Will America tolerate another Monica Lewinsky?

A commenter alerted me to the new scandal kicking into high gear, this one about Kerry’s alleged adulterous affair with an intern he then urged to leave the country. Just like last time, this is being fueled by Matt Drudge, in an article punctuated with explanation points and clearly designed to get the press pack salivating.

Is this a lurid Republican smear job? Andrew Sullivan says it looks that way, and quotes an email from a reader that he says speaks for manyu Americans:

“Now, after all this, it appears that the conservative/Republican diaspora is preparing yet another round of peeping-tom character assassination rather than a substantive debate on the very important issues our country actually faces, using Drudge as its point-man. I just can’t take it anymore. I realize the feelings of one person are irrelevant in political calculations at this level, but if the Republicans really do take us back down the Lewinsky path, this is one vote they will most assuredly be losing in November.”

Sullivan: I agree. If the Republicans are behind this, they deserve to be trashed. This is absolutely not something that deserves to be a factor in our current debate.

After it came out that everyone condemning Clinton for adultery had also had extramarital affairs, you’d think they would want to steer clear of this can of worms. It will be fascinating to see how far this goes and whether it backfires.

The Discussion: 22 Comments

Judging by the speed with which the bogus Botox smear was propagated by the usual transmitters (if you’ll excuse a bit of Orcinus-speak), it will go very far indeed.

And, as much as I’d like to think it will backfire, I’m afraid it probably won’t. Mudslinging works. And it sells lots of papers.

February 13, 2004 @ 7:51 am | Comment

Go over to Atrios and see the National Enquirer article he links to about GWB. One good smear deserves another.

February 13, 2004 @ 8:00 am | Comment

Richard, the odds are great that this is a hatchet job by Democratic opponents of Kerry. In what were supposed to be off-the-record comments, Clark reportedly told reporters last week that Kerry had an “intern problem.” If true, he probably got his info from the same source as Drudge. Mickey Kaus and others seem to think Chris Lehane would be a good guess.

It is far too early for the GOP to be spreading these rumors.

February 13, 2004 @ 8:28 am | Comment

Ronin, the first source for me was Andrew Sullivan, and I was echoing his post and his fear that this was the Repubs’ doing. You may be right, and I’ve already read on some blogs that this looks like an inhouse job. As I learn more, I’ll post about it.

February 13, 2004 @ 8:36 am | Comment

Thanks, Richard. After I wrote that, I was thinking that this was pretty well-placed to impact the Wisconsin primary, if it gets widespread attention over the weekend.

Enough time to develop the appearance of a sordid story but not enough time to really sort out the details (and examine the motivation of the source).

February 13, 2004 @ 8:46 am | Comment

Well … there is a famous quote which I thought of a lot when Clinton was president … but it can equally be applied to Bush and (possibly) to Kerry.

“In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

It can be taken in so many ways. I just love it. ๐Ÿ™‚

February 13, 2004 @ 9:26 am | Comment


You totally misstate Sullivan’s conclusions. The first candidate to mention this publically was Wes Clark and its leak to Drudge apparently has Chris Lahane’s fingerprints all over it.

There is no evidence whatsoever linking this to the Republicans although, there’s some rough justice in the fact that Kerry, who tried to make hay of gutter attacks regarding Bush’s NG service, now gets pulled into the gutter himself.

Finally, if a married candidate committs adultery, and secretly fucks interns, is that a legitimate campaign issue? After all the turmoil such clandestine tomcatting caused the country under Clinton, how can anyone say it isn’t.

Were I screwing the interns at my lawfirm, they’d justifiably fire my ass. Why should a politician not have to show similar restraint and sound judgement?

February 13, 2004 @ 11:41 am | Comment

For the record, it seems that a version of this story appeared on a blog a week ago. According to NRO the person who operates Watchblog, Cameron Barrett, works for Clark.



February 13, 2004 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

I don’t think I misstated Sullivan’s remarks, and the NRO came down on him way harder than I did. Sullivan is now backing down, rather pusillanimously, from his original post where he “worries” that a Republican started the smear campaign. (“Well, I never said I thought the Republicans started it, I just said I was worried about it.”)

“Finally, if a married candidate commits adultery, and secretly fucks interns, is that a legitimate campaign issue?”

Intern or not, if she is above the age of consent, I would tend to say no, it is NOT a campaign issue. We heard all about Hyde and Livingston and everyone else fucking around. It is no one’s business. I care about how they will run the country. Other president’s, like Roosevelt, fucked on the job and still ran the country just fine.

