August 17, 1998. That's a day that should be remembered in our history books for decades to come. It's the day that a sitting U.S. President admitted two very immoral things: he admitted that he, a married man, had an "inappropriate relationship" with a 21-year-old female who was an intern at the White House; and he, in effect, admitted that he'd spent the better portion of this year trying to evade culpability. In other words, he got caught fooling around and, faced with the accusation, said "I didn't do it."
Both of those things happen every day in this country. Many times. But this time it was different. This time the accused man was the leader of the free world, the most powerful man on earth-the President of the United States.
From my point of view, that changes things a bit.
First of all, the "inappropriate relationship." I have a real problem with that. Sure, the intern was an adult, but barely. I have a 21-year-old son who himself was an intern in Washington D.C. this summer. Had a "sensitive" situation developed involving him while in the nation's capital, as a parent I would be screaming "youthful naivete." No matter how eager Monica Lewinsky might have been to participate in the relationship-even if she initiated it-it shouldn't have happened. Bill Clinton is the President of the United States, someone we should all look up to, a person in the highest authority. Some say he's even supposed to be the country's moral leader. Yet, here he was, in an enlightened society where sexual harassment and discrimination are not tolerated in business, using the trappings of his very powerful elected office to find sexual gratification in an "inappropriate relationship."
What about Hillary and Chelsea, the "two people he loves most?" He isn't a single man pursuing romantic activities as part of a longer courtship, but a married man "hitting" on a young girl barely older than his teenage daughter. The encounters didn't even happen in a "private" place, but rather in one of the most public buildings in America, the home taxpayers provide for our top leader.
The President has asked us collectively to close the book on the investigation. He said that what he has done is private. "It's nobody's business but ours." Which, of course, is just not true. What the President does extramaritally is all of our business. And he should know better than anyone. After all, he's a student of this country's history. Part of that history tells us many of our Presidents have been philanderers. John Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson. Even Ike is said to have carried on with his secretary during the war. So, does that make it okay to fool around outside of marriage if you're the President? Certainly not any more. Times have changed. The Presidency has changed. And Bill Clinton, as a student of history, should know that. He should know that President Carter was castigated for just thinking about "lusting." At least one other leading candidate for his job was forced to drop out of the race when his philandering became public knowledge. There was a time when Presidents were allowed private lives, when "inappropriate relationships" were tolerated. That day has passed. No matter what freedom his predecessors enjoyed in their private lives, Bill Clinton should know that the President now lives under a microscope. You fool around, you're going to get caught. And that, quite frankly, is highly inappropriate behavior for the President of the United States.
Unfortunately, we've become accustomed to the dwindling supply of real heroes in our country. To learn that the President of the United States is no better than a bunch of people we might know-who cheat on their wives and then lie about it-might be disappointing, but it's become par for the course. Besides, things are too good otherwise. The economy is strong. Employment's at an all-time high. The Cold War is over. The U.S. is recognized by most countries as the most powerful nation on earth. Into that context, a little adultery by the President-even lying about it-might be embarrassing. If not forgivable, it's forgettable. And certainly not impeachable.
Unfortunately, that's the bottom line in all of this. Congress-both parties seem very upset by the President's revelations. Our own Congressman Ray LaHood stated the office of the presidency has gone as low as it can go-we think. But as political beings, our elected officials do what the people want them to do. And it's unlikely, in times that are so good, that the people will want to impeach the man that many of them credit with creating the good times.
During this President's tenure, parents have had to turn off the national news in front of their young children, suggesting all of "adult" interests are R-rated. Teachers want to avoid current event topics involving the leader of our country for fear of bringing up side discussions of semen or oral sex, and even family values.
There are ways of holding CEO's accountable to such behavior in the business world-they'd be terminated. But we predict that those of us who are more than upset about this will get no satisfaction in the days ahead-if ever. Nonetheless we can do two things: we can keep the heat turned up on this President so that he continues to regret his past actions; and, we can dedicate ourselves to ensuring that future Presidents have enough moral character not to make a mockery of the institution of marriage. If we hope to teach our children that lies and immoral behavior are not acceptable-whether at home, in our businesses, or in our government-then it's critical that we not make a mistake in the polling booth again. IBI