Clinton and The Lewinsky Scandal
On January 17th, 1998, President Clinton videotaped a deposition for the Paula Jones lawsuit against him. December 19th, eleven months later, Bill Clinton became only the second president in our nation’s history to face impeachment from congress. The 1998-1999 was a tumultuous year for the President, the media, and the American people as a whole.
Yet, the most intriguing and surprising aspect of the scandal was not that Bill Clinton would ever cheat on his wife or that his administration would survive such a terrible scandal. Nor was it a revelation that the media would be zealously intrigued by a sex scandal involving the President. The one aspect of the Lewinksy Scandal that was truly interesting was the response of the public. Despite the knowledge that Clinton had an affair with an intern and probably lied about it, Clinton’s job approval rating did not decrease or even stay the same– his ratings rose to levels approaching 70%
Every time a new damning piece of evidence came to light, media pundits everywhere believed that Clinton’s ratings would fall. Yet, they were wrong. The Republican Party believed that the scandal would finally bring down Clinton and his popular support. They also were wrong and paid a considerable political price. How did this happen?
To help understand and explain this phenomenon, I will examine three political actors -- the President, the media, and the public – and their relationship with each other. I will discuss President Clinton’s past and his history of scandals. The way that each actor has dealt with Clinton’s scandal-ridden past has had an important effect on how each responded to and was affected by the Lewinsky Scandal. Each actor’s respective response to the scandal will be illustrated and then explained. While many explanations have emerged to explain or at least make sense of the Lewinsky scandal and its effect on politics, I believe that the best explanation lies in studying Clinton’s scandal-ridden past.
While it is too early to accurately judge the presidency of Bill Clinton, most would agree that he was successful in office. He was the first democrat to successfully be reelected since Franklin Roosevelt. Yet, when a sufficient amount of time has passed and historians attempt to categorize and analyze Bill Clinton’s presidency, his legacy will ultimately be tied to scandal. The numerous scandals that Clinton faced – and survived –were an important aspect of the Clinton presidency. On one hand, they showed the well-documented weakness of Clinton’s personal character – his infidelities, his evasiveness, and his lack of integrity. Yet, Clinton’s ability to survive these scandals are a true testament how politically cunning and brilliant the man was.
In examining the political life of Bill Clinton, five major scandals stick out: his draft record; Gennifer Flowers and Infidelity; the Marijuana controversy; Whitewater; the Lewinsky Affair. ...