Like Gennifer Flowers, Elaine Swift and Kenneth Finegold are feeling vindicated by allegations of adultery in the White House.
The husband-and-wife teaching team at Eastern Washington University was ridiculed in 1992 when the two warned in a national newspaper that then-Gov. Bill Clinton’s attempts to cover up his alleged extramarital affairs eventually would paralyze the presidency.
Clinton was swept up in a sex scandal last week involving his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Prosecutors are investigating whether Clinton urged Lewinsky to lie under oath about having an affair with the president.
“There was this huge time bomb ticking in his background and nobody was talking about it,” Swift, an associate professor of government, said about the 1992 presidential campaign. “We do feel some vindication.”
As lifelong Democrats, Swift and Finegold criticized candidate Clinton for dodging questions about extramarital affairs during the New Hampshire primary.
They argued for full disclosure in a democratic system, letting voters make their own judgment about whether a politician’s adulterous affairs are relevant.
At the time, Swift was teaching at Dartmouth in New Hampshire; Finegold worked seven hours away at Rutgers in New Jersey. Both had earned doctoral degrees in political science from Harvard University.
The New York Times published their guest editorial, “Has Clinton Said Enough?,” on Jan. 23, 1992.
“We think Mr. Clinton should give New Hampshire Democrats - and the American Electorate - a simple yes or no,” wrote Swift and Finegold, who had been married two years earlier. “If Governor Clinton has not been able to keep his marital vows, voters might rightly wonder whether he could be trusted to keep campaign promises or uphold his oath of office.”
The article evoked anger from many quarters. Pulitzer prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. declared the couple’s ideas hypocritical. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page branded the pair “neopuritans.”
Colleagues left angry messages and scorned the couple at dinner parties, Swift and Finegold said. Newsweek and ABC News commentators laughed at the couple’s suggestion that the way Clinton managed his marriage might reflect how he would manage the country and treat women.
“We got slammed pretty hard,” Swift said.
In 1994, the pair moved to Cheney, slipping into obscurity far from the New York media giants and White House press corps.
The couple took the Eastern jobs so they could work at the same school and end their long commutes, said Swift. They work in side-by-side offices at Patterson Hall, where White House internship positions are posted outside their office door.
A job “designed to challenge and reward a select number of students,” the government notice states.
Swift and Finegold dispute the argument that the president’s sex life is nobody’s business but his own.
“The president, whether we like it or not, is a moral figure,” Swift said. “His affairs undermine the moral authority from which he can speak” about welfare reform, civil rights and foreign policy.
Finegold and Swift don’t agree on everything. Swift wants the president to resign immediately, giving Gore and other Democratic leaders time to restore faith in the party before the next election, or before war breaks out in Iraq.
But Finegold thinks Clinton should only step down if he has lied under oath, or encouraged others to do so, about his alleged adultery or other matters.
“He defines his own standard of morality,” Finegold said. “It’s a pattern of proclivity, and it’s very strange.”