Prurient Americans (which, frankly are most of us) are waiting breathlessly for the release of Bill Clinton’s tell all book, My Life. Rest assured most of us will not start at Chapter One. Instead we will skip ahead to the part of the story where Monica Lewinski shows up. As you might expect many of the key details (from Clinton’s perspective) have already been disclosed. We learn that once Bill confessed his sins to Hillary he was in the doghouse. Apparently the First Lady can make the President of the United States spend two months sleeping on the couch. We learn that the whole family did counseling. Because we’ve seen snippets of Clinton’s interview with Dan Rather (scheduled to appear on 60 Minutes on Sunday) we learn that Bill dropped his pants for Monica “just because I could.”
It is doubtful that the book would sell quite as well if Clinton had kept his relationship with Ms. Lewinski wholly platonic. It is ironic that his human failing will cause sales of the book to climb into the stratosphere. For all the legal woes and bills inflicted upon him by Ken Starr and the vast right wing conspiracy during his years in office he may end up laughing all the way to the bank.
Clinton’s father died before he was born. He watched his stepfather repeatedly assault his mother. He learned very early to compartmentalize his feelings. He was hardly surrounded by role models during his upbringing. So in retrospect if he had a predisposition toward secrecy and trailer park trash it is perhaps not too surprising. It didn’t help that he was a fairly attractive guy, a terrific public speaker and a born extrovert. Add the title of President of the United States to his resume and if Ms. Lewinski was his only moral failing in office then I frankly give the guy some credit.
As a rule women other than my wife don’t fawn over me. But if I had a 21-year-old temptress willing to perform repeated acts of fellatio on me I doubt I would have held on very long. Most of us guys, when we are only with other guys and after a few beers will candidly admit we are more than capable of such indiscretions. Part of the male brain is wired toward infidelity. It takes repeated conscious effort to live up to our wives’ expectations. Fortunately for us we are rarely in positions of power. Most of us aren’t attractive like Bill Clinton. So his scenarios tend to be hypothetical for most married men. Because we are not alpha males it is easier for us to proclaim our undying commitment to our wives. It’s not that hard to be morally sanctimonious, at least in public, when others in the public spotlight succumb to temptation.
If there is an aspect to the whole sordid affair that really irks me though it is that we quickly resort to stereotypes. Bill was bad for straying. Hillary was good because she didn’t. Monica was a slut and would put out for any guy, not some star struck young lady with intimacy issues. That’s as deep as our thinking goes. Because Hillary held out and Bill didn’t, she is the one with the grievance. She was pure. Bill was Evil. End of public discussion.
This is balderdash. I’ll grant you that there are certain marriages where the wife can make a fairly convincing claim of innocence. We’ve all heard stories of husbands who repeatedly cheat on their wives. At the same time we repeatedly shake our heads wondering why the wives just don’t file for divorce or how they could be so clueless. I think in even the most egregious cases some fault lies on both parties. In the case of the chronically cheating husband the wife was probably more than a bit myopic going into the marriage in the first place.
I can cite the case of someone in my wife’s side of the family. He is roughly Bill Clinton’s age. At the time I first met him he was getting married for the second time. But by that time he had already fathered two children out of wedlock. His father repeatedly cheated on his mother. His father allegedly spent much of his adult life being verbally and physically abusive to them and wrapped up in an alcoholic haze. Wife Number Two was a woman who came from a family of some privilege and money. His wife didn’t learn about much of his sordid past until shortly before the marriage. Yet that did not seem to deter her from marrying him. I don’t know why she married him. Hopefully it was for love. But there were lots of alarm bells that should have gone off. There was one thing though: this in law is a really good-looking guy. We’re talking 9 on a 10 scale, at least. I can’t help but wonder if his looks overwhelmed her common sense. Anyhow, rest assured they have been divorced for some time. Eventually he strayed and hit the booze. She tried to patch things up, but it didn’t work out. He had mentally left the marriage years earlier. And now he is onto wife number three. Last I heard she was still a divorcee and not anxious to get remarried.
There is no way to know for sure the dynamics of the Clinton marriage. But I bet Hillary was more than a little star-struck by Bill. Certainly she knew Bill came from a dysfunctional family. She was likely attracted to him because he was handsome. But I bet part of the attraction was he gave the appearance that he could surmount his past. If so this was a naive assumption. She should have known better. The odds were that if she married Bill she would have many an episode of heartache. Warning flags were there and it appears she chose to ignore them.
Or maybe she figured she could change Bill. This is another one of those fatal mistakes often made by myopic women fixated on one particular guy. I’m guilty of it myself. I have learned the fallacy of this reasoning through the school of hard knocks. No one can ever change anyone. Personal change can only come from within.
Whatever the complex dynamic of the Bill and Hill relationship, Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinski was really a symptom of a larger dysfunctional marital relationship. Hillary was probably clueless. She shouldn’t have been clueless. If the relationship were at the deep enough intimacy level it most likely would not have happened. And if Hillary had reached that inner core of Bill Clinton’s being she would have known who he really was and perhaps never married him. For that she should shoulder some responsibility. I don’t know what kept her busy during the mid 1990s, but I have a feeling she should have spent much more private time with Bill. The work necessary to sustain a rich marriage gives the appearance of being postponed to revel in the thrills of power and prestige.
Hopefully as a result of this encounter their marriage now has that level of intimacy and connection it likely lacked. But somehow I am skeptical. Hillary is a senator and spends at least six days a week in Washington and away from her husband. It sounds like the pattern is repeating itself, except this time there is a role reversal. I hope there is no new Monica Lewinski in Bill Clinton’s future. He’s not quite the Alpha male he was now that he is out of power. But I wouldn’t be surprised if another one turned up in time.