One Intern’s Clinton Moment

Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:21pm

In her new book, “Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House,— Stacy Parker Aab, a White House intern during the Clinton administration, gives us some insight into what it was like to be the focus of unwanted attention from the commander in chief.

Aab, in a juicy page-turner, writes about a close encounter with former President Bill Clinton. But the overarching theme of her book highlights vulnerabilities young females face when confronted with the vices of powerful older men and the pressure of perfection in the world of politics.

According to Aab, her near miss with Clinton began during a G8 meeting in Okinawa, Japan, in 2000, when she received an unusual invitation. Clinton invited Aab, who had been a special assistant to aide Paul Begala, into his hotel suite and then beckoned her out onto the balcony and away from Secret Service listening devices. Next came the “barrage of compliments,— she writes. And finally, the awkward moment ended with a violating hug “that had gone a moment too long.—

Aab calls the uncomfortable experience with Clinton a “disappointment.— Unable to come up with a better description of the actions of a man whom she looked up to as a father figure, she said in an interview, “I was disappointed the event happened. But I’ve learned some of the most amazing people are very complicated.—

Aab was 18 years old when she landed her unpaid internship with an office adjacent to the Oval Office. “Working in the White House was a wonderland,— she said.

In the book, Aab outlines how easy it is to get caught up in telling white lies in an attempt to meet the expectations of perfection that young professionals believe exist when they begin their political career. But according to Aab, one later comes to realize that in Washington, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up— that matters most.

Aab said her experience in the White House as an African-American woman was a rewarding one, despite the problems. She said, “I came away so much richer learning from the mistakes that I made.—

Aab collects her White House experiences and highlights the pitfalls of working in Washington and offers advice to other young women beginning their journey:

• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. “Don’t feel like your life is over when you make a mistake,— she said. “In the White House you are under extreme pressure that if you make any mistake there will be so much at stake. It could lead to unethical practices.—

• Don’t make fear-driven decisions.

• Be mindful of your power.

• Breathe.

“Even when you feel like the world is falling apart, it’s not,— Aab said.