The AWOL issue is not gutter politics. If you do not see how the president is breaking his word about releasing all his records and failing to answer the questions about it, then I’m afraid I can’t help you. Why is it relevant? Because Top Gun George made it a part of his campaign, becuase he talked about his being a pilot as an example of his devotion to God and country. If’d he’d kept his fucking mouth shut and didn’t try to use it as proof of his big balls and steel nerves and military background this would be a dead issue;. But it was Bush who brought it to the forefront on more than one occasion. And I have bad news for you: It’s not going away. And I know, this new intern story isn’t going away either. I know how the game works once the media smell blood. And maybe I’ll join your side and condemn Kerrey — but for now, i don’t know a fucking thing about it, except for a very unspecific piece from Matt Drudge, that most illustrious journalist who has been wrong plenty of times in the past.

Sorry for using the F word so much, but being brought back to the impeachment days makes me f’ing disgusted with American politics.

February 13, 2004 @ 12:15 pm | Comment

Regarding where the story broke — I read it first from a commenter, Brian, on my blog, which led me to Drudge; the next thing I saw was Sullivan’s post. It may have started on someone’s blog, but it sure didn’t become a national issue until Matt Sludge picked up the ball and ran with it.

February 13, 2004 @ 12:22 pm | Comment

Sexual relationships with subordinates are almost inherently unethical. Adultery is revealing of character. Clandestine sexual affairs are, by their very nature, potentiall compromising. Such entanglements, if docivered, are damaging to public figures and the ability to conform ones behavior to aviod dangerous situations is the essence of good judgment and self restraint.

Tell me again why Kerry secretly committing adultery with an intern while he harbored ambitions for the presidenct, if true, is not relevant and not something the voters are entitled to take into account in deciding if he is fit to be president.

Are you asserting that intelligence, honesty, trustworthyness, subjectability to blackmail, judgement and self disciplne are not important character traits in a president?

Are yoiu suggesting that this stupid behavior, if true, doesn’t call into question every one of those qualities?

If this is not true, whoever is responsible for this — D or R — should be crucified. If it is true, Kerry it is relvant and the voters have a right to know and consider it before making a decision.

February 13, 2004 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

Okay, I won’t deny that if true it is an example of poor judgement, especially doing it in a way that resulted in his getting caught. For now, I don’t even know what the “it” is. That won’t stop me from geting disgusted at the American press’ — and the public’s — lurid obsession with all things sexual, be it Jon Benet Ramsey or Paris Hilton or Bill Clinton. Yeah, it may be bad judgement. Is it so bad, this single thing, that we should not vote for him? That’s for each of us to decide. Just as with Clinton, my attitude here would be, if it’s true, that the guy made a fucking stupid mistake and used unpardonably poor judgement, but it has to be kept in perspective. Is this Kerry’s defining moment? Is it all we should consider? Does it nullify the good things he has done? Does it really matter? Each of us will have to decide; for me, as with Clinton, I don’t see it as the end of the world.

We tend to let sexsational gossip like this overshadow that which truly matters. Should more noise be made about this than about the suppression of evidence in the investigation of 911? Or of Bush’s gutting the US economy? These are, to me, examples of real irresponsibility.

Yes it was irresponsible, if true, but already, you are talking as though an irresponsible decision in his personal life invalidates him as a leader. We can find lots of irresponsibilities in Bush’s life, even an allegation of an affair during the 2000 election campaign. Should all things grind to a halt because of a lurid rumor? Should we all turn our spears at Bush becuase of a National Enquirer article about his alleged impropriety? No, I really don’t think so.

February 13, 2004 @ 1:07 pm | Comment

I believe the Republican would do the smear after the nomination. That would be more effective and more timely and more damaging. Now Kerry would have weathered the storm and it would be old news in the general election. I think it is the squeaky clean Edwards, who bragged about being a Clinton acolyte.

February 13, 2004 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

Given his wife’s very strong public views on infidelity (involving “maiming”), her fortune, and his having signed a pre-nuptual agreement — if he did this, he’s too friggin’ stupid to be president.

A $500 million shag?!?

BTW, have you heard this one yet:

Dated Dean, married Kerry, he cheated on me and I hired Edwards Esq.

February 13, 2004 @ 2:19 pm | Comment

Conrad, if those things are all true, I’ll probably end up agreeing with you. Let’s watch the big mess unfold….

February 13, 2004 @ 3:06 pm | Comment

Conrad, just for the record, here’s what your friend IP has to say:

“I have to say that, to me, how Kerry would do on the war is a lot more important than what (er, or who) he’s doing in the sack.”

February 13, 2004 @ 3:12 pm | Comment


I’ve already stated that Kerry is not only unacceptable to me on defense issues but so unacceptable that I’ll hold my nose and vote for Bush.

On the other hand, I doubt that I’d ever vote for a man for president who fucks around on his wife. If one is willing to break the most profound promise/committment of their life and risk deeply hurting the their wife and children (if any) it shows, at least to me, someone who is narcissistic, dishonest and has appalling judgment.

If someone wants to fuck around, they ought the have the decency to do what I’ve done and stay single. Otherwise, keep it zipped.

