August 20, 2018
A bit of American History: Nixon, Clinton and Trump
Twenty years ago last Friday, President Bill Clinton testified before the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, and a grand jury about his sexual relationship with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
That night, Clinton addressed the nation, in which he confessed:
I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible. But I told the grand jury today and I say to you now that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action. I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.
The Triangle–Hillary, Bill and Monica
It was a clear admission, even if offered under duress and after the option to lie had vanished, and even if still splitting some hairs.
Months earlier, Clinton had bluntly said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time. Never. These allegations are false, and I need to go back to work for the American people.”
Days after Clinton made his admission, Donald Trump gave an interview to Chris Matthews in which he said of Clinton:
I think his little speech after it was a disaster. It wasn’t the right tone, and I’m not sure he should have done it. And, I’m not even sure that he shouldn’t have just gone in and taken the Fifth Amendment, and said: “Look, I don’t get along with this man, Starr. He’s after me. He’s a Republican.” He’s this, he’s that, and you know, just taken the Fifth Amendment. It’s a terrible thing for a president to take the Fifth Amendment, but he probably should have done it.
Donald Trump made clear then his approach to dealing with these sorts of problems: Admit nothing, confess nothing, deny everything, attack the person pursuing you.