Former President Bill Clinton has got to be less than excited about this little bit of history.
The impeachment of former President Clinton is in a gray area of history, too long ago to be a current event, too recent to be judged in perspective. Yet history is already judging Clinton in the place where millions of students get their information about him – textbooks.
Seven years after he was impeached in a scandal of sex, perjury and bitter politics, Clinton has become a fixture in major high school texts.
The impeachment is portrayed in the context of his two-term tenure, a milestone event, but not one that overshadows how Clinton handled the economy, crime and health care.
The most commonly used texts give straightforward recaps of Clinton’s toughest days, with some flavor of how it affected the nation. Absent are any the lurid details of his relationship with Monica Lewinksy that spiced up daily news reports and late-night talk shows as the scandal and impeachment played out in 1998 and early 1999.
“It should not be in the book for titillating purposes or settling scores,” said Alan Brinkley, the Columbia University provost who has written or contributed to several history text books. “It should be in the book because of its significance to our recent history.”
The provost is right, of course, and that’s got to burn Bill and his sympathizers even more. They can’t go after these textbooks and try to remove them for misrepresenting the facts surrounding his impeachment. If they do it will clearly look like censorship.
Forget about the fact that many of us thought Clinton should have been removed from office, not for his tryst with Monica, but for lying under oath to a grand jury. It’s satisfying enough to know that millions of American children will grow up to learn that Bill Clinton was one of three US presidents judged guilty in a court of impeachment.