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Democrats Re-Examine The Legacy Of Former President Bill Clinton


Democratic Party leaders are struggling with how to respond to sexual harassment accusations against two of their own. Senator Al Franken, who's been accused of groping and harassment by four different women, said in an interview yesterday with Minnesota Public Radio that he does not plan to resign. But Franken did say he is embarrassed and ashamed.


AL FRANKEN: If you had said to me two weeks ago that a woman was going to say that I had made her uncomfortable and disrespected her in one of these ways, I would have said no. This has been a shock to me.

GREENE: Now, in the House, another Democrat, Michigan Congressman John Conyers, is facing accusations of harassing female staffers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended him yesterday on NBC's "Meet The Press."


NANCY PELOSI: John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women. He's entitled to due process, but women are entitled to due process, as well.

GREENE: Now, Conyers did say yesterday he is stepping down from his post as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Joining us now to talk about all of this is Kirsten Powers. She's a political analyst for CNN - also served in the Clinton administration. Kirsten, thanks for joining us.

KIRSTEN POWERS: Good morning. Good to be here.

GREENE: So should Democratic leaders be calling for Senator Franken and Congressman Conyers to resign from Congress?

POWERS: Well, I think the thing that Democrats need to think about is they have to apply - they have to use the same standard for everybody, right? So they can't have one standard for the people that they like and one standard for the people they don't like. And if you listen to Nancy Pelosi yesterday, it was pretty clear there are two different standards because she was talking a lot about due process for Congressman Conyers. And yet you don't ever hear that when a Republican is accused.

There's no talk of needing due process for the people who have accused Donald Trump or the people who have accused Roy Moore. And, in fact, Conyers has had more due process than they have in the sense that there was a settlement and a woman who said she was pressured into, you know, having a sexual relationship - they had other women in the complaint saying that similar behavior had happened. So I think if you're going to have moral authority as the party that says, we stand for women, we accuse the other party of waging a war on women, then you're going to have to have the same standard.

So let's ask, what would they do if this was Mitch McConnell, who had been accused of what Senator Franken has been accused of? I don't think it takes a lot of imagination to think about what they would be saying, which is that saying that he should resign.

GREENE: It would immediately be saying, it's time for him to go.

POWERS: Exactly. And so I think if you want to have, you know, a moral authority here, then you're going to have to hold Senator Franken to a similar accountability.

GREENE: So the backdrop for all of this when it comes to the Democratic Party, I mean, is it seems to be - and this is coming up more and more now - is Bill Clinton's White House and the president. You worked in that White House from 1993 to 1998 - years when Paula Jones sued him for sexual harassment, and the affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky came to light. What do you think of - what did you think of that then?

POWERS: Well, at the time, I think I had the same perspective as a lot of other people did, which is - you know, I identified very much with the feminist movement, which - at that time, the predominant view was the only thing that mattered was consent. And so with Monica Lewinsky, this was a consensual relationship. You know, with reflection, standing back - you also have to remember, I was - I wasn't much older than Monica at that time. I'm much older now. I can kind of now appreciate more how young she was.

I also think that we now - you know, even within the feminist movement, people are starting to rethink this. Is consent - can you have consent when there's such a power differential, right? I mean, it's - and so I think that, you know, I now look at it very differently than I did at the time. But at the time, yeah, I did think that it was a consensual relationship and that, you know, he certainly shouldn't be held accountable for it.

GREENE: Should he have resigned? I mean, there's a woman, Juanita Broaddrick, who has accused him of rape, which is something that's come up. I mean, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is saying that Bill Clinton should've resigned back in those times. Are you thinking differently now?

POWERS: Yes. I think now I do believe that he should have resigned. And I think - precisely because of what I just said. I don't think that you can have true consent when there's such a power differential. And I think we saw in the ramifications that she suffered, which is one of the reasons that I think, you know, you can't - the person who's more powerful has to exert a different kind of, you know, decision-making than the younger person.

GREENE: Kirsten Powers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.