The Greatest


Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal

By: Robert Busby

Robert Busby lives in England and is a lecturer at Liverpool Hope University. He is the senior lecturer of the history department, mainly focusing on American and scandal politics, along with political communication.

The Scandal

By: Reah Mehta

Certain presidents in American history drew criticism for defying constitutional powers. These scandals contributed to public distrust in the government. In Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal by Robert Busby, the scandal of Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton were analyzed. The Lewinsky scandal challenged President Bill Clinton with maintaining his credibility as the president from 1998-1999. The independent counsel investigated the president, who then was impeached, and then the senate’s trial resulted in him keeping the presidential office. Robert Busby identifies and analyzes how Clinton endured strategies and tactics from the Clinton administration in order to survive the scandal with Lewinsky. He states “the Lewinsky affair was just as much a Clinton Scandal. It involved sexual matters, contained intrigue and allegations of conspiracy, and, when concluded, left President Clinton’s job approval figures virtually untouched.” Busby addresses the scandals Clinton was previously involved with and how that lead to the investigations of the Lewinsky scandal. Being sexually affiliated while being married, then lying about this fact convinced the House of Representatives to impeach the president. Along with the media and the public’s opinion, the complications and results of the information being released result in the outcome of the scandal. He introduces the reasons Clinton survived one of the most serious constitutional crisis since the Watergate Scandal, which was President Nixon’s denial of rigging the democratic party’s plan for the 1972 election.

Busby introduces Clinton’s scandal with a general overview. Clinton and Lewinsky became entitled to consequences after becoming the face of the public. The beginning points out the struggles of the Clinton administration in attempting strategies to conceal or gain relief during the Lewinsky trial. Busby acknowledges Clinton’s attempts to save his political career through leadership. During the time Monica Lewinsky interned, she became close with the president. President Bill Clinton realized his actions and tried to limit contact with Lewinsky. Clinton said “After I terminated the improper contact with her, she wanted to come in more than she did. She got angry when she didn’t get in sometimes. I knew that might make her more likely to speak, and I still did because I had to limit the contact.” After Lewinsky spoke about the affair, she addressed the concern and it was turned into a scandal full of allegations and conspiracy theories. The Lewinsky scandal was exposed mainly on Clinton’s personal problems and crime, instead of one found, like the Watergate Scandal, from a misdemeanor of “institutional” abuse. Busby describes the attempt to charge Clinton with two complaints, one of sexual abuse and one of power abuse. The president’s legal team and administration acted quickly to silence it. Busby noted “Clinton’s strategy at this critical time... not of the President’s own making, played a significant role in salvaging this presidency… [His] legal aides conducted his defense on the floor of the House and Senate.”Then Busby describes the reaction of Congress after the administration efforts reveal the scandal. Congress concludes with defining the impeachment as immediate removal from office. However, the impeachment was not supported by a strong enough offense- a relationship with a young intern did not help him gain advantage in the polls. The charges may not have been enough to impeach but they were enough to attract attention from the Independent Counsel Starr, which investigated the problems of people holding political offices with serious issues. These issues revolve around lying under the oath and obstruction of justice. Because Clinton’s actions constituted sufficient evidence and he was the center of detailed prosecution, he was tried by the Senate and impeached by the House of Representatives.

Congress’s decision was crucial in determining the outcome of President Clinton’s trial. The House of Representatives interpreted Clinton’s scandal as him “[lying] under oath, encouraged others to do so, and had purposefully.” Busby describes the struggles of Clinton when his administration was dealing with the legal charges and the conversations revolving around the sexual matters. While the debate reached complications when discussing the sexual matters, it also maximized the obscurity of the charges and ruined the chances of the president gaining his job back. During the impeachment process, many questions revolved concerning Clinton’s fate. Was the president above the law? Would he be punished fairly? Would he would be punished at all? Would he be removed from office? With the questions in the media and in the trial, the question of defining the line between the President’s private life and his public life came up. Busby describes the focus as a transition from his private behavior into a public concern. The Lewinsky matter was unlawful and had committed crimes or if he was just as any other American with the same actions. Clinton was asked the behavior of the relationship with Lewinsky and to explain the reason behind him asking her to lie under oath. He replied with “but this investigation is going on, and you know what the rules for it are… It’s better to let the investigation go on and have me do my job and focus on my public responsibilities, and let this thing play out its course.” Clinton could not answer the question because his behavior was being investigated and exposed and he could not deny that he didn’t ask Lewinsky to lie because he did. Clinton, under high pressure situations, was taken to the Supreme Court where evidence from the entire trial was used against him. Congress had many different points and views of these issues. The Lewinsky scandal entailed more than political and constitutional issues than any other scandal, and frightening and dismissing the trust of the American citizens.

