Clinton and His Apologies
Are the Apologies Enough?
Rightgrrl October 1998
September 11, 1998
Watching the Bill Clinton Apologapalooza over the past week, I've been
entertaining myself, in between bouts of rage, by keeping what I call a
New ones bound through the airwaves every day: First it was healing,
closure and "moving past all of this." Mid-week, we had to fight the urge to go
look for maps, so often were we told about some "journey" (excuse me - painful
journey) we were about to take. Now, we have the weekend to ponder the
pain of Bill Clinton's "broken spirit" at the very same time we get to read
tales of the vigor of his (purportedly) bent member.
Of course, superseding them all we can fully expect, will be the taglines
of Team Clinton's Moral Blackmail Squad.
"Those without sin may cast the first stone."
And, of course, the single most important, poignantly offered word
in the whole sorry mess:
"Judge not, lest ye be judged"
Well, forgive me for getting my dander up at such egregious misuse and
manipulation of religious imagery that Clinton-defending types have been
telling us for years has no place in public discourse.
President Clinton is begging for forgiveness. One by one, he's trotted
in groups affected by his actions, reportedly apologized with great emotion
and apparent sincerity, and they return the favor by standing at the
microphones set up outside the White House and saying they forgive him
and are ready
to move on and getbacktothebusinessofthecountryliketheAmericanpeoplewantusto.
I'm sure you've noticed that phrase has evolved into a single word in the
contemporary political lexicon.
Various Congressional Democrats have forgiven him. His cabinet says it
has. Hillary's forgiven him.
The implication is - Well, then, why can't you?
I can't help it, but when I hear that, all I can think of is teenagers.
I've known a lot of them - hundreds of wary victims have passed through
the religion classes I've taught in Catholic high schools, and I've spent
literally hundreds of hours discussing morality with adolescents, hearing
them rationalize, nit-pick and excuse. So this all has a painfully
familiar ring to
"Hey, I said I was sorry! Can't I still go out tonight?"
Isn't it enough?
Those who make such an argument are trying to conflate two related, but at
root, distinct issues: Forgiveness and consequences.
If my son (yeah, I get to live with teenagers too) blows the
hold he has on privileges, believe me, he is always, invariably, really,
But does that mean he's immediately trusted with the same privileges?
Of course not. He has to earn it back.
Most criminals are gosh-darn really sorry too, about their crimes. Does
that mean they get spared the punishment for their crimes? Nope.
Bill Clinton, in my view, betrayed the public trust in very serious ways.
He's sorry, and I'm glad. He should be. But does that mean he shouldn't
bear consequences for what he's done?
Many people, on the internet and elsewhere, have (incorrectly) compared
Bill Clinton to King David of Israel, who also committed a terrible sin. In
case you've forgotten, David fell in love with a woman named Bathsheba, got her
pregnant, and then sent her husband, Uriah, to the front lines of battle
where he knew the poor guy would be killed.
Pretty bad. And the argument goes: God forgave David - David's
recognized as a great king, right? Well, sheesh, if God can forgive, why the heck
What we forget is that David had to bear heavy consequences for his sin -
first of all, he fully repented - I maintain that Bill Clinton's apologies
are still so vague, we are not really sure what exactly he's expressing sorrow
for - the affair? The pattern of behavior? Lying to us? Using his family
and colleagues to lie for him? Sexual harassment?
The consequence David had to bear was profound - that first child of his
and Bathsheba died. And when you look at the Old Testament, you see a strong
strain of consequences held out by God to Israel - leaders and people who
violate the Covenant by abusing power and oppressing the powerless must
bear consequences of defeat, loss and their own powerlessness.
So we can forgive Bill Clinton the man, I suppose.
But does that mean he should still be President? Does that mean we can
trust the one who so vehemently wagged his finger at us in January, lying with
incredible energy and arrogance?
No. We don't have to, and don't let any pundits or defenders lay a guilt
trip on you about it. It's fully within our rights as citizens and as
moral people to forgive a man, but still insist that he leave the office he
I said I was sorry! Isn't that enough?
Not this time, I'm afraid. Not this time.
Amy's Home Page
This article copyright © 1998 by Amy Welborn, and may
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