It would show that the popular former president understands humility.
Monica Lewinsky in Cannes, southern France, June 25, 2015.
PHOTO: LIONEL CIRONNEAU/ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Abby Ellin
March 5, 2018
In a new essay for Vanity Fair, Monica Lewinsky writes that although her relationship with Bill Clinton was consensual, she now realizes it was a “gross abuse of power” on his part. She’s right. And it’s time he apologized.
Yes, Mr. Clinton included her in a 1998 speech in which he asked forgiveness from “my family, my friends, my staff, my cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people.” But he never apologized for letting a young woman’s life crumble, for throwing her under the bus, for being a coward.
He should, even if it wouldn’t make up for the way she was portrayed as a tramp, a bimbo, “that woman,” or, in the words of Hillary Clinton, a “narcissistic Looney Tune.” Mr. Clinton was the grownup in the room—a room that also happened to be the Oval Office.
Whether she pursued him or he pursued her, he was the president of the United States.
Had it happened today, maybe Mr. Clinton would have resigned. Or maybe he would have done as David Letterman did when he admitted on national TV that he’d had affairs with staffers and apologized to his wife, family and employees. “And that is all I’m going to say about that,” he concluded. Mr. Letterman didn’t obfuscate, backpedal or claim to be “misunderstood.” He manned up, then dealt with a private matter privately. Today, no one associates Mr. Letterman with anything other than excessive facial hair.
Imagine what kind of message it would send if Mr. Clinton apologized today. It would show that a man—a powerful, brilliant man whom many Americans still revere—understands humility. It might even make other men acknowledge, and try to correct, their own shortcomings.
Mrs. Clinton could join in, too. She’s still standing by her man, and it has hurt her. “We have a man who is accused of sexual assault sitting in the Oval Office, don’t we?” she told radio host Rita Cosby, referring to Donald Trump. She’s right. But without acknowledging her own husband’s wrongful acts, her words are meaningless.
As a woman, a feminist and an American, I’d like to hear an apology. Forget politics; it’s about human decency and righting old wrongs. It’s about redemption, for the Clintons and Ms. Lewinsky. It’s about showing the current administration how adults behave.
“Forgiveness is a way of opening up the doors again and moving forward, whether it’s a personal life or a national life,” Mrs. Clinton once said. So is apology.
Ms. Ellin is author of “Duped,” forthcoming from Public Affairs in 2019.