Bill Clinton's Legacy

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: Jun 08, 2011 10:22 PM
I have thus far declined to comment in detail on the Weiner scandal, as its tawdry and embarrassing details should speak for themselves.

Weiner's refusal to resign -- even after tweeting his private parts most likely even to women who showed no interest in them -- tells us everything we need to know about Anthony Weiner's character.  Whether Democrats (and Americans at large) accept with equanimity his refusal to resign will tell us a lot about the character of our country.

There's no doubt that Bill Clinton permanently debased the standards of American politics, not only by his sexual conduct but by refusing to resign thereby forcing his party to defend him and his behavior thereafter.  That, in fact, is his primary legacy.  Because President Clinton -- who received oral sex from a young intern in the Oval Office while discussing American troops in Bosnia -- declined to do the decent thing and step aside, and his party declined to force him to do so, it became thinkable (for Democrats at least) for politicians to engage in all sorts of tawdry conduct while expecting to retain their jobs on the public payroll.

Having seen a President conscript his wife and much of his Cabinet into spreading his lies (with or without their knowledge, we'll never entirely know), it's not too shocking that Anthony Weiner would try the same thing (but kudos to Kirsten Powers, for refusing to play along).

No doubt Bill Clinton's policies look better than ever when contrasted with Barack Obama's.  But there's no doubt that he left a stain (no pun intended) on the presidency and on American politics.  How Americans respond to Weiner-gate will reveal whether sordid conduct has become a new (though deplorable) norm, or whether we will begin to re-establish the idea that politicians of both parties are supposed to be the people's servants, NOT immune to the basic considerations of decency that we would require from any other person who works for (or with) us.