The Lewinsky scandal broadened the interests in who was in the presidential office and the types of actions and behaviors of the president. This scandal was a soap opera with identifiable characters and, at times, an absurd plot. From the infamous stained blue dress held by Monica Lewinsky, to the outpouring of humor on Clinton’s predicament, certain aspects of the scandal contributed to a vast array of material tangentially related to politics. They concerned both public and private duties, but in the main blew over within a short period of time. Busby stated “having successfully accommodated several scandal allegations while both Governor and President, he nevertheless found, to his cost, that the unlikely evolution of the Lewinsky scandal was detrimental to his reputation within the circle of elites.” More serious however were allegations about activity undertaken by Hillary Clinton in Arkansas before the President had assumed office. An Independent Counsel was appointed to investigate the Clinton’s activity. To add to complicated matter, in 1993, an aid of Clinton’s involved in Whitewater matters was found dead in a park in Washington. This fueled conspiracy theories and speculation of Whitewater dealings. Clinton’s friends being involved in a scandal opened doors into his personal life. Busby defines Clinton’s home and his personal life problems to be no different than many of the people working for him. Even though everyone has different problems and solutions to them, the only difference with Clinton was that he held the status of president, adored by many in the public eye. The president has been seen as untouchable since the “Camelot” era during President John F. Kennedy. So seeing Clinton as morally inhumane was a surprise to many people. Busby then goes to describe Clinton’s vision of America changing socially and collectively creating an impartial society. His scandal stood in the way of that.

Busby lastly addresses the opinion of media and public. The media was skeptical of exposing the extreme details of the allegations and the sexual “nature” involved because the media “[felt] that discussion of sexual material demeaned the professionalism of media commentators [and] wariness about discussing matters of a sexual nature when they involved the president.” The material being released to the public was not used in the news because the scandal was ambiguous. The exact actions were not clear and any wrong information printed by the newspaper would be detrimental to their reputation. However, the media could not afford not to cover the scandal. Journalists from Drudge Report, Newsweek, and the Washington Post addressed the Scandal and the story of the President being involved with a scandal became front page news, while radio stations paused their regular programs and initiated schedules based on the scandal. The public held an important role in the outcome of the trial. Knowing of his past scandals and allegations, the public elected Clinton twice as president. Everyone has different problems and solutions to them, the only difference with Clinton was he held the status as the president and in the public eye. Busby then goes to describe Clinton’s vision of America changing socially and creating an impartial society collectively. His scandal stood in the way of that. Throughout research and poll samples, it showed the American people were accepting of Clinton’s mistakes. Three important factors were involved in the influence of the public’s opinion on the case: Kenneth Starr, Congress, and President Bill Clinton. Through the exposure of the scandal and the release of the information the government tracked the public’s belief in the scandal by the statistic of the poll numbers. The polls numbers were “40 per cent of one sample thought Clinton honest and trustworthy. This figure slumped to 35 per cent by April and then to a lowly 28 per cent by August of 1998.” The lack of hatred for the scandal allowed for more information to be released to the public. Busby concludes the book with restating the impeachment and the reasons that lead up to it. He addresses the Lewinsky scandal to be an important aspect in Clinton’s presidency and the trust between the executive branch and the United States’ citizens in American history.

Robert Busby’s thesis includes Clinton’s scandal to Monica Lewinsky to be juvenile and obscure. Though, he was not the first president to commit adultery, he was the first to have his life in the public eye. Busby ends the introduction with “The failure to convict Clinton in the senate, after he had been successfully impeached by the House, leaves the door open for lasting debate into how he altered the face of the presidency, and whether his two terms in office and pervasive involvement in scandal changed the institution for the better or the worse.” Publicly exposing his affair lead President Clinton to the impeachment. Busby focuses on the actions leading up to the impeachment and the decisions made in the trial against Clinton while analyzing the public’s opinion.

