When Americans hear the name Bill Clinton they immediately think of our past President, but typically the next thought that follows is another name—Monica Lewinsky. But should this be the thought we think of when Clinton comes to mind? His Presidency was marked my relatively peaceful, positive economic times. Shouldn’t that be what we focus on and remember when we look back on Clinton’s presidency?
Although political policy is important, Americans flock to scandal. Our country has long ago moved away from a focus on key political issues when evaluating presidents. Scandals humanize presidents. Society revels in connecting with presidents on a personal level. This is one of the reasons my generation immediately thinks of Monica Lewinsky when they hear Clinton’s name.
Clinton made many impactful decisions while in office. He began to bring healthcare reform to the forefront, succeeded in foreign relations with Somalia and Rwanda, and improved economic conditions for the nation. Combining his political success with the Monica Lewinsky scandal leads my generation to view Clinton as a brilliant, but flawed president. He was able to successfully improve the nation, but the mistakes he made in his personal life devalued his presidential success.
The media is mainly to blame for the skewed view Americans have of the Clinton presidency. Scandal gets society’s attention and increases viewer ratings. Although the media reported on Clinton’s political agenda, the Monica Lewinsky scandal was headline news. Media outlets capitalized on the scandal, and continuously reported on it, even months after it took place. Late night comedy shows, documentary series, and special reports also capitalized on the scandal. For many Americans, this is their source of news and entertainment. As a result, the scandal is what they remember about Clinton.
The Clinton’s were not the first to be plagued by scandal, and they are certainly not the last. Many past and future presidents’ have been or will be victims of scandals while in office. The media’s sensationalization of scandals has skewed society’s view of the presidency. But there is some hope for presidents who fall victim to scandals. Over time, the scandals will fade and the political success of their presidency will come to the forefront. Perhaps this will happen to the Clintons. The new PBS documentary and CNN’s reporting about the anniversary of the scandal, still puts the scandal in the forefront. Only time will tell if society will ever be able to remember Clinton as a successful president who just happened to be involved in a scandal.