The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Lewinsky Scandal and Media Bias

Posted on | December 19, 2020 | 1 Comment

My American Spectator colleague Melissa Mackenzie provides a walk down memory lane exposing the media’s partisan double standard:

For a damaging story about a Democrat to be true, DNA must be found on a blue dress. There must be Blue Dress Proof™. It’s not enough to have a witness and a victim. It’s not enough to have a computer, a cache of validated emails, thousands of affadavits signed under the threat of perjury. There must be actual DNA, videotaped evidence. If the bad guy is a Democrat, there must be Blue Dress Proof.
For a damaging story about a Republican to be true, nothing has to be true at all. Third-hand hearsay about hookers and pee, a smile on a face, or a sarcastic tweet or phrase taken out of context can make even the most absurd conclusion be portrayed as fact and conveyed as truth in perpetuity. If the bad guy is a Republican, no proof is needed. . . .

Read the whole thing. The Lewinsky scandal erupted two months after I arrived in D.C. as an assistant editor at The Washington Times, and I have vivid memories of how that went down. What happened was that Clinton’s first finger-wagging denial — “I did not have sex with that woman” — was a tactic used to buy time while his spin doctors went to work devising a message that could enable him to survive the scandal when, inevitably, it was revealed that Clinton was guilty as hell.

A basic element of the Team Clinton strategy was to confuse the issue, to persuade middle-of-the-road voters that the scandal was “just about sex,” to distract from the obstruction-of-justice claim related to the Paula Jones civil-rights lawsuit. Whatever your opinion about Paula Jones, or the wisdom of the Supreme Court decision allowing her lawsuit against Clinton to go forward, once Clinton decided to litigate the case (rather than to pay Jones a settlement), the plaintiff had a right to truthful testimony in the case. Lawyers for Jones, tipped off by Linda Tripp about Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, subpoenaed Lewinsky’s testimony. Team Clinton then (a) arranged through one of Clinton’s donors for Lewinsky to get hired at the New York offices of Revlon, and (b) dispatched Clinton’s lawyer Vernon Jordan to have Lewinsky sign a false affidavit, denying any sexual activity with the president and saying she couldn’t attend a deposition because she had moved to New York.

This was straight-up obstruction of justice and suborning perjury and, among other things, Bill Clinton was disbarred as a result. But because of Team Clinton’s media spin — “It’s just about sex! Everybody lies about sex!” — most Americans never understood the real issue.

A series of court decisions had determined that plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases could use evidence that a “hostile work environment” existed because of a pattern of harassing behavior. Paula Jones, as an employee of the state of Arkansas, had been subjected to sexual advances from Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and suffered retaliation when she refused those advances. The reason Monica Lewinsky mattered was that the Jones lawyers were seeking to demonstrate that Bill Clinton made a routine practice of engaging in sexual affairs with female employees or with women he met as a result of his political position.

Personally, I take a dim view of the whole field of “sexual harassment” law. My essentially libertarian position is that employment is a matter of mutual agreement, and if an employee does not like workplace conditions — for whatever reason — the thing to do is to quit. Tell the boss “take this job and shove it,” and walk out the door. If you are a woman and your boss is a creepy womanizer (like Bill Clinton), there are many ways to deal with that problem without filing a lawsuit. Democrats, however, have embraced a theory of “employment rights” that turns practically every workplace grievance into a potential lawsuit, and “sexual harassment” cases like Jones v. Clinton have proliferated as a result.

Bill Clinton was elected with the avid support of feminists who had weaponized “sexual harassment” accusations in the 1991 Tailhook scandal, which wrecked the careers of several Navy officers, and certainly the Commander-in-Chief could not be exempted from this standard. The reason why Republicans repeatedly invoked “the rule of law” in the Lewinsky scandal was that Clinton was claiming that his obstruction of justice in the Paula Jones case — a crime which would have subjected any other citizen to imprisonment — did not “rise to the level of impeachment,” in the phrase popularized by Clinton’s surrogates.

Many of the same Democrats who supported impeaching President Trump over a phone call to the newly elected president of Ukraine claimed that Clinton was above the law when it came to obstruction of justice in the Paula Jones case. Why? Because “everybody lies about sex.”

Had it not been for the media furiously spinning in Clinton’s defense in 1998, he would have been forced to resign, because responsible journalists would have made clear what was at stake in this case. Professor Glenn Reynolds comments about the Lewinsky scandal:

“I think the Clinton/Lewinsky affair was a real turning point with the press. When it first broke, I remember Sam Donaldson saying that if it was true, obviously Clinton would have to resign. But within a few days the Democrats, very much including the press, had circled the wagons around Clinton and were willing to recycle any pro-Clinton talking point, and scoff at anything that hurt Clinton, in a way that was, at the time, unprecedentedly brazen.”

Indeed. And we are still paying the price.



One Response to “The Lewinsky Scandal and Media Bias”

  1. Nobody Cares | Rotten Chestnuts
    December 20th, 2020 @ 7:56 am

    […] McCain gives us a nice new meme: “Blue Dress […]