Given a known vile Republican sexual predator currently in the White House and another one trying to win a Senate seat in a special election next month, only Democrats would be stupid enough to go after Bill Clinton at a time like this, but there you are.
How vitiated Bill Clinton seemed at the 2016 Democratic convention. Some of his appetites, at least, had waned; his wandering, “Norwegian Wood” speech about his wife struck the nostalgic notes of a husband’s 50th-anniversary toast, and the crowd—for the most part—indulged it in that spirit. Clearly, he was no longer thinking about tomorrow. With a pencil neck and a sagging jacket he clambered gamely onto the stage after Hillary’s acceptance speech and played happily with the red balloons that fell from the ceiling.
When the couple repeatedly reminded the crowd of their new status as grandparents it was to suggest very different associations in voters’ minds. Hillary’s grandmotherhood was evoked to suggest the next phase in her lifelong work on behalf of women and children—in this case forging a bond with the millions of American grandmothers who are doing the hard work of raising the next generation, while their own adult children muddle through life. But Bill’s being a grandfather was intended to send a different message: Don’t worry about him anymore; he’s old now. He won’t get into those messes again.
Yet let us not forget the sex crimes of which the younger, stronger Bill Clinton was very credibly accused in the 1990s. Juanita Broaddrick reported that when she was a volunteer on one of his gubernatorial campaigns, she had arranged to meet him in a hotel coffee shop. At the last minute, he had changed the location to her room in the hotel, where she says he very violently raped her. She said that she fought against Clinton throughout a rape that left her bloodied. At a different Arkansas hotel, he caught sight of a minor state employee named Paula Jones, and, Jones said, he sent a couple of state troopers to invite her to his suite, where he exposed his penis to her and told her to kiss it. Kathleen Willey said that she met him in the Oval Office for personal and professional advice and that he groped her, rubbed his erect penis on her, and pushed her hand to his crotch.
It was a pattern of behavior; it included an alleged violent assault; the women involved had far more credible evidence than many of the most notorious accusations that have come to light in the past five weeks. But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced. Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement had by then ossified into a partisan operation, and it was willing—eager—to let this friend of the sisterhood enjoy a little droit de seigneur.
The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.
And Michele Goldberg isn't the only one dealing in hair shirts and horsehide whips this week, over at Vox Matthew Yglesias comes to the conclusion Clinton should have resigned 20 years ago in order to prove his wokeness.
In the midst of the very same public statement in which he confessed the error, Clinton also mounted the defense that would see him through to victory — portraying the issue as fundamentally a private family matter rather than a topic of urgent public concern.
"I intend to reclaim my family life for my family," he said. "It's nobody's business but ours. Even presidents have private lives. It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life.”
To this line of argument, Republicans offered what was fundamentally the wrong countercharge. They argued that in the effort to spare himself from the personal and marital embarrassment entailed by having the affair exposed, Clinton committed perjury when testifying about the matter in a deposition related to Paula Jones’s lawsuit against him.
What they should have argued was something simpler: A president who uses the power of the Oval Office to seduce a 20-something subordinate is morally bankrupt and contributing, in a meaningful way, to a serious social problem that disadvantages millions of women throughout their lives.
But by and large, they didn’t. So Clinton countered with the now-famous defense: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Ultimately, most Americans embraced the larger argument that perjury in a civil lawsuit unrelated to the president’s official duties did not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.
But looking back through today’s lens, this whole argument was miscast. The wrongdoing at issue was never just a private matter for the Clinton family; it was a high-profile exemplar of a widespread social problem: men’s abuse of workplace power for sexual gain. It was and is a striