Bill Clinton provides some #MeToo cover for Trump

Bill Clinton spoke May 9 during the Town & Country philanthropy summit on May 9.
Bill Clinton spoke May 9 during the Town & Country philanthropy summit on May 9.Bryan Bedder/Getty Images/File

BILL CLINTON just flunked the #MeToo re-emergence test.

He had sex with “that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Yet all these years later, he regrets nothing about the way he handled the painful fallout.

During an NBC interview about his just-released thriller, “The President is Missing,” Clinton was asked if the #MeToo movement is causing him to rethink the Lewinsky scandal. Spoiler alert: It isn’t. He doesn’t think he should have resigned and sees no need to apologize personally to Lewinsky. If Clinton feels sorry for anyone, it’s for himself. “I felt terrible then, and I came to grips with it. . . . And nobody believes that I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million in debt,” whined the former president.


With that, Clinton remains the gift that keeps on giving for President Trump — and a big problem for Democrats. Running against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump neutralized sexual harassment as a campaign issue by dragging Bill Clinton’s accusers into the spotlight. Now, with his how-dare-you-ask-me-about-Monica indignation, Clinton provides more bipartisan cover for Trump.

Between these two 71-year-old men, there’s no hint that either one understands the pain they inflicted on any woman who fell victim to their predatory behavior — or on their own wives or daughters. But as Clinton launches his book tour and plans to speak at a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, he gives Trump and his base the chance to decry “liberal” double standards when it comes to sexual misconduct.

And the Trump brigade has an unwelcome point. How can Democrats wag their fingers at Trump’s misbehavior if they are still willing to overlook Clinton’s? They can’t. It’s like howling over Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett while accepting Samantha Bee’s vulgar characterization of Ivanka Trump. No one should want to own Barr’s language — or Bee’s use of “the c-word.” But the pretzel-like rationalizing on the left continues with Bee and Clinton.


At least Bee apologized. Clinton shows no sign of understanding the cultural ground-shifting that has occurred as a result of the #MeToo movement, one that gives Lewinsky a voice and a platform. After enduring years of humiliation and trauma, the former White House intern is struggling to process the meaning of “consent” within the context of #MeToo: “He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experiences to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college,” she wrote for Vanity Fair. To her credit, Lewinsky also noted, “None of the above excuses me for my responsibility for what happened. I meet Regret every day.”

Compare that with Clinton’s tone-deaf response during the NBC interview. He scolds interviewer Craig Melvin for ignoring “gaping facts,” which he then fails to provide. “This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me,” he complains. And then, incredibly, he argues the sexual harassment policy he had as governor of Arkansas, in the 1980s, and the women who served as his chiefs of staff and in the attorney general’s office when he was in charge, represent the real Clinton story — as if that negates the chapter on Lewinsky.


With that, Clinton shows utter disregard for the lessons of #MeToo, not to mention the crux of the political problem he presents for Democrats. Whatever policies he promoted during his time in elected office run up against his own bad behavior.

For Democrats who say what about Trump, Clinton just showed why it’s a losing argument. They can’t embrace Clinton and go after Trump at the same time.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.