Hillary Clinton appears to have skipped this season of Slow Burn, claiming in a CBS interview on Sunday that Bill Clinton did not abuse his position of power when he had an affair with then-intern Monica Lewinsky. Why? Because Lewinsky “was an adult” at the time.
Clinton sat down with “Sunday Morning” correspondent Tony Dokoupil, who asked if she agreed with critics like Kirsten Gillibrand, who recently said she thought Bill should have stepped down at the time. Clinton said she did “[a]bsolutely not” think her husband should have resigned, and when Dokoupil asked if she thought it constituted an abuse of power, Clinton said no, noting that Lewinsky “was an adult” when she and Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship.
It is true that Lewinsky was over the age of 18 at the time. It is true that she technically entered the affair consensually. It is also true that there have been many powerful men who have struck up similar affairs with young women who worked under them, and that office affairs do not necessarily legally fall under the umbrella of sexual misconduct. It is also true that Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton, that wives are not required to answer for their husband’s lechery, and that it’s a lot easier for Gillibrand to say Bill Clinton should have resigned than it is for Hillary to say it.
But it is also true that if you insist on being a strong voice for women in 2018, it’s on you to recognize where we are and where we’re trying to go. One of the most important things the #MeToo movement does is look at how misbalances in power complicate the Venn diagram comprising Legal and Wrong. The line between consent and coercion fuzzes when one of the consenting parties is a 22-year-old White House intern and the other is a 50 something-year-old President of the United States.
You can argue (if you must) that Bill Clinton’s abuse of power wasn’t damning enough to mandate he cede the presidency, but if you can’t see how Lewinsky’s legal age means jack shit in this context, then don’t bother saying anything at all.