Hillary Clinton, her ambitious eye on the presidential prize in 2016, is said to be livid – LIVID – at comparisons drawn between Huma Abedin, one of Mrs. Clinton’s chief aides before she retired as Secretary of State, and First Lady Clinton during her husband’s groping and pawing years as president.
About 15 years ago, First Lady Hillary stood in defense of her beleaguered husband – despite her claims that she was no “stand by your man,” Tammy Wynette marriage rug – when jackals in the media were lobbing moral stink bombs at the inoffensive Bill. Abedin has appeared at her husband’s campaign rallies standing by her man, arms rigidly at her side, unsmiling.
To be sure, there are important differences between Huma’s and Hillary’s public humiliations.
Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of New York, while Bill, during the Monica Lewinsky years, was a sitting president. Mr. Weiner has given no indication of presidential ambitions, and there are some commentators who believe, quite apart from his moral imperfections, that Mr. Weiner had not yet acquired the right presidential stuff.
So then, right off the bat, the status and stature differences are significant. The First Lady slot is a position more exalted than that of the wife of a prospective mayor. In keeping with Bill’s superior status while in office, his satyriasis was more riotous, and his disposition to tell stretches while under oath was exceedingly refined; so much so that, two months after the Senate failed to convict him, he was held in civil contempt of court by Judge Susan Webber Wright. The president’s license to practice law was suspended in Arkansas for five years, a judgment upheld by the United States Supreme Court, and he was fined $90,000 for giving false testimony.
There are, as well, unfortunate similarities between the wives of the two stricken politicians. Both had hitched their wagons to unruly political steeds. The ruling political presumption concerning ambitious married politicians who stray, transcending the social mores that tie lesser mortals to their solemn vows, is that both sexual and political energy spring from the same source, a substantially impacted ego.
The force that through the green fuse drives the political flower and the irresistible devilish nudges that caused Bill Clinton to grope women – unsuccessfully attempting, at least on one occasion according to a molested victim, the rape of a grieving widow in the White House kitchen -- are one and the same. In the Freudian view, most cigars are subtle sublimations; moral and immoral energy have the same parentage.
This view is little more than a plea before the throne of a pre-Christian Pan in defense of sexual libertinism. It expunges “sin” through a murderous assault on the will of men and women. If we are all helplessly in thrall to erotic urges, there can be no commanding instructions from the moral sense to the will. If we are, as some moral philosophers now insist, little more than fleshy robots, our “choices” are hard-wired into us, and we are no more responsible for them than for the color of our eyes or the curl in our hair. Without free will, freedom as well as “sin” is a philosophical categorical error. And so we tiptoe toward Christian forbearance in the shoes of a Freudian determinism every bit as commanding and controlling as Calvinistic predestination.
Concerning Weiner, there are two questions before the house: 1) Should his faithlessness be forgiven by voters; and 2) should he be running for mayor of New York? The answer to both questions will depend on whether voters think they are fleshy robots moved about in the world by little understood psychic forces. Ultimately, New Yorkers will decide what kind of a mayor and world they want. We are inclined to condemn the sin and forgive the sinner, but forgiveness does not inescapably entail the casting of votes for sinners.
Both Hillary and Abedin have problem husbands. In Hillary’s case, not all the ghost of infidelities past have been safely interred. Like deathless vampires, they rise from their midnight coffins. Most recently, a 26 year-old tape thought to be safely lost was recovered for posterity. The lead in a story that appeared in Britain’s “Mail on Line” reads: “'I could take all my clothes off': Never-before-heard tape released of ‘Monica Lewinsky pleading with Bill Clinton to meet her.’”
The tape is a record of the cooings of Lewinsky to then President Bill. It is, of course, embarrassing; but then shameless politicians quickly recover from these moments, sometimes far in advance of the people they urge to vote for them.