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Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 17, 1998

Political scandals, the disturbing actions of a white supremacist group in Virginia, the possibility of aggravating North Korea into nuclear war.  Just another week in 2017 - a year filled with unpredictability and unrest.  I can tell you that my year recap will be chock filled with info this time.

For now, it's time for the Throwback Thursday post, and I can tell you that the subject relates to one of the topics that I've mentioned in my opening spiel.  What that subject is...we'll get to that in a moment.  For now, let's see what else happened in the world August 17th...

1786 - Soldier/politician Davy Crockett (d. 1836) is born in Limestone, North Carolina (now present-day Tennessee)

1807 - The first commercial steamboat service in the world is inaugurated with the launch of the North River Steamboat in New York City

1862 - The Dakota War of 1862 commences

1864 - The Battle of Gainsville takes place in which Confederate Troops defeat Union troops near Gainsville, Florida

1883 - "Himno Nacional" - the national anthem for the Dominican Republic - is performed for the first time

1907 - Pike Place Market opens in Seattle, Washington

1908 - Emile Cohl's "Fantasmagorie" is shown for the first time in Paris, France

1913 - Mark Felt (a.k.a. Deep Throat), former FBI Associate Director (d. 2008) is born in Twin Falls, Idaho

1920 - Actress/singer Maureen O'Hara (d. 2015) is born in Ranelagh, County Dublin, Ireland

1933 - Pop singer Mark Dinning (d. 1986) is born in Manchester, Oklahoma

1943 - A busy day in history - The Allied conquest of Sicily is completed, the first Quebec Conference takes place, and Operation Hydra begins!

1953 - The first meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is held in Southern California

1958 - Pioneer 0 is launched, but the launch fails

1959 - The Hegben Lake Earthquake in Montana forms a lake known as Quake Lake

1969 - Hurricane Camille devastates parts of the Gulf Coast, killing 256 people and causing over a billion dollars in damage

1970 - Venera 7 is launched

1991 - In Sydney, Australia, a taxi driver goes on a shooting rampage inside of a shopping plaza - seven people are killed and six more are wounded before he takes his own life

1999 - A devastating earthquake takes place in Turkey, killing over 17,000 people

2005 - Over five hundred bombs are detonated all over Bangladesh by terrorists

2008 - American swimmer Michael Phelps makes world history by winning his eighth gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games - the first athlete to win so many gold medals in one Olympics

2009 - Seventy-five lose their lives and power is shut down in various areas of Russia following an accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam

2016 - Canadian born director Arthur Hiller dies at the age of 92

As for celebrity birthdays, we have quite a few today!  Birthday greetings go out to T.J. Anderson, Shane Porteous, Robert De Niro, Rachel Pollack, Hugh Baiocchi, Martha Coolidge, Gary Talley, Julian Fellowes, Kevin Rowland, Eric Johnson, Belinda Carlisle, Jonathan Franzen, Eric Schlosser, Sean Penn, Gilby Clarke, Dan Dakich, Jon Gruden, Colin James, Maria McKee, Steve Gorman, Dottie Pepper, Don Sweeney, Helen McCrory, Donnie Wahlberg, Kelvin Mercer, Eric Boulton, and Gracie Gold.

Okay, so what date have I decided to turn the clock back to this week?

Hmmm...August 17, 1998.  That was only nineteen years ago.  Unfortunately, I'm old enough to remember what was happening on that date.  Yes, I'm that old.

Let's that time, the newest addition to the family (my nephew) was born a few days earlier.  I was getting ready to begin my twelfth grade year at school (which ended up being a hell of a lot better than eleventh), and I had just gotten my bedroom the way that I wanted it (which was a moot point as we would move just two years later).

It was also the day in which a huge news story seemed to dominate the news channels all over the world.  It was considered to be one of the greatest scandals within an American presidency since the Watergate scandal which saw the impeachment of Richard Nixon in 1974.

I'm sure you all know where I'm going with this, and given the date that I've picked, you can pretty much narrow it down to which president I am talking about.  Yes, it was on this date in 1998 that President Bill Clinton publically admitted that yes, he did have sexual relations with that woman.

That woman, of course, being former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. 

You know, that scandal broke out right around the time that I was getting into late night talk shows.  Back in those days, we had David Letterman and Jay Leno - and naturally, both hosts had a field day with it.  It wasn't quite as much of a spectacle as the O.J. Simpson trial with the Dancing Itos...but it was enough to get the world's attention.

At the time, it was a huge deal.  When the affair took place, it was allegedly between 1995 and 1997 - right around the time that Clinton was running for re-election.  At the time the affair began, Clinton was 49, and Lewinsky was just 22.  And of course we all know that during the tryst between Clinton and Lewinsky that he was a married man. 

The first inkling of trouble within the White House was first heard in January 1998, when the Washington Post released the story about the alleged affair between Clinton and Lewinsky.  On January 26, 1998, Clinton appeared before a press conference and uttered the nine words that would come back to haunt him.

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

However, according to Lewinsky, that wasn't quite the case.  In fact, she had stated that she and the President had at least nine consensual sexual encounters during November 1995 and March 1997.  At some point during that time, Lewinsky's duties were shifted from the White House to the Pentagon as her superiors believed that she was getting a little too close to the President.  If only they knew...

The early stages of the scandal began to take root in late 1997 when Lewinsky confided in U.S. Civil Servant Linda Tripp about the affair.  Tripp advised Lewinsky to keep all of the presents that she had received from Clinton.  She also told Lewinsky to keep a blue dress that she had worn on one of the then alleged sexual encounters as proof.  And yes, that infamous blue dress was a common joke subject for the late night comedians I used to watch back in the day.

Anyway, long story short, Tripp began to record the conversations that she would have with Lewinsky about the affair, and those tapes would be used as evidence that Lewinsky had perjured herself while on the stand as a witness in the Paula Jones trial.  Jones had filed a sexual harassment suit against Clinton in 1997 and Lewinsky had stated back then that she did not engage in any sort of physical relationship with Clinton.  So, naturally the two stories kind of conflicted with each other, and over the next few months, the speculation intensified and many were left wondering whether or not an affair took place.

But on August 17, 1998, Bill Clinton admitted to a grand jury that he did have improper physical relations with Lewinsky - the dress that Lewinsky turned in became a crucial piece of evidence that was fairly hard to ignore.  That night, he confessed to the American public via a press conference.

As a result of this, Clinton was held in civil contempt of court for his misleading testimony surrounding the nature of his relationship with Lewinsky and was fined $90,000.  His license to practice law was suspended for five years.  Because of the scandal, he was very nearly impeached from his position, but in February 1999, the Senate acquitted him of all charges and he remained to serve out the rest of his term in January 2001.  Throughout it all, his wife Hillary stood by him throughout it all, and the couple is still married today - though I imagine that the first couple of years after his confession were quite tense in the Clinton household!

As for Lewinsky?  She moved on from the scandal as best she could, becoming a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, hosting a short-lived reality television series called "Mr. Personality", and is now an advocate for cyberbullying - which I suppose makes sense, given that she was and continues to be crucified for her role in the scandal.  Personally, while I acknowledge that she did make a really big mistake, I think enough time has passed that everyone should just really leave her be.  Besides, I don't think that she really deserved as much scrutiny as she ended up getting. 

Besides, with what's been happening in the world lately, the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal is MILD!      

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