Until Kathleen Willey came along, President Clinton’s defenders defended
the indefensible by creating a new right: The president has the right to
do what he wants in his private life, which is none of the public’s
The argument was specious from the beginning. If we found out that the
president told racist jokes in private meetings with his friends, I
doubt the defenders would condone or excuse such behavior. There’s been
a price to pay for such private activity for people far less prominent
than the president. So, this argument was always a red herring. But, it
worked. The spinmeisters were successful in defining the presidency down
and persuading many Americans that the president had an inherent right
to use his position to chase skirts as he has been doing since he
entered public life.
But that excuse is wearing thin, to say the least, when it comes to
Kathleen Willey. Maybe Monica Lewinsky welcomed the president’s
inappropriate advances. But Kathleen Willey clearly did not.
So let’s not hear any more that the current investigation is about
Clinton’s private life. It began as an outgrowth of a sexual harassment
case filed by Paula Jones — an Arkansas state employee who says Gov.
Bill Clinton exposed himself to her. Kathleen Willey was a very
reluctant witness in that case. She went to court to try to avoid
tesitifying. If you read her deposition in the case, you can see she
didn’t gleefully volunteer any information. Extracting the information
from her was like pulling teeth for the Jones lawyers. Unlike some other
witnesses against the president, she had nothing to gain by going
public. She had to be dragged into the public arena.
Until Willey came along, the other great spin angle emanating from the
White House was that the president’s political enemies were behind all
of the lurid stories. It was difficult enough for the administration to
make that point with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern from a
prominent Democratic Party family. But it helped that Lewinsky would not
talk. Kathleen Willey is talking. And it will be impossible for the
White House to suggest she is part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
She and her late husband raised money for the Clinton campaign. They
donated their own money. She volunteered in his campaigns and at the
White House. She believed in him. And she was disappointed only by his
highly inappropriate behavior toward her.
It will be interesting to see if the creative staff over at the White
House can come up with a new spin to diminish the impact of the Willey
accusations. After attacking Linda Tripp’s credibility for the last few
months, will they attempt to rehabilitate her image and her story that
Willey came out of the meeting with Clinton in a giddy mood? Will they
dig up dirt on Willey from 30 years ago as they did with Tripp?
Even the feminist left appears to be deserting Clinton after the Willey
“This is not just sexual harassment,” said Patricia Ireland, president
of the National Organization for Women. “If it’s true, it’s sexual
assault. He put his hand on her breast, he put her hand on his erection.
This is a pretty serious charge if true. I think it’s a very big
problem,” she told CNN.
And let’s not forget the context of this incident: Willey was coming to
the president for a job. She was desperate. She was vulnerable. And she
needed help from the most powerful man in the world.
Until Willey emerged, the president’s accusers were somewhat anonymous.
Monica Lewinsky still has not provided even one interview since this
controversy broke. But Willey is a sympathetic figure who oozed
sincerity in her “60 Minutes” appearance this week.
Clinton cannot possibly win this fight. The only way he gets off the
hook is if Kenneth Starr and the Congress of the United States let him.
That would be a tragedy of immense proportions for our nation, for the
presidency, for justice and for the rule of law.