Bill Clinton

Of sex and leadership

Of sex and leadership

Why America Is Shaken by Allegations That Would Leave Europe Not Even Stirred

Loosely based on: Time Magazine, European issue. February 9, 1998.

World View by Michael Elliott

At Davos the buzz was all about the Clinton scandal - and Europe's gathering strength

Imagine the scene in good old Germany: The leader of the country, accused of abusing his power to the end of sexual harassment, gains a never before seen level of popularity. Absurd? Agreed, but absurd for what reason? Of course, Chancellor Kohl is not exactly as much the 'All American Boy' type of man that Bill Clinton represents to his fellow countrymen - and women, but even if he were, and were involved in an affair the likes of "Lewinskygate", the scandal would be none. But why so?

The simple explanation for so striking a difference is mentality. While Americans are constantly making it their business to know everything about their leading men down by a science, European politics leave no place for the comparison of presidential candidates in matters of life expectancy, personal problems or, if push comes to shove, sexual preference.

Remember the affair revolving around late French president Mitterand's illegitimate daughter? Measured by American standards, his life as a politician would have been over. Not so in Europe, where privacy, even, or dare we say, especially a statesman's privacy is regarded to be no business for the public. In America, the question is: "If a man can't even get his own life right, how on earth can he run the country?" The old world asks a more to the point "Do these affairs interfere with the way he does run it?"

While Clinton might have cursed the all-too investigative media at first, he might now well appreciate their interference, as it has not only improved his general status, but also his acceptance among his own peer group, white men from the Southern states. Being a democrat has never been easy for him in the highly Republican South, but now, that has changed. Maybe this was best explained by Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press" and the network's Washington bureau chief in a recent interview: "They say: Clinton? With the intern? In the Oval Office? He's our man!"

"Clinton? With the intern? In the Oval Office? He's our man!" -- "Meet the Press's" Tim Russert on Southerner's reactions to the Lewinsky affair

Now, as the waves of Lewinsky's medial omnipresence are flattening and the "Oral Office" jokes in the late night shows are becoming more and more seldom, America has, once again, returned to an almost European state of normality. But it is only a question of time until the next scandal finds its way up to the surface of D.C.'s streets and into all those white buildings that constitute the heart of the United States. When that time has come, the nation will really need God's blessing. God bless America, God bless internship, God bless privacy. ¨

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