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A: the American contradiction between morals and actions
B: reflection of what happened
1.1 the case
1.2 political procedures
2.1 the role of Kenneth Starr as the backbone of American morals
2.2 the role of the mass media
a.) creation of new standards
3.1 reactions of the rest of the world
a.) basic convictions
b.) letters to the editor
3.2 freedom of press vs. Individual freedom
C: personal conclusion
A.The American contradiction between actions and morals
American is not only the land of dreams, but also the land of contradictions. The racial problems between blacks and whites is only one of the many examples. There is no other country on earth where so many different attitudes come together, but the man has to ask the question: Is the USA still the country of unlimited possibilities? My personal findings were that Americans like to see themselves as most liberal and open to everything new, the fact that there are as much as 160 different congregations only proves my point. It is very true, most new things, especially in technology and science are most successful on American markets, due to their openness. But on the other hand moral values are still the same as the ones the Puritans brought over a couple of hundred years ago. The critical reader may reject right here. Yes, it is true, California is full of Strip Bars and American TV is only successful with a certain amount of bare skin. Laos is the average age at which youngsters lose their virginity a lot lower than elsewhere, but this is beside the point.
There is no doubt that religion and churches have major influences on the American people's behavior. Not only that preachers are literally the substitutes of God and Jesus Christ, but the Bible is also taken and interpreted very literally and conservatively. This is were American attitudes are born, and also where it is decided what is right and what is not. Talking about the gap between actions and convictions, this is where we have to look for the answer, if there is any. A high percentage of the population really do what they are told ( by JC). Of course there are others who believe in the independence of the human being, and at the same time supply the " out of the norm " groups with their ideas and convictions. Although they are a minority they are most influential among the American society. This fact can be easily proven with the development of the entertainment industry in the United States of America, which certainly is not without moral defects. Obviously there must be problems with the conservative groups who actually own the money, and who also are in control of the press.
Americans were shocked when they found about Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, but most of them tried to see it as a private matter of a man who happens to be the President of the United States. They strongly rejected what he did, but it was more of their concern that he was leading the country successfully.
Right here the problem has started. Conservative groups could not rest calmly knowing that there might be some people out there in the world who thought that it was not to be neglected what he did. The issue was puffed up to become a serious political crisis which put a whole nation on hold for weeks. All those conservatives had in mind was, to satisfy their strong calls for a clean appearance in the world.
They didn't want Clinton to get off, no matter what triggers they had to pull on him. The press treated him like a serial killer, and the sad thing was, he seemingly acted like one, too. He kept on apologizing for what he did, instead of acting like a person who takes responsibility for his actions. Instead of admitting to what he did, and be done with the whole issue, it was not possible to hear a complete confession from him for months, only when there was no way out, he had to come out with the " whole " truth. People did not want him to resign, but did not stop Congress from pushing forward impeachment procedures.
All these examples have the same basic pattern; they show the contradiction of what Americans think, and what Americans do. They act against their convictions, but are fine with it, they judge someone for committing a crime, but are guilty of the same thing. To understand the matter of how the Clinton - Lewinsky case reflects the American society, we have to keep this feature in mind.
No one could have expected that is was not the struggling peace process in the Middle East, nor the blurry situation in Eastern Europe, but a young White House intern who nearly brought the presidency of Bill Clinton to an end. That White House intern was Monica Lewinsky.
This name is equivalent to the biggest crisis in recent American politics.
Ms. Lewinsky came to the White House in 1995, thrilled by being so close to the most powerful man on earth., she started, as she later put it in her confession, " intense flirting", with the president. She later told relatives that the President seemed to be "attracted" to her, and that she also had feelings for him.
The beginning of their sexual relationship took place during the government shutdown in the fall of '95. Slowly but steadily their relationship developed and enlarged. First there were mostly short sexual encounters in the private study of the President, later also personal bounds arose. Clinton and Lewinsky talked frequently on the phone, and exchanged as many as at least 18 gifts.
Their relationship was not the real subject of the Starr investigation, because it rather seemed to be a private matter of the Clintons and not of the Justice Department. Starr's investigation aimed at the following: witness tampering, lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and last but not least abuse of power.
