It’s been almost two decades now (really? that long!), and the impeachment of Bill Clinton still rubs up against raw feelings on the part of Clinton’s supporters and opponents.
And even if you don’t have feelings about it that were generated at the time (maybe you weren’t old enough to really remember), you should list to Slate.com’s podcast series Slow Burn, Season 2: Bill Clinton. Even after nearly 20 years, we still don’t understand it. We don’t understand why Clinton did what he did? We don’t understand why his opponents were so dedicated to his destruction. We don’t understand why Republicans in Congress — when it was clear that the votes in the Senate were not there to convict the president — continued with their impeachment quest.
That lack of understanding is the reason for the podcast in the first place. In the words of podcast producer Leon Neyfakh:
There’s a quote I think about a lot when I’m writing about the past: “You know what the mayor of memory lane understands? The truth is in what happened, how it happened; not how it felt; not how it feels.” It’s a powerful mantra that has served me well. But when it comes to the Clinton presidency and the scandal that engulfed it, “how it felt” was an essential driver of “what happened.” At every step in the Clinton saga, going back to when he was first elected in 1992, people made decisions and had reactions that now seem inexplicable. (Did Katie Couric really float the idea that Monica Lewinsky was a “predatory girl who set her sights on the president”? Yes, she did.) With the benefit of hindsight, it can be easy to condemn those decisions and reactions. But it’s more fruitful—and more exciting—to try to understand them. What were all these people thinking and feeling when they said what they said and did what they did?
Season 1 of Slow Burn was about Watergate. I recommended it to you several months ago. It was truly compelling. If you haven’t listened to it, you should.
And you should listen to this one. Here’s Episode 1:
Podcast produced by Leon Neyfakh and Andrew Parsons. Research assistance from Madeline Kaplan.
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