February 13, 2004 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

This is a pandora’s box of a topic Conrad. I’ll just say that adultery seems so common among married men as to almost be the norm. I know you wouldn’t understand this, but a lot of men think with their dicks — damned shame, but it’s certainly true. It seems that for nearly every hero we cherish, it comes out (often after they’ve died) that they had committed adultery. From Thomas Jefferson to FDR to a very, very, very long list of others. I really believe the isue should be left out of politics; I find it irrelevant, although I understand your viewpoint. To me it is simply unrealistic; too many guys do it.

February 13, 2004 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

Richard I think with my dick. Hell, I’m about the worst offender I know for that. It’s a bit troubling how much of my life revolves around seduction and getting laid. As a complete and total “horn-dog”, I understand the urge completely.

Sex is great. And, to my thinkng, lots of sex with lots of partners is better.

But, feeling that way, I have stayed single. That’s the cost of fucking around. If you want to be a responsible presidential candidate and husband of an heiress, the price is, No More Strange!

If you want to be a tomcat, the price is no wife and family.

Setting aside celibacy, open relationships and being gay, a man is faced with two and onlytwo acceptable options — playing the field and staying single or settling down and being monogamous. Each has its costs and benefits, but I have nothing but contempt for those who want the benefits of both while eschewing the costs of either.

If a man promises his wife he’ll be faithful, then breaking that promise is a dishonorable act. Being horny doesn’t justify cheating anymore than being greedy justifies stealing.

February 13, 2004 @ 4:31 pm | Comment

You know, of course, that I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek when I wrote “I know you wouldn’t understand this, but a lot of men think with their dicks .”

Okay, what you say is all good and true in theory. But the fact remains that many (most?) men fuck around after they get married. Some maybe just once, some never, but from all I’ve heard and read, having an affair is so commonplace that when Henry Hyde admitted he’d done it too, nobody flinched. Hell, it’s the subject of just about every novel in the bookstore. No where do you address this fact that, moraally reprehensible though it may be, Kerry is just one of countless married men, including some of our very greatest leaders, who have had extramarital affairs — if this rumor even turns out to be true. It didn’t make Thomas Jefferson any less of a founding father, or Bill Clinton any less of an effective and beloved president. (Ironically, Clinton’s popularity only increased with the growing scandal. I believe many Americans symapthized as they witnessed a man being crucified for what was admittedly a terrible lapse in judgement, yet something of which so many of us are guilty.)

February 13, 2004 @ 4:47 pm | Comment

Except that screwing around did make Clintion a less effective president. The entire second half of his second term was shot to hell because he couldn’t keep it zipped.

To take this question a step further, do you think the male difficulty with monogomy that you describe is relevant in the debate regarding gay marriage?

The major difficulty that I have with the idea of gay marriage is, assuming most men are like me — and experience leads me to assume that they are, what is the likelyhood of faithful, monogomous, long-term relationships without a woman’s restraining influence? And, if gay male marriages are widely not longterm and monogomous, does that threaten the institution of marriage itself.

It’s simply hard for me to imagine having a monogomous commitment if my partner had the same tendency to play around as me. I figure the likelyhood of one or both screwing around would be exponentially greater (actually, I figure it would be a certainty). Indeed, I suspect that, were I gay and in a relationship, it wouldn’t be long before we reached a mutual agrement to allow at least a certain amount of that sort of thing.

Am I missing something? Does it not matter? Were that the case, would it impact the institution of marriage as a whole?

February 13, 2004 @ 6:39 pm | Comment

First, I don’t think Clinton’s loose zipper was what affected his second term so much as the media’s totally uncalled for coverage of it. Coverage that in earlier presidencies would not have been considered. Back then the media knew the president was screwing around, but it went without saying that you didn’t cover it. It would be rude and unseemly. It never had to be an issue; Kenneth Star made it one. But let’s not fight about this; entire books have been written about it, and we won’t resolve it.

Gay marriage. I believe those men who would go out of their way to get married would almost certainly be the types to be faithful and monogamous, at least most of the time. And they exist. Unfortunately, gays have been free to be themselves for only a relatively short time in America, and there is still a lot of sexual immaturity out there. Thus the notorious partying of the pre-AIDS days. Anyone inclined to play like that today — and there are lots — would almost certainly have no interest in getting married.

I have posted very little on the topic of gay marriage because I’m not convinced the world is ready for it. But I am convinced that those who would take the trouble to fight for it and to get married would make excellent spouses, and would in no way threaten heterosexual marriage. I know a few of these myself, and their love and faithfulness are inspirational. Since they are men, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they succumb to a moment of temptation and fool around — but I think that’s the norm for married straight men as well. And it’s not changing; it’s the nature of the beast.

February 13, 2004 @ 8:13 pm | Comment

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