Of course when it became know that Lewinsky would have to testify in the Jones case, the President was worried that his on going affair with the White House intern would become public. His lawyers worked out an affidavit which stated clearly that there was no improper relationship between the President and M.L.. Ms. Lewinsky later signed the affidavit. At the same time Bill Clinton denied any rumors that he was involved with " that woman , Monica Lewinsky". Everything would have been all set now, if there wasn't Linda Tripp. Linda Tripp, also a witness in the Jones case, knew everything of the relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky. She was a mother-like of Monica and admitted to her that she was not going to lie under oath, when the court date started to approach. She still did not tell Lewinsky that her phone was wired by the FBI. After recording all the important information, she shortly handed over the tapes to Star, and from there one there was proof that Clinton had lied. Also Lewinsky was getting more and more in trouble because of the affidavit she had signed. Unlike Clinton she was useful to the Kenneth Starr, and that's why he offered her full immunity in exchange for a confession. At this point the investigation sped up tremendously. Clinton's theory of a "right wing conspiracy" was proven wrong, he wrongly testified under oath, there was no doubt, he had had an affair . This all did not seem enough for the American people to start to dislike Clinton, his approval ratings were never higher than at this point of his presidency. Clinton again had to testify , this time he admitted: " that the affair with Ms. Lewinsky was wrong", and also apologized publicly: " I have sinned" ( NW, Sept 21,1998). Now , the Starr report was released, which clearly aimed at the impeachment of Bill Clinton, describing in detail all the sexual encounters Clinton had with Lewinsky, rather than stressing the legal point of view. Recently, in late October of '98, the House voted 258 - 176 to open an impeachment inquiry. Although it is unlikely that Clinton will be impeached, there is a chance that he will be the first President to be removed from office for a nonpolitical issue. Even if Starr found illegalities in Clinton's actions, it has been the " Starr sex report" which has the biggest influence on the nation, rising the question if Clinton still could lead the country morally.
1.1 The impeachment procedures
Impeachment is the biggest threat to every American president- The impeachment process is the connection of legal steps to force a president of the USA to resign form office. In American history there only have been two cases of impeachment proceedings against an American president.
In 1868 the house filed for impeachment after fighting with President Johnson about how far his powers reached.
More recent, in 1974, President Richard Nixon chose to resign, after three articles of impeachment were filed against him. On August 8th he resigned from his office as the President of the United States. Clinton could face the same problems as his two forerunners, either to be impeached or to lose office by resigning like Nixon did, too. Kenneth Starr gave his special report which includes, so he says, " substantial and credible information" of Clinton's misconduct that could be "ground for impeachment" ( NW, Sept 21, 1998). After passing the report on the House, the Judiciary Committee has to follow through with the so called "House Investigation". If Starr's conclusions are confirmed, an " impeachment resolution will be drafted". Now the House has to vote on the articles of impeachment. If the majority votes pro impeachment, " house managers are chosen, as the prosecutors in the " Senate trial" (NW, Oct. 19, 1998).
After these prosecutors are picked out, Wiliam Renquist, America's Chief of Justice, will be the chairman of the trial. Witnesses and evidence will be presented by both sides. Again, the Senate has to decide over the final removal from of the office of the President of the United States of America. In case the President will be removed from the highest office, the Vice President will be the future head of state until the next election.
Obviously it is most important who the House consists of. As we already know, the House has already decided to proceed with impeachment. This was mostly due to a Republican majority, who obviously was/is not of much favor of Clinton.
After all it will now come down to the Senate vote. Man has to wait until the end of Senate trial to be able to some save predicaments of how the Clinton impeachment will end, but most likely President Clinton will continue to be in office.
Because he is highly respected in society, his approval ratings have continued to stay up around 60 percent during the trial, and have not fallen remarkably ever since. Second of all, his " sins" have been fairly small in comparison to what Nixon and Johnson did. He did lie under oath, but not about a political matter, but rather a private issue. It seems that the American people can understand his actions. Luckily, there is also a new trend, copied from Europe, that it is not of any interest what the President does in his private life. This is part of the reason why his approval ratings stayed up so high.
