Culture

How Bill Clinton Stole a Generation's Innocence

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At a Shabbat (Sabbath meal) this past week, conversation veered into the political realm, as it often does when my husband and I are guests. We began to discuss the likelihood of Hillary Clinton running, the papers recently unearthed by my former colleague Alana Goodman, and about how Bill’s wandering eye could impact Hillary’s campaign. Around the table were three young people, ranging in age from about 9-17. Adult participants in the conversation soon realized that it was impossible to conduct a conversation about the Clintons with children present, and soon, the mother (rightfully) asked for a complete change in subject. Before doing so we reflected how sad it is that a president’s legacy cannot truthfully be discussed with innocent ears listening.

For how long can this mother shield her children from the topic? If Hillary runs, perhaps only a few more months. With the Clintons back in the news, pundits will be (and should be) discussing how ready America is to relive the sex scandals of the ’90s. Anyone who believes that Bill has learned his lesson need only look to Anthony Weiner to understand that old dogs can’t, and won’t, learn new tricks. Bill’s wandering eye, both in the past and, in all likelihood, the future, will be a topic of conversation for as long as a Clinton occupies the White House.

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The conversation led me to reminisce about how my own understanding about marriage and sexuality was shaped during my childhood by the scandal. Bill Clinton taught me about sex, about truth, and about politics. Do I really want to have the same conversations with my children that my mother had to have with me? These were some of the many questions my poor mother (and all of her friends) had to grapple with:

Mommy, what are they saying Bill and Monica did exactly?
Mommy, what did Bill do with that cigar?
Mommy, do all daddies do that with ladies that aren’t their mommies?
Mommy, is Chelsea okay? Is she allowed to be mad at her daddy? Does she have to be?
Mommy, why does this cartoon in the paper show Monica under the desk?
Mommy, what did they find on the blue dress?
Mommy, what does “is” mean? Isn’t he smarter than I am?

Before I had children, I often reflected on how interesting it would be to see a scandal like Clinton’s play out now, in an era of 24/7 cable news and Twitter. Now that I have a daughter, I pray something like the Lewinsky drama never emerges while my children are as young and impressionable as I was. The scandals may not hurt Hillary if she runs, but they will all be rehashed, exposing an entirely new generation to the conversation. For the sake of parents and children everywhere, let’s hope that our kids can keep their innocence longer than I was able to. For that to happen, let’s hope Hillary decides to sit out 2016.

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Images via: Gateway Pundit; Beer, Motorcycles and Cigars