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What Obama Could Learn From the Monica Lewinsky Scandal

Author: Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies
May 12, 2014
Wall Street Journal


Monica Lewinsky has got me thinking. Last week I heard a lot–some of it from Obama administration insiders–about the terrible problems Barack Obama faces trying to manage U.S. foreign policy in year six of his presidency. Uncooperative Congress, tight budget, sagging public support, a global portfolio of crises.

These troubles are real, but here's where Monica helps. Once upon a time she all but paralyzed our politics–in, as it happens, year six of the Clinton administration. Today she is barely a footnote (sincere apologies to Vanity Fair). Consider: A booming economy, the no-casualties Kosovo war, Camp David diplomacy, a president who talked about America as the "indispensable nation" and seemed to mean it—soon enough, we forgot that little blue dress.

Bill Clinton was not the first president to surmount year-six setbacks—nor will he be the last. At the end of 1986, the Iran-contra scandal led many of Ronald Reagan's supporters to think he might have to resign. A year later, he welcomed Mihkail Gorbachev to Washington sign a breakthrough arms-control treaty almost exclusively on U.S. terms. Even George W. Bush, having suffered the very worst phases of the Iraq war during his sixth year in office, bounced back with the "surge" in the seventh.

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