Robert Busby is a lecturer in American Studies and works at Liverpool Hope University College. He is the senior lecturer in politics, primarily focusing on the field of American politics, political scandal and the aspects of political communication. He believes it is important to view history from an unbiased point of view to effectively educate others.

A reviewer from Barnes and Noble notes his analysis of Robert Busby’s book Reagan and the Iran- Contra Affair: The Politics of Presidential Recovery, “The British scholar of American politics is concerned with how the Reagan administration attempted to recover its political and popular standing in the 12 months after they plummeted in response to 1986-87 revelations about controversial and illegal US covert operations in the Middle East and Central America. He points out the corrosive impact of scandal politics in modern America in general and the presidency in particular.” Busby interoperates the scandal in a nonbiased way. He addresses the important aspect of the scandal such as the reasons and actions leading up to the scandal, the Lewinsky Scandal, the damages and the results, the Whitewater scandal, the Starr Investigation, the impeachment and trial, and the media’s and public’s’ opinion. Busby’s use of facts and statistics helped in the strength of his thesis. Busby thoroughly identifies the rights and wrongs of the President and how congress, the media and the public were the determining factors of the outcome of the Lewinsky scandal and trial. An impressive quote from the book, Clinton stated “I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely, but I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish this goal and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false.” A main part of the book was Clinton denying any sexual behavior with Lewinsky and when he reveals the truth the scandal is real and it is one of the reasons for his trial and impeachment. Though the book had some information that was difficult to connect with the thesis, the underlying meaning and opinion gained from the book allows the reader to form an original opinion of the scandal.

Defending the American Presidency reflects the social changes from the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the fears because of the new found media. After the Cold War, the media consisted of print, radio, film, and television. Busby noted that the media “has been identified as ta primes reason for the multitude of prominent political scandals in the modern era.” This development of the media accepting governmental influence was essential to the production of public support for state actions. The initial role the media took was to motivate the post-WW2 populace into reaffirming and defending their national political and economic allegiances. While the privately-owned Western media was obliging in the defense of Western economic and military interests, the state-censored soviet media was just as ready to defend theirs.

My book addresses the social aspect of digital technology since the 1990s because it took place during that time. Technology has increased and since the entire scandal was in the eyes of the public and created interest in people to listen to the radio, watch TV, or read the newspaper to get news. The news in a more timely matter but when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was fresh and still ambiguous, the media took over and it exposed Clinton’s life in a way that was new to the time. Although today, that is how many people expose others on social media. Overtime, the process of reporting has changed drastically as the behavior of people evolve, the types of news they are interested in change as well, and different types of news intrigue people. “A study of the mainstream media identifies a sea-change in the nature of reporting during the scandal.” Some TV channels and news reports are now mainly focused on the government, world news and the nation. The type of digital technology has advanced and allows for the public to have interest in the news, getting it from the best technology.

In conclusion, Busby allowed for the audience to experience Clinton’s trial, the impeachment and the shame of his crime—totally new to the time. Busby states “It is clear that Clinton’s damage limitation efforts to portray the Lewinsky affair as a sex scandal to the American people entertained some success.” Busby acknowledges the disappointment by the nation of the scandal but he also discusses about how President Clinton’s popularity increased. His interpretation and execution of the scandal allowed for the reader to create their own opinion about the actions taken by the President, and the effects of the result of the case. Clinton was represented with a non-biased opinion of his story. The facts and analysis of the scandal integrated with the details of the scandal, the government, the media and the public informed and advised.

[1] Busby, Robert. Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal. Palgrave, 2001.n1.
[2] Busby, Robert. 55.
[3] Busby, Robert. 11.
[4] Busby, Robert. 3.
[5] Busby, Robert. 87.
[6] Busby, Robert. 251.
[7] Busby, Robert. 172.
[8] Busby, Robert. 14.
[10] Busby, Robert. “Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal.” By Robert Busby, 2001 | Online Research Library: Questia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2017.
[11] Busby, Robert. 217.
[12] Busby, Robert. 171.
[13] Busby, Robert. 175.
[14] Busby, Robert. 219.