Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Russia Pities Clinton - Not Jones?

A people that publicly discusses the shape of its president's penis has no moral right to teach others about democracy," began a discussion of Bill Clinton's plight in Izvestia last week. "This effort to nose about in someone else's bed -- even the president's -- calls to mind the most unpleasant episodes of our own recent history."

The weekly Kommersant Vlast agreed in an open sympathy letter to Clinton. "Everything that is happening to you in America happened to thousands of ordinary men in the Soviet Union. The only difference being that in the Soviet Union, morality was judged not by a grand jury but by Party Committees, and events unfolded not on television but at open party meetings," the magazine wrote.

Many Americans also feel that Clinton's sex life ought to be private. So it is not surprising that Russians who lived through a totalitarian era, in which the state nosed about in one's bed and one's head, are all the more emphatic.

But then, one might also expect Russians to have some sympathy and interest in the other side of the story -- for example, allegations that Clinton sicked the Internal Revenue Service on another woman in his life, Paula Jones. The IRS audit of Jones -- a lowly Arkansas civil servant earning less than $20,000 a year -- looks like politically motivated state persecution. Russians know about the tax men in black ski masks; they know about bureaucrats using their offices to settle vendettas. Why don't they care about Paula Jones -- or about Kathleen Willey, who also says Clinton's sexual advances were unwanted? Don't Russian men have daughters?

If the United States has gone into a puritanical fury over Clinton's peccadilloes, many in Russia err in the opposite direction by downplaying the unpleasant side of what actually happened in the White House.

It was irresponsible for the president to jeopardize the dignity of his office, but Russians might just see this as being a red-blooded male. It was sleazy to have an affair with a junior office employee, but some Russians just see such favors as the droit de seigneur of any top boss.

Indeed, many in Russia draw the bizarre conclusion that Clinton's fall is about feminists and minorities run amok. Yet neither, no matter how defined, have much to do with Ken Starr's Republican-backed charge.

The entire Lewinsky affair has sullied the United States. But Russia would also do well to think seriously about some of the moral concerns which the scandal has thrown light on.