The Clinton Scandals and the Politics of Image Restoration

By Joseph R. Blaney; William L. Benoit | Go to book overview

Chapter One

Introduction: Why Study Clinton’s Image Repair?

The apologia of the president of the United States facing serious allegations merits scholarly attention. When charges of wrongdoing befuddle the chief executive, much is at stake (Gergen, 1998).

A president who has come under attack for scandalous behavior is likely to be distracted from the duties of commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. In a dangerous world filled with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, reasoned and deliberate responses to crises are imperative. As such, situations that compel a president to take politically expedient, yet ill-advised, measures need to be avoided. In short, the president needs to maintain a positive image in order to act freely and responsibly on the world stage.

An embattled and weakened president could not function effectively on the domestic front if he were distracted either. With a reputation damaged by a scandal, a president may lack the political clout to pass needed legislation or to sustain the veto of harmful legislative acts. Moreover, the president’s ability to act effectively on unpopular yet necessary measures would be diminished.

So, the question arises, “Do we want our Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief distracted by scandal when facing decisions of great domestic and foreign importance?” Regardless of one’s ideological leanings the answer ought to be “no,” because potential problems affecting all Americans might develop without recourse to the best possible decisions. There is no implicit assumption in that question that places the president above the laws of the country. Nor does the question mean that a president should not

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