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Looking At Bill Clinton's Legacy


New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says she wants to think again about Bill Clinton's offenses while in office. She said last week that things have changed in the age of Donald Trump and Roy Moore and others accused of sexual misconduct. And she now thinks that Bill Clinton should have resigned when his affair with Monica Lewinsky was revealed in the 1990s. That drew a fierce response from Philippe Reines, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton who called Gillibrand a hypocrite. And he's in our studios.

Good morning, Philippe.

PHILIPPE REINES: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why is she a hypocrite?

REINES: Well, I think - if you make an accusation or if you comment on an accusation of an event that happened 20 years earlier and you - in that interim - never say another word but speak in the form of accepting endorsements from that person, accepting money and support in the form of her campaigns and the transition to her Senate seat, I think that's, A, hypocritical. And if I had more characters in my tweet, I would have said it's convenient, too.

INSKEEP: Oh, you did say this in your tweet. Convenient why? You think she's - what? - running for president or what?

REINES: Well if she is, this is a questionable way to go about it unless she's doing so in the Republican primary in Iowa.

INSKEEP: But let me just ask, though - can't she just say, I thought about this again? Things have changed.

REINES: Well, you know what - but that's not what she said. And I think that's a perfect point in that she just said, yes, I think he should have resigned. If the next sentence - which didn't exist - had been something along the lines of, you know - I've been thinking about things since then, I came to this conclusion yesterday, this is why I think this, these are the steps I'm going to take. Is she refunding the money of the person that she thinks should have resigned from president? And I'm not saying that as a suggestion. But I'm saying that in an age where it's important and what's happening now is about people finding the strength to come forward - whether it's Leigh Corfman or Leeann Todden (ph) - this is not what Senator Gillibrand did.

INSKEEP: Although what you're saying is that she waited a long time to make up her mind, which is actually the same thing...

REINES: That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying...

INSKEEP: Well, that's part of what you did just say. And...

REINES: Well, I don't know. She didn't say when she made up her mind (laughter).

INSKEEP: OK. She waited a long time to speak out. But this is actually something that is said about a lot of victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Maybe they wait 30 or 40 years.

REINES: Well, but let's not conflate what happened here. Senator Gillibrand was not speaking about some event that happened to her...

INSKEEP: Understood. Exactly.

REINES: No. But she should not be put in the same...


REINES: ...Basket of people who have found the strength and the courage, after being silenced and stifled after - whether it's a year or five years, 20 years or, in the case of Roy Moore, 40 years.

INSKEEP: Now, Gillibrand was talking about Monica Lewinsky, who was a White House intern when she had the relationship with President Clinton. There's also a woman who accused Clinton of rape back in the 1970s, Juanita Broaddrick, who initially denied that Clinton had assaulted her but then said that he had. And he appeared the other day - she appeared the other day on Fox News with Laura Ingraham. Let's listen to just a little bit of that.


JUANITA BROADDRICK: I think it's too dangerous to bring this back up again. They do not want to hear from us, Laura. And that's the crux of the matter. They do not want our names to be brought up again.

INSKEEP: OK. Now, let's note President Clinton denied the accusations through his lawyer. But aren't we in this new atmosphere where people are insisting we should be much more likely to believe accusers?

REINES: Well, I would separate out what happened with President Clinton for a very simple reason. What's happening now is, again, people who are making accusations that they felt they couldn't make - either they were silenced or they were stifled. They worried about retribution. There was no reckoning for the people who they made accusations against, and there was no punishment. Bill Clinton is about the last person you can put in that category. President Clinton went through pretty much the greatest investigation of his personal life of all time, and that included Juanita Broaddrick. Like you said, this is something that was looked at. And there are two words that I think really distinguish what went on during impeachment and what's happening now. And those words are Ken Starr. You had just about the last person in the world who was ever going to give him a pass on anything.

INSKEEP: OK. So he was investigated thoroughly, and he was impeached and put on trial and lost his law license, all of which was about lying under oath in the Paula Jones deposition.

REINES: But the reason why it was not...

INSKEEP: But that wasn't really about Juanita Broaddrick, was it?

REINES: Well, that's because Ken Starr had decided that there was nothing there. The facts, as I understand them, is that she in multiple occasions - which you alluded to - said there was no assault, that nothing happened. And Ken Starr, again, who left no stone unturned, came to the same conclusion.

INSKEEP: In a couple of seconds, is this case then closed for you?

REINES: You know, I think this is an example of a case that's been thoroughly looked at. Something not being proven is not the same as something not being taken seriously.

INSKEEP: Philippe Reines, longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton, ally of the Clintons - thanks very much for coming by. Appreciate it.

REINES: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEA SONG, "LOVELOVELOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.