Editor’s Note: SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered,” covering contemporary issues on HLN. The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers.
Former President Bill Clinton has just revealed the ultimate lessons he’s learned in the 20 years since his sordid affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to his impeachment: precisely, exactly none.
That’s right. Despite the supposed benefit of hindsight, Lewinsky’s own accounting of how that affair nearly destroyed her life, and a new era that’s seen the stunningly swift demise of accused sexual predators from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, Clinton believes he did the right thing then, and isn’t sorry now.
In an interview with NBC News’ Craig Melvin, Clinton told the host he didn’t believe he owed Lewinsky an apology. “No, I do not – I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.”
Words can’t adequately convey just how disturbing a display this was – you must simply just watch it. He may have apologized to Lewinsky and her family publicly in 1998, but his demeanor on NBC would make anyone wonder about his sincerity, then or now. The president, grinning boyishly, insisting he did the right thing, boasting about having never delivered a personal apology to the young intern he once took advantage of in the Oval Office – is like watching a con artist brag about pulling one over on an unsuspecting family. The man is frighteningly, pathologically incapable of shame.
He also insisted he was, somehow, two decades later, merely collateral damage or fallout from the current president’s many allegations of sexual misconduct.
“A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted to make the story work, I think partly because they’re frustrated that they got all these serious allegations against the current occupant of the Oval Office and his voters don’t seem to care,” Clinton said of Donald Trump. “I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.”
And finally, Clinton brushed off the affair as old news, saying, “This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me.”
All this is simultaneously stunning and yet, unsurprising.
What’s actually quite predictable is Clinton’s seeming lack of remorse and self-reflection.
For serial sexual harassers, the preternatural sense of entitlement that leads them to prey on weaker individuals in the first place is a consistent thread. It is what also leads them to believe they will, time and time again, get away with it, and, in the end, that they didn’t really do anything wrong.
That sense of entitlement – to unfettered sexual access, to public trust or unequivocal forgiveness, and to keep their public good-standing – explains Anthony Weiner insisting his computers were hacked, or Bill Cosby smiling maniacally through his trial to intimidate and discredit his accusers, or Weinstein’s attorney offering up the disgusting excuse that he didn’t “invent” the concept of sex-for-work in Hollywood.
And it explains why Clinton is so indignant today. Frankly, he had some help. The public gave him a pass at the time. Feminists, liberal women – even his wife – protected him, attacked his accusers, and insisted to the rest of us that, essentially, his good public work overshadowed his bad private behavior.
Get our free weekly newsletter
What is surprising about his recent comments, however, is that Clinton is a shell of the skilled politician he used to be. Where once empathy – remember “I feel your pain”? – was his greatest asset, he seemed totally unable or unwilling to even feign the emotion. Pretending to care, convincingly, is the American politician’s whole ball game. And that Clinton couldn’t pretend for a few minutes while on national television, couldn’t muster a modicum of sympathy for victims of sexual harassment more generally, says a whole lot about the politician he used to be, and maybe, about the man he always was.