It doesn’t exactly generate enough warm fuzzies to warrant a “Happy Anniversary!” but it was 20 years ago this week that the sex scandal involving President Bill Clinton and a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, broke. Those of us old enough to remember the highlights and lowlights of the affair that engulfed the nation for the rest of 1998 and for years after – blue dresses, traitorous friends and hypocrite-led impeachment proceedings, oh my! – certainly aren’t looking back through rose-colored glasses.
But just as 53 weeks of life under President Donald Trump has engendered surprisingly nostalgic retcons of President George W. Bush, the astounding lack of outrage to the Wall Street Journal report that President Trump had an affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels while his third wife was home caring for their newborn son – with Daniels’ silence purchased for $130,000 by the president’s lawyer – has resulted in a certain wistfulness for a less complicated time.
An era when presidential misconduct was front-page news for longer than one cycle. When the ramifications of lying, misuse of funds, the craven quest for shelter in semantics, the abuse of the public trust warranted dogged investigation not just by the press, but by the other branches of government. When consistent, inspiring leadership in a time of moral crisis could be found by turning to religious leaders.
Just kidding – the conservative evangelical hierarchy was as opportunistic as the GOP when it came to wielding “values” as a cudgel to beat President Clinton, Lewinsky and anyone else who didn’t fall in line with their agenda.
That’s why ultra-conservative Family Research Council President Tony Perkins’ admission that the evangelical community gave Trump “a mulligan … a do-over” on whatever he needed to better further their goals was so refreshing.
No doubt, there are some pearl-clutchers out there, but just like the GOP establishment continues to show its belly to the president and his 36 percent as long as he keeps delivering on executive orders and providing cover for their wish list fulfillment, evangelicals aren’t about to let a little thing like the Ten Commandments stand in the way of supporting the man who represents their best chance in decades to bring their vision of America to fruition.
And just as special prosecutor Ken Starr brought so many, many things about the Clinton presidency to light beyond his initial bailiwick, it will be fascinating to see where the Daniels incident fits into the surely expanding investigation being conducted by Robert Mueller. While it may not be as fond of purple prose as the Starr Report, it should be a Good Book nonetheless.
One more thing: if you’re looking for a way to distract yourself in the run-up to Tuesday’s State of the Union address, why not try scouring the assemblage to see who among them will take up US Rep. Joe Wilson’s mantle of righteous indignation?
Austin Davis: The Democrat and former top aide to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald won the special election to replace Marc Gergely in the state House 35th District.
Voters: After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that gerrymandering was, y’know, not conducive to democracy, the future of the Commonwealth’s congressional districts was thrown into disarray. With multiple deadlines for redrawing maps ending on Feb. 19, voters will know sooner rather than later when redistricting reform is coming to a precinct near them.
Unemployed rideshare drivers: Thanks to a Commonwealth Court ruling, Lyft and Uber drivers may now be able to keep their unemployment benefits from a previous job while earning money by picking up riders via the ridesharing apps.
Pat Meehan: Following an absolutely disastrous apology/explanation tour that somehow made a bad situation even worse, the Republican Congressman from PA-7 announced he would not run for reelection.
PA GOP: The Meehan announcement was just one in a string of body blows to the state party, which has seen an unprecedented number of its elected officials declare they will not stand for reelection this year – and it’s only January.
Kevin Haggerty: Continuing on this theme, the embattled Democratic state Rep. from the 112th District announced he would not run for reelection, although he did say he would finish out his term, hopefully in a more present fashion than has been his wont: Since Sept. 11 last year, he has missed 23 voting days and 300 roll call votes.