Persecution booed: Needless to say, it was a self-selected audience.
On Tuesday, Bill Clinton took part in a TimesTalks event (actual name) about his new novel. Presumably, the people in attendance were mostly Clinton supporters.
That said, we were glad to read the New York Times' account of the event. When Clinton was questioned about TonedeafGate, the furious audience booed:
GOLDMACHER (6/6/18): In a blue suit and blue tie, Mr. Clinton looked relaxed onstage with a wireless microphone in his hand, other than the moments he was asked about Ms. Lewinsky. The crowd booed questions on the topic.Question: Did Goldmacher describe it as "the New York City audience" to let you know that people hate Clinton everywhere else? Discuss. Compare and contrast.
Asked if he would apologize privately to Ms. Lewinsky today if she were in the room, Mr. Clinton replied, “If she were here now and I would speak to her, it wouldn’t be a private conversation.”
And asked if—given the #MeToo movement spurred in the last year by sexual misconduct by powerful men in politics, business and the media—he had reconsidered his interactions with Ms. Lewinsky as examples of sexual harassment or exploitation of power dynamics, he demurred again.
“I’ve said all I have to say,” Mr. Clinton said, adding, “I’m not going there.”
The New York City audience cheered.
By now, the children have all agreed that Clinton's original comments were "tone deaf." Currently, they're all writing the exact same column about this latest appalling event. The claim that Clinton's (sliced and diced) remarks were "tone deaf" is one of their mandated points.
Clinton's remarks were tone deaf! Increasingly, this is the assessment we liberals use against those who don't say exactly what we want to hear on the topics which help us assert our superior tribal morality.
According to Goldmacher, the TimesTalk crowd booed, then threatened to riot, when TimesTalk hostess Pamela Paul insisted on going there. And the big crowd cheered, their riot forestalled, when Clinton said he was through discussing the topic.
Potential rioting to the side, it seems to us that MelvinGate provides a teachable moment. As we liberals embrace the ideology of rigid public morality, it seems to us that this latest event lets us explore our admittedly brilliant thinking by asking such questions as these:
Questions emerging from TonedeafGate:Aside from the gruesome events which ensued when CoulterMob popped out of the bushes, what was morally wrong with this relationship? Is it the fact that Clinton was married? Is it the fact that he was older? Does it have something to do with their rather attenuated work relationship, in which Clinton was technically Lewinsky's boss?
Should Bill Clinton ever have become involved with Monica Lewinsky? If not, why?
If he could have waved a magic wand ensuring secrecy, should he have become involved? If not, why?
Is it the fact that you heard, about a million times, that she was a "21-year-old intern," and you swooningly believed it? We think these are wonderful questions to ask.
Our current tribal "morality" is so ideologically rigid that it tends to shield us from such questions. MelvinGate gives us the chance to examine our tribal ideas.
In the last day or two, the incident has made us think of Chekhov's brilliant story, The Lady with the Lapdog. The leading authority on the story thumbnails it like this:
"The Lady with the Dog" is a short story by Anton Chekhov. First published in 1899, it describes an adulterous affair between Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, an unhappily married Moscow banker, and Anna Sergeyevna Von Diderits, a young married woman, an affair which begins while both are vacationing alone in the Crimean sea resort of Yalta.Nabokov had read a million more stories than we have. But we think The Lady with the Lapdog is an impossibly beautiful exploration of human longing and surprising human potential.
The story comprises four parts: part I describes the initial meeting in Yalta, part II the consummation of the affair and the remaining time in Yalta, part III Gurov's return to Moscow and his visit to Anna's town, and part IV Anna's visits to Moscow. This is one of Chekhov's most famous pieces of short fiction. Vladimir Nabokov, for instance, considers it as one of the greatest short stories ever written.
(Important warning: Nabokov wrote Lolita. On the other hand, Cornel West is said to love the story. So what's a progressive to do?)
Should Dmitri Dmitritch ever have started his affair, which became a love affair, with Anna Sergeyevna? He was married, and she was much younger. Should either one have engaged in this affair? Why or why not?
Anna Sergeyevna was married, but Lewinsky was not. Is that where the difference resides?
Our view? Modern pseudoliberal sexual politics tends to be childish, silly, rigidly scripted, desperate. Chekhov seemed to have a somewhat broader view. With a nod to some of the things Lewinsky said to Judge Starr, who wrote them all down, we recommend Chekhov's story, in which two people are surprised by feelings they'd never encountered before.
Granted, Chekhov's story was fiction. That said, do we all work from tribal script now? Are we all insistently rigid?