Morality and the Clintons: Party Like It’s 1998

Morality and the Clintons: Party Like It’s 1998 July 6, 2016

Among all the conservative angst springing from the FBI’s decision not to recommend charges against presidential contender Hillary Clinton for her role in the email scandal while Secretary of State, I’ve been transported back to my college days.

In 1998 I had recently graduated high school and was into my second year at a conservative Christian university. When it came to issues like sexuality and sexual ethics, the lines were pretty clearly drawn and seemingly understood by the society at large. It was generally understood what did and did not constitute sex. And then the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit the front pages of the newspapers and dominated the headlines for an entire year. While Bill Clinton was attempting to stay in office, another, more subversive conversation was happening throughout the country, this one about sexual ethics. Was oral sex actually sex?

That seemingly inane question would make the difference between Clinton staying in office and being impeached, as he had testified under oath that he ‘did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.’ And yet there was seeming proof of at least some sexual activity. Shades of gray were thrown into what once was a black and white issue (oral sex was previously understood as sex, hence the term oral ‘sex’). Clinton ultimately won his argument, the lines of sexual ethics were blurred, and he maintained his office.

Meanwhile, millions of college students my age had just had a sex ed talk by the president where he declared oral sex fair game for everyone. I mean, if the president can do it and its okay, surely it must be okay, right? That’s what I’ll always remember from the Lewinsky scandal. Not the politics or the courtroom drama, but the shifting of the lines when it came to sexual purity.

All those memories were brought back this week as Hillary Clinton escaped the threat of imminent indictment but received a harsh verbal tongue lashing from the Director of the FBI himself. Apart from the legal ramifications, are there other conversations happening among our young people concerning ethics and what’s legally permissible? To maintain political hopes and dreams, are the lines of morality and ethics being shifted again?

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