: Nixon resigned rather than be removed.

        Clinton was politically right to resist impeachment, able as he was to portray the matter as partisan and unprincipled, and to place the focus on the sexual encounter with Lewinsky rather than on his own conduct. The Republicans, by failing to somehow vindicate her or portray her as a victim, played into that strategy. Result: enough people bought in to the “none of our business” meme that Clinton survived the trial.Report

  18. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    One additional dynamic is that the whole Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings were close enough to within living memory that you (yes, even you) could still go to your local library and look in the saved Time and Newsweek issues and see what pundits had said then.

    What’s the difference between how Clarence Thomas treated Anita Hill and how Bill Clinton treated Paula Jones? Well, there were articles with the various firebreathers who took Thomas to task and how they explained how they were splitting hairs when it came to Bill Clinton. (Gloria Steinem’s hairsplitting was paraphrased as the “One Grope Rule” or “One Free Grope”.)

    There were a lot of things said about Clarence Thomas that, had they not been said (imagine, if you will, Douglas Ginsburg’s marijuana use not been publicized), would have resulted in Clinton’s scandal being less of a scandal.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      The Democrats hypocritically portrayed Anita Hill as a victim but Lewinsky as a willing participant. The Republicans were far more consistent and honest in calling Hill a delusional liar and Lewinsky a stupid slut.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, I see Paula Jones/Juanita Broderick as more interesting for the example. Monica Lewinsky is only interesting insofar as whether you see Clinton as having a “pattern” of treating underlings a certain way.

        “But Lewinsky was enthusiastic!”

        Yeah. I suppose that’s why I find Paula Jones and Juanita Broderick as more interesting for the example. And, I suppose, why you find Monica Lewinsky as more interesting for it.Report

  19. Avatar trizzlor
    Ignored
    says:

    Would we still waive off sexual harassment by those male executive directors? Would we be complicit about slut shaming the women they targeted — you know, for the greater good of women?

    This is the description of what the left is currently doing that would qualify it as joining/participating in the War on Women. Yet there’s no evidence in this post or the previous actually demonstrating such continued behavior by the left, not a single statement. I went back and read through the articles Tod linked to, and the only thing close is Dowd’s awful column, which pretty much everyone agrees is a steaming turd worse than usual. The rest nearly unanimously focus on Lewinski as a victim who has had her life ruined by the Clinton machine and go on to discuss the various nuances they’re personally interested in (Weigel: There’s nothing new in the VF interview; O’Conner: Lewinski is actually much more of a survivor than other recent victims; Henderson: What role did feminists play then and now; Marcus & TP: Is Rand Paul accurate when he calls Bill a “sexual predator” (i.e. violent)).

    It’s true, none of these articles include a long polemic on the crimes and sleaze of Bill Clinton, and maybe that’s covering by omission. But these articles neither waive-off the scandal nor perpetrate any slut-shaming, and those are pretty strong accusations to leave unsourced.Report

  20. Avatar MFarmer
    Ignored
    says:

    The odd part is that she wasn’t even close to a Marilyn Monroe. That Clinton would risk so much for something so mundane and un-romantic is mind-boggling.Report

  21. Avatar Jed Pressgrove
    Ignored
    says:

    This was a very insightful read, Tod.

    Back in the late 1990s when I was a teenager, I bought a “Monica Lewinsky driver’s license” from a gas station that made all kinds of jokes at the woman’s expense. For example, the height on the card told you how tall Lewinsky was on her knees.

    I realize that’s a small example of how this woman was treated, but I truly believe you did the right thing by writing this article.Report

  22. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve been out of town and have just read this OP. I haven’t read the comments yet, but I want to say this before I see all the BSDI arguments, etc: what a good piece of writing.Report

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