A couple of years ago, my wife and I became subscribers to the St. Louis Speakers Series, where we’ve had the pleasure of listening to such luminaries as John Cleese, Jeffrey Toobin, Rita Moreno, Ted Koppel, Jon Meacham, and two former prime ministers — England’s David Cameron and Israel’s Ehud Barak. The only speaker who disappointed us was Jane Pauley, who gave a rambling presentation in which she told several stories from her career, most of which didn’t have any payoff.
These events are held at Powell Symphony Hall and emceed by Patrick Murphy of KETC, the public television outlet here. He introduces the guest, who then speaks from a podium for about an hour. Then Murphy returns to ask questions that audience members have written down on yellow cards distributed with that night’s program, collected about halfway through the presentation by ushers. He’s pretty good about choosing relevant questions for each speaker, and with the queries all submitted in writing, we avoid the grandstanding that can occur when an audience member gets up to ask a question at a microphone in the aisle.
The next two speakers in the series are travel writer Rick Steves and former president Bill Clinton. Regarding the latter, I received an email from the Speakers Series yesterday that said:
President Clinton’s office has requested that we submit subscriber questions to them in advance of the lecture. Thus, we ask to have all questions submitted in advance via email.
There’s no explanation for this departure from normal procedure, but I can make an educated guess as to the reason: Clinton doesn’t want any questions regarding sexual harassment.
Ever since the #MeToo movement exploded in the wake of charges of sexual assault and harassment against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and others, the former president’s name has come up repeatedly. Unfortunately, it is too often in the form of a political attack from Clinton-haters who want to re-litigate accusations against him because “the women must be believed.” Not surprisingly, those same right-wingers don’t have a word to say about the women who have made claims about Trump, and none of them would be interested in re-opening the Clarence Thomas hearings because they now believe Anita Hill.
Still, there are legitimate questions to discuss about Clinton’s past behavior, both in the White House and as governor of Arkansas. I’d like to hear what he has to say on the subject now that the environment is different and he and Hillary are out of power. I’m not expecting any revelations, but aside from his views on our current political situation, what issue could be more topical for him to discuss?
I don’t blame the Speakers Series for bowing to his request. After all, it is in the business of making its guests look good, not holding their feet to the fire — but if I’m right, then shame on Clinton for avoiding such questions in the first place.