1.2 The role of Kenneth Starr
Ever since Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky has been in the news, the man behind the investigation , Kenneth Starr, has been equally covered by the press. Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel in this case, has had probably the most difficult job in earth. A friend of his described his situation very fittingly with the words: " If you are going to shoot the king, you'd better kill him (NW, Oct. 5th , 1998).
This is exactly the dilemma Starr is strung up in. He had to investigate a quite disgusting matter in which the majority of the people had not much interest in; and had to look for reasons to bring down a president who has been working most successfully in the last couple of years.
Even Starr himself was not sure if " the independent counsel law is constitutional". This law gives him all the funds he needs, and lest him investigate with almost unlimited powers. He does believe that a President of the United States of America cannot be charged with any crimes while being in office. Despite this opinion he strongly believes that Congress can do so, by impeaching...
Although Starr was investigating most aggressively and exactly, he didn't try to win the case against Clinton in court, but passed on his findings to Congress, who can continue impeachment. The Independent Counsel was strongly attacked after the publication of his report. Describing in detail the several sexual encounters between Clinton and Lewinsky, he did not aim at the possible illegal actions of Bill Clinton, but at the loss of his reputation within the American society, so he said. At this point he felt misunderstood by a whole nation. He was stamped to be a Clinton hater, and to have been lead by his personal emotions against Clinton.
Only when the House voted to continue with the impeachment trial, he felt that he had done the right thing.
Because Starr openly admits to be a Republican, he gave oil to the flame of the " right wing conspiracy", the Clintons claimed to have found within the republican party. Starr's was accused of not being " independent " and fair anymore. By questioning his integrity, the Clintons committed a big mistake, because after that, Starr " put on his game face", as a former colleague, Jeffrey Harris, put it; meaning that Starr an even stronger drive to succeed ( NW, Oct. 5th.. ,1998)
In society he was only partly accepted. Many people appreciated that he took the ungrateful job of investigating against a popular president, but on the other hand he really seemed to be out on a mission to destroy the president rather than pointing out Clinton's misconduct.
The question if he is the " backbone" of American morals is not to be answered completely, because he is not a " neutral" figure. Being a Republican, he might be a person who holds up conservative ideologies, but for Democrats he just won't do the job. Kenneth Starr has been working hard all his life, and accomplished much throughout his career, but the job of being America's number one moralist might just be too complex for one person to cope with.
2.1 The role of the mass media
The Clinton - Lewinsky case can also serve as an example of the role of the mass media in the USA: Although this time the press wasn't as influential as before, it did set new trends and opinions.
At first, when the matter became public, it was mainly the press calling for justice and impeachment. The people, not able to fathom the whole case at once, agreed; after covering Monica Lewinsky and her relationship with the President 24 hours, seven days a week, Americans grew somewhat tired of the case.
As long as the economy was doing well, it was more interesting if Sousa or McGwire would break the magic "62" first. There also was a new understanding that it was not of the people's interest and business what the President did /does in private. This is unusual for America, but for one Europe was able to have Americans copy from them , instead of the other way around. Also the press had to be very careful with what was issued, if all the information was backed completely, and if it was suitable to print.
Newsweek - Magazine even added to their February 2, 1998 edition an article that described the dilemma of the press. On January 17th ,1998 the magazine had to decide whether to publish that Kenneth Starr was investigating a sexual affair between Clinton and a young White House intern. A staff member of Newsweek had been investigating mainly for background information purposes for almost a year. The story was ready for print, but the editors hesitated, because they were not positive about issuing a story that could change the life of a young human being ( Monica Lewinsky) without having heard her side of the story. Editor in Chief Richard Smith described the situation like following: " It hurt like hell, but given the magnitude of the allegations and the information we had at the time, I'm convinced we acted responsibly" (NW, Feb. 2nd ,1998).
The press was dealing with a very serious issue, and if it should turn out that the information published was wrong, the paper, magazine, station or channel could be sure not to have too much of good connections to the White House anymore.
The coverage also decreased in its aggressiveness, because Clinton's approval ratings clearly showed that the people couldn't care less about Lewinsky. It is only logical that the subjects of all shows and the news quickly changed again. Another example of how fed up people were/are with Clinton's affair is a news report from a couple of weeks ago, that said that Monica Lewinsky was not finding and editor who would publish a book about her affair with the President, and even Oprha Winfrey did not let Ms. Lewinsky on her show, although the invitation dated back months ago. For once, the American people really seemed/ seem to be fed up with a story of quite high importance.
Even the House election on 11/3/1998 was not on , how Republicans planned, Clinton's affair, but each party really had to come up with a program offering solutions for the people's problems.
Although this election did indirectly decide about the President's future, it was covered by the press as a regular political event. Although the press acted relatively calm, there was more to this election: " This election was about next year's TV schedule. If you want eight month of Monica Lewinsky, vote Republican. If you want it over quickly, vote Democrat", so Jody Severson, a democratic political consultant, stated (NW, Nov. 2nd, 1998). The press definitely is able to set the mood and tone of society, but in this particular case, it worked the other way around.
3.1 Reactions of the rest of the world
a.) basic convictions
Foreign countries, especially in Europe, reacted all very similar. What the former German Chancellor put in the following words: " It makes me throw up", basically reflected what every country in Europe thought.
One couldn't care less about what he did or did not do, but was getting annoyed by the constant presence of the issue. The more serious side of the issue was/ is the question if Clinton still can be as respected as he was before!?
Can a man whose sexual preferences were discussed publicly, who has lied under oath and obstructed justice still be taken for full; especially if this man is the so called leader of the western world!?
This conflict becomes especially clear when other are judged for their actions. For example Serbia won't give too much about it, when Clinton calls for better morals, better treatment of others, etc. He definitely has lost some of his credibility which makes it hard for him to regain the respect he needs to represent his country. Maybe this is to be compensated under his political friends, because they know him as a person, but there will be ore problems with the common people living in foreign countries.
These people have to face consequences of his actions, when their kids ask them what oral sex is, when they have to explain why man shouldn't lie, while Clinton gets away with it at the same time.
This might be the serious part of the problem, and it will take a lot of time to straighten it out.
b) Letters to the editor
The Clinton_ Lewinsky affair has divided not only the United States of America, but also the whole world. To show how different approaches are, there will be some letters to the editor form the 9th of March Newsweek edition displayed:
Leave this stuff to the folks concerned - Bill and Hillary -and don't feed us Europeans on it. When the " secret" of French President Mitterand's illegitimate daughter surfaced, he was asked if it was true. He answered: " Sure, so what ?". That was it. How about this approach to the private life of a president? Wolfgang kress, BRD
I can remember a time when a crisis in the White House meant that the Soviet Union was placing nuclear missiles in Cuba. A decade later it meant that White House staffers had been caught covering up a burglary of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters. Now it means that the President og the United States has been accused of having had oral sex witha former White House intern. Our presidential crises have become increasingly tawdry and trivial as time goes on. What's next? Will we live to see a president arrested for shoplifting at Kmart? Gerard d. redmond, new york
A country tht produces TV serials like " the bold and the beautiful" and " Santa Barbara",
where everyone is jumping into bed with everyone else depicts the American lifestyle for the rest of the world. Why then such a hullabaloo over one man's sexual appetite? The US president is also a normal human being. Sexual harassment means bringing to book the alleged harasser immediately after the harassment, not glowing in the warmth of the affair for years and then suddenly waking up, just because he is holding the highest office. Wake up, US legal system! The plaintiffs are just plain opportunists. raj gupta india The only scandal is the one created by the media. So if the president may have bad an affair ?
He certainly wouldn't be the first, and -here's a news flash for you, we don't care! It's a matter between him and his wife. Clinton has been a good president. The country is in good shape because of him, and most of us are doing pretty well. So stop giving coverage to every woman who comes out of the woodwork, and let Clinton do hi job.
