I Was Assaulted By Bill Clinton At A “Grip and Grin”

by Jamison Koehler on March 18, 2014

Years ago I tagged along with my wife to a fundraiser at which Bill Clinton was going to be available for a “grip and grin” photograph.

Prior to going to the event, I had read that the Clintons, having endured thousands of receiving lines and photo opportunities, had developed a strategy for dealing with “clingers.”  Specifically, they would grip every person’s hand appearing in front of them, smile and say a few words.  Holding onto that hand, they would then guide the guest along to the next person in the receiving line.  This kept the line moving.  And it foiled the clingers.

Aware of this strategy, I resolved that, when my turn came to be photographed with Clinton, I would be the world’s quickest “gripper and grinner.” Nobody was ever going to call me a clinger.

I have to admit to some excitement when the Clinton entourage finally arrived.  An older man told me once about the time in the early 1930s when a relatively still unknown Adolf Hitler visited the small town in which the man grew up.  The man was still a young boy, and his parents did not have any particular political leanings.  Still, they were ashamed to say afterward that, by the time Der Fuhrer drove by in his motorcade, they had gotten so caught up in the euphoria of the moment that they found themselves at the front of the parade line.  And they performed the infamous salute.  This is the power these things have over us.

So, although I did not perform any salutes, I did feel some of this excitement when the former President arrived – tall, tanned, newly slim, and surrounded by secret service agents.  After all, you can be impressed by the Presidency as an institution and you can be impressed by the Presidency of a particular man without also being impressed by the man himself.

When my turn came to be photographed with Clinton, I walked up quickly, stood next to him, and shook his hand for the photograph, trying to make sure that the camera got me from a good angle.  Then, not wanting there to be any doubt as to whether I was a “clinger,” I immediately released my grip and tried to make my get-away.  But Clinton did not let go.  In fact, if anything, he tightened his grip.  Putting his left hand on my arm, he pulled me around in front of him toward the exit.  Only then did he release his grip.  It was almost as if we had been having a tug of war over my hand.

This was an unwanted touching.  You could almost say I felt violated.

There is no question that I consented to the initial contact.  I even waited in line for it.  But, just as the legal basis for a routine traffic stop – absent some additional justification – ends the moment the traffic ticket has been issued, my consent to have my hand shaken expired the moment the photograph was taken and I released my grip.  And there is no one who is more reasonable than I.

I never did get a copy of the photograph that was taken that day.  I imagine that, considering I was probably the one person at the event whom the hosts did not know, they had no idea where to send it.  But that’s a shame.  I would sign the photograph:  “Bill – I forgive you for assaulting me and, besides, the statute of limitations has run anyway.”  I would then send it to Clinton to post on his wall of fame.  After all, the truly famous do not have our own walls of fame.  We derive our ego boosts from having our faces plastered on everyone else’s wall.

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