Hillary Clinton had a problem on Jan. 21, 1998, the day the Washington Post broke the story of Monica Lewinsky: She had to make sure her husband stayed in office.
Despite her personal pain at his betrayal — and there was undoubtedly great pain — she couldn’t both publicly defend Bill and admit that she knew of the affair with the White House intern. To be credible in protecting her husband, she had to deny knowledge. And now she needs to keep up the story.
Hillary’s formula for defending herself and Bill had always been to challenge their accusers to prove their charges. In sexual cases, it always boiled down to his word against her word and no proof was possible.
Did Hillary believe her husband’s denials? Come on. Get real. If Winona Ryder were caught running out of Bloomingdale’s clutching an Armani dress with neither a receipt nor a bag, would you assume she hadn’t shoplifted?
When Bill told Hillary that all he was doing with Monica was “ministering to a troubled young girl,” how on earth was the First Lady supposed to believe him? When he added that she was blackmailing him, demanding that he have sex with her, or she’d go public claiming to have had sex with him, could a reasonable, sane person possibly buy his story? No.
Yet in her new book Hillary insists she had no inkling that her husband had lied to her about Monica until the day before his grand-jury testimony.
To buy this latest episode of Hillary’s Fables, you’d have to accept that she believed him even after semen was found on Monica’s blue dress — and after the FBI took a sample of his DNA, two weeks before his grand-jury testimony.
You’d have to be a fool to buy all that. As I told the grand jury, Bill Clinton was truthful, if abstruse, with me in late January, 1998, when the story first came out about his affair with Monica. “Ever since I got to the White House I’ve had to shut myself down, sexually I mean,” he said. “But I screwed up with this girl. I didn’t do what they said I did, but I did do something and I may have done enough so that I can’t prove my innocence.”
It took me months to deduce from the public evidence that this circumlocution was intended to deny sexual intercourse but affirm oral sex. But if he told me, he probably told his wife way back then.
The fact is that Hillary and Bill have had a relationship based on a sick cycle of accusation-denial-admission-reward for decades. He is accused of an affair. He denies it. He admits it when he has no choice. Hillary forgives him and then Bill showers gifts upon her in gratitude. For putting up with Gennifer Flowers and going on 60 Minutes to “stand by her man,” she got control of health-care policy. For Monica, she got a Senate seat. Some guys give necklaces, some give Senate seats.
Bill Clinton had been a serial adulterer for their entire marriage, as everybody with half a brain knows.
In 1988, he called me and said that he and Hillary were considering divorce and he had to get away from her for a while. I offered him my house in Key West, Fla.
Right before the 60 Minutes show during the 1992 campaign, he called for my advice and I suggested that he admit and apologize for the adultery with Flowers and he said “If I did that, I’d have to find a new place to live.”
In 1995, reviewing his testimony in the fraud trial of Susan McDougal, he asked me how he should handle his “relationship” with her. I said: “If you had sex with her, admit it. Don’t perjure yourself. We can always undo the political damage, but we can’t undo the legal damage.” He nodded.
For Hillary to pretend injured innocence at this point has only one motive: She needs to somehow justify her strident public defense of her husband.
She can’t admit the truth: that she defended him because she didn’t want him forced from office — ending both their political careers — because he’d been unfaithful to her.
Hillary, give us a break.
— Dick Morris, an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years, is author, most recently, of Off with Their Heads : Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business.