TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2021
Kara Swisher's calculus: Are people allowed to have "affairs?"
We'll say that they pretty much are. We'll even say that, in some cases, "affairs" may be a good thing for the participating individuals. Sometimes they cause lots of harm.
We'll also say that, in the vast majority of cases, it isn't any business of ours if people do or don't have affairs. That brings us to Kara Swisher's calculus about world history over the past twenty-plus years.
World history has turned, in the past twenty-three years, on an "affair" between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The liberal world has agreed that we must never discuss that fact, but it's a fact all the same.
The twenty-month coverage of Campaign 2000 was all about that "affair."
Al Gore said he invented the Internet was all about that "affair." So was Al Gore said he inspired Love Story and Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal.
So was all that piddle about that candidate's earth tones—and about his boots, his suits, his polo shirts, and the height at which he hemmed his pants.
That was all about the "affair." To this day, Kara Swisher doesn't seem to understand that, or possibly just doesn't care.
(Why does this matter? Because George W. Bush went into Iraq, and that fact has changed world history. Because Donald Trump narrowly slid into the White House on the back end of that "affair.")
Swisher has interviewed Lewinsky for the New York Times. The interview largely concerns the ongoing FX "docudrama" about that history-changing "affair." At one point, this exchange occurs:
LEWINSKY: There are all sorts of selfish reasons I participated [in creating the docudrama]. But then there is also a really important reason for me around moving the conversation of this forward, ensuring that something like this doesn’t happen to a young person again. That if they are taken advantage of, 75 percent of the blame should be on the person in power.
SWISHER: I would say more like ninety, Monica.
LEWINSKY: O.K., 90 percent. 90 percent in this case.
SWISHER: I’m giving it a 99, actually.
LEWINSKY: How about 85? 85 and 15—
SWISHER: You’re being kind. Your life has been so derailed by what happened between you and Bill Clinton. How do you feel about the fact that your life has been so altered and his has not, in a lot of ways?
LEWINSKY: I’ve had moments of bitterness about it, but how I feel now is, I don’t really need anybody else’s life to be fucked up. I just need people to not stand in my way...
This never stops at the New York Times. That's another way of saying that this never stops inside the brains of us, the humans.
What do we see in that exchange? This is what we see:
It seems to us that Lewinsky is almost always inclined to be kind. In this exchange, Swisher scolds her for that inclination.
For our money, Lewinsky's framework concerning this relationship may have made more sense before she adopted the "taken advantage of" framework. But it seems to us that she is generally inclined to be kind and fair, and that Swisher, like the millions before her at the Times, can't stop doling out the blame.
More strikingly, she can't stop doling out the blame to the people who took part in this "affair." It doesn't occur to her to dole out blame to the wide array of people who devoted their lives to making sure that this "affair" would no longer be private—that this affair would be known to the wider world.
Swisher is still hunting Bill Clinton as she apportions her blame. But what would have happened if this relationship had taken place without becoming publicly known?
If this relationship had run its course without ever becoming known, would it have been a bad thing for Lewinsky? Would she have ended up feeling that she had been taken advantage of?
We have no way of knowing, and it will never occur to people like Swisher to ask.
World history didn't change because this relationship happened. World history changed because a bunch of screaming crackpots busted their asses to make sure that the relationship would become known to the general public.
People are dead all over the world because those people did that. At the Times, they kept directing the punishment elsewhere, right on through their deeply peculiar coverage of Candidate (Hillary) Clinton in the 2016 campaign.
To a life form like Swisher, the fault is 99 percent Bill Clinton's, full stop. She can't find her way beyond that iteration of Salem Village, in which the blame must all be apportioned among the participants, with a deranged array of "whistle-blowers" allowed to slither away.
It doesn't matter how many people die in other parts of the world. It doesn't matter how many girls come under the sway, once again, of the Taliban.
Blame has to be apportioned in the most simple-minded way. This is what we humans are inclined to do, and we'll never stop.
Might that relationship have been OK if people hadn't made it public? We'd be curious to hear what Lewinsky would have said to a question like that. It seems to us that Lewinsky, unlike the cretins and criminals of the world, is typically decent, kind, fair.
He had to be punished for what he did. If people have to die all over the world, upper-end elites at the New York Times will see that as reasonable, fair.
The history of the past twenty years has been all about the desire to apportion blame for that "affair." It's how George W. Bush reached the White House. So too with Donald J. Trump.
Our tribe has agreed that these basic facts mustn't be discussed, and they never will be. It's all about apportioning Dimmesdalean blame when people-not-us have "affairs."