Regina newmann, missouri
These few opinions all take different approaches to the matter, but have the same quintessence: There is more serious stuff to talk about
3.2 Individual freedom vs. Freedom of press
The press has covered Clinton's affair explicitly. The question arose long ago, if the press had the right to do so?
The freedom of press and individual freedom seemed to be colliding once more. If it is true that it was only of Clinton's business what happened with Monica Lewinsky in the private study of the Oval Office, the it is true, the press should have stayed out of the issue. On the other hand, it was the President of the United States of America who committed those illegalities, he committed them in a building that is owned by the American people, so the people should have a right to know.
Being the President of the United States, Bill Clinton could not have expected to be left alone in this matter. It was only obvious that the pres would take major interest in it. The press thought it would be very interesting to its fellow readers/viewers what Clinton did. As it turned out to be, it was not, so there was no reason for them to continue to cover the issue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Maybe the press had the right to inform the nation, maybe Clinton even had the right to demand to be left alone in this matter, but there was no reason for both of them to forget their duties which is for once to run the country, secondly to tell the people what they want to know. Not only that Clinton's privacy was interrupted, but also the life of his family and the Lewinsky family were changed for good.
The press covered the story very aggressively already knowing that it was not of highest concern to people. The story was covered over and over again, new approaches, reasons, conspiracies were looked for and found, but the basic fact that the President had had an affair was completely lost. The story turned out to be one of the biggest crisis in recent American history, but the cause still was/is a private issue, and should not have taken over American life for months.
After all one can say that there was no one person who benefited from it. Starr is hated by the nation, Lewinsky has left her mark in history, but her life is ruined, Clinton might get out it, but took damage, Congress was even stronger divided into two parties with an even bigger gap in between them
The press might have made some money on it, but after all, all they did was harming the picture of their own nation!
The case only has brought trouble to the whole nation, but also to a few individuals. There is Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern was so unfortunate to fall in love with the President. It must be said that she never wanted to cause this whole issue and that she stayed loyal throughout the whole trial. Her role in this is best to be expressed with her own sentiments: " I'm really sorry for everything that's happened. And I hate Linda Tripp"...(NW, Oct. 5th, 1998)
Linda Tripp also stayed loyal, not to her friend, but to herself and the law. She betrayed Ms. Lewinsky by recording their conversations and passing them on. If anyone is to be blamed for the outcoming of the scandal, it probably would be her.
Kenneth Starr had the ungrateful job of looking for evidence to impeach a very popular president. After all, he did his job, as he was expected to do it, although there were neverdiing rumors of personal motives.
Hillary Clinton had the toughest part of all. She had to stand up for the man who betrayed her, save his reputation over and over, and somehow make the country actually believe that there is still love in their relationship.
Finally there is the President. Bill Clinton seem to do an excellent job in leading the country. His reactions on the affair were understandable, but certainly not appropriate for an American President.
Most recently, the second Senate vote decided to continue with the impeachment trial, in other terms, Clinton's career affair will be taken to court, and be decided over by a two third majority for impeachment, or if this mark is not reached , he will enjoy two more years of being the most powerful man alive.
From my personal objective, if impeached or not, he still might want to think about taking steps to keep the rest of dignity that is left, and bring this affair to a final end!?
1. Newsweek, February 2nd, 1998
2. Newsweek, February 9th, 1998
3. Newsweek, February 23rd, 1998
4. Newsweek, March 9th, 1998
5. Newsweek, March 23rd, 1998
6. Newsweek, August 17th, 1998
7. Newsweek, August 24th, 1998
8. Newsweek, August 31st, 1998
9. Newsweek, special issue, September 21st , 1998
10. Newsweek, September 28th ,1998
11. Newsweek, October 5th ,1998
12. Newsweek, October 12th ,1998
13. Newsweek, October 19th ,1998
14. Newsweek, October 26th, 1998
15. Newsweek, November 2nd, 1998
16. Newsweek, November 9th, 1998
- Arbeit zitieren
- Clemens Löffler (Autor), 1998, Clinton versus Levinsky, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/101861