When taking some time to think about it, is easy to both compare and contrast Princess Diana and President Clinton. Both are (or indeed were) prominent political figures, hounded by the press. Both attempted at some point to promote an image of marital bliss when in fact the opposite was the case. In each case sexual indiscretion on the part of one or both of the marital partners enjoyed a high public profile. On the other hand, both Diana and Clinton devoted a significant amount of time to political or social causes close to their hearts. So both could be viewed as fairly ambiguous figures in the eyes of both the public and the press. And indeed there are both comparisons and extreme contrasts that are examined below.
In terms of positive influence, both Diana and President Clinton exuded a large amount of charm. This element helped a great deal towards both Diana's and Clinton's initial popularity with their public. With Diana this was perhaps more the case than with Clinton, due to a number of elements. According to Supance (2002) for example:
Diana's fortuitous combination of beauty and glamour, her accessible, sympathetic, and vulnerable personality, and an ability to convey genuine concern for the affairs of ordinary people and the world's poor and downtrodden, set her apart decisively from the distant formality of the British monarchy.
Thus, counting in Diana's favor is the coldness perceived in the rest of the royal family. By exuding warmth and charm, Diana set herself apart and thus formed a searing contrast with the rest of the family. This made her charm all the more vivid and her warmth all the more endearing. The fact that she was both beautiful and glamorous of course contributed to the wildly escalating fame she enjoyed throughout her life. Bill Clinton has some of the same elements in his favor. He is better looking than any of the presidents before him (or indeed after him), and he seemed more in touch with his public than the other presidents. Yet this was all accepted as part of his job as president, and he didn't overthrow the paradigm of an entire system as completely as did Diana. Nor was he criticized as scathingly as was she (Supance, 2002).
It is interesting to note that while Diana was most harshly criticized by her peers in the royal family, both she and Bill Clinton fell into disfavor with their public as well. Clinton's Lewinsky affair is for example paralleled by the infidelities of both Charles and Diana. At first the marital difficulties were only rumors, as was the Lewinsky affair. One could also say that public pressure finally forced Clinton to concede to his indiscretion, while the same forced Diana to admit to a disorder - bulimia - she was not proud of. Along with this came revelation after shocking revelation of the fairy tale gone wrong (Supance, 2002). Among these were Charles's long-standing affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and Diana's retaliatory affair with James Hewitt. It was her sexual indiscretion, and not her bulimia, that resulted in cruel criticism against Diana by both the public and the press. Her favor was restored after an interview in which Charles admitted to his affair, after which Diana granted a similar interview.
In contrast, Clinton's confession resulted in great public shock and dismay. It also resulted in several more rumors regarding the family's stormy household. The respective repercussions could be due to the way in which each person handled his or her scandal. Clinton openly and repeatedly denied any indiscretion, after which he admitted to it. Diana remained diplomatically silent until she was forced to reveal the truth. She never openly denied anything, and perhaps this is what resulted in rapid public forgiveness. In many ways also Diana represented a fantasy; a fairy tale for a world desperately in need of such (Bowman, 1998). Thus even a scandal of huge proportions could not deprive Diana of her combined glamorous and caring image for too long. This image as fairy tale combine with her tragic death, is perhaps what sets Diana permanently apart from her counterparts, including Clinton.
Indeed, according to Bowman (1998) the many respectful silences and shop closures in honor of the late princess borders on an attempt to mythologize her, if this attempt had not already succeeded during Diana's life. She has commanded near-worship from her public. Clinton on the other hand, while very popular, was not elevated to the level of Diana. It is unlikely that Clinton's death would provoke world-wide disbelief and mourning.
Another element prominent in both lives being discussed is that of betrayal. Both Bill Clinton and Diana have been betrayed by various trusted people. Diana has for example been betrayed by all who should firstly have been loyal to her. The worst of these was the betrayal by her husband, Charles. Secondly, she has been betrayed by the royal family, who never supported her or even so much as accepted her into the royal family circle. In terms of the public, many feel that she has been betrayed by the paparazzi to the point where her death was the result:
immediate blame was laid at the door of the press photographers who were giving chase to the car, and gave rise to protracted legal hearings in Paris in a futile attempt to charge somebody with the couple's senseless deaths." (Supance, 2002)
Diana was also betrayed by her lover, James Hewitt, through his cooperation with the writing of a book about their relationship. Similarly, but more scandalously somehow, Clinton can be seen to be betrayed by his lover, Monika Lewinsky. But like Diana he was also betrayed on a more official level. Dick Morris worked closely with Clinton during his presidency, ensuring his victory for two presidential terms. Currently however he is involved in exposing what he feels are shortcomings in Clinton's political policies, especially as they relate to the events of 9/11/01 (Rush 2003). Citing actions such as a failure to adjust foreign driver's licenses and the failure to aggressively investigate the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, Morris blames Clinton for indirectly bringing about the 9/11 tragedy. To further drive home his point, Morris cites the lack of security infrastructure at airports, which was more or less a direct invitation to terrorism. Basically Morris is of the opinion that Clinton did not take the terrorism threat seriously enough. Subsequent events appear to substantiate this.
This is however not all, and Clinton is indicted for several other indiscretions on the political level to compliment his sexual indiscretion. Indeed, York (2001) accuses Clinton of attempting to find a political legacy for himself in tragedy: "...now, in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, the former president appears to be working to shape a new legacy as a leader in the fight against terrorism."
Clinton is also said to have issued a number of statements regarding his pursuit of Osama bin Laden and how close he had been to destroying the terrorist. According to military personnel working under him such statements are however exaggerated (York, 2001). If such claims are to be believed, it appears that Clinton is fairly desperate to leave a legacy more honorable than the episode with Ms. Lewinsky. However, if his statements continue being contradicted by his former personnel, his battle for honor seems to be lost. Diana on the other hand seems to have issued fewer statements regarding her own conquests, while doing more in terms of charity work and family involvement to prove that she was worth the public adoration she received.
Still, no story has just one side, and Bill Clinton has done much to forward political and social causes close to his heart. One of these is the cause of disadvantaged black people. For his work, Clinton has earned the honor of being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame (Jet 2002). For his work promoting the interests of marginalized blacks not only in the United States, but around the world, Toni Morrison has referred to Clinton as "our first Black president." He was also the first White person to receive the honor of being inducted in the Black Hall of Fame. Rodney Slater, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, introduced Clinton with the words: "Mr. President, you have given so many of us the opportunity to be the first Black this, the first Black that, and tonight we are going to give you the opportunity to become the first White inductee into the Black Hall of Fame." (Jet 2002).
Princess Diana also contributed globally to causes she cared for. In fact, she used the much-lamented attention by the media to upstage her charity work around the world. Among these were her international campaign to ban land mines, visiting lepers, and supporting those suffering from AIDS (Supance, 2002). AIDS is also a cause supported by Bill Clinton. All this served to endear…