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What Clinton Taught Our Teenagers

Thirteen-year-old Lindsay Llarena is ready to graduate from the Clinton school of attack-dog ethics.

11:01 PM, Jan 30, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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IT TURNS OUT that the politics of personal destruction does have cultural consequences.

As noted by Opinion Journal's Best of the Web, the January 29 edition of the Palm Springs Desert Sun featured an op-ed by a distressed 13-year-old named Lindsay Llarena. It seems that on January 8, a police officer who provided security for the local high school pleaded guilty to having sexual relations with a 17-year-old student. The officer, Blaine Trimble, was charged with two counts of consensual digital penetration with a minor--which he plead guilty to--and two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor--which were dismissed as part of his plea bargain. For his trouble, he was sentenced to probation with community service and some counseling. Desert Sun opinion editor Cindy Uken wrote an outraged column about the gentle treatment Trimble had been afforded.

Uken's piece catapulted little Lindsay into action. The seventh grader from John Glenn Middle School defended Trimble, writing, "The girl should've known not to do this, unless she wasn't brought up to know right from wrong."

"Blaine is a very kind man and is a person who wouldn't parade around school looking for innocent minors," Lindsay continued. "It was consensual digital penetration, which means they both agreed to have this sexual relationship. Does Uken even know what digital penetration means? She, I feel, is way out of line by saying nonsense about a caring person."

Besides, she asks indignantly, "How does [Uken] know at the end of this whole thing they won't get back together?"

"Everybody makes mistakes, nobody's perfect, and there is no perfect world," Lindsay concludes. "Look at Bill Clinton. He was an honorable person. He ran our country, and he had an affair. He didn't even get a punishment, and his authority ranked above police officers."

Now we finally understand Clinton's legacy: 13-year-olds understand not only the intricacies of digital penetration, but also how to smear the victim. She knows enough to ignore important facts of the case, portray the victim as morally impure, suggest that the act was harmless and mutual, and finally dismiss it under the rubric of "everyone does it." Kind of like Lanny Davis.

It (probably) isn't fair to beat up on Lindsay, so I won't. She's dumb and selfish and 13. But what about the adults?

When asked why the paper chose to run Lindsay's piece, Uken says cautiously, "We thought it was the right thing to do."

So if the editors of the Desert Sun couldn't be counted upon to exercise good judgement, what about Lindsay's parents? Surely they were horrified at the hurtful and hateful things their daughter wrote? Uken, however, says the paper contacted Lindsay's mother before deciding to publish the op-ed and "she was very supportive of her daughter. Very supportive."

Lindsay's mother may be insane, but the rest of Palm Springs couldn't possibly subscribe to such a ridiculous view of the case, right? Wrong. "Her opinion does come from a 13-year-old, but it is not out of the mainstream; not judging by the comments and e-mails we've gotten," Uken says somberly.

So there we are. After watching the way the Clinton team attacked Gennifer, Paula, Monica, Juanita, and the rest, we've become used to the politics of personal destruction. The pundits who told us that Clinton was harmless, that his attempts to destroy and demonize his accusers were roguish and charming, were wrong. We're all Clintons now. Even our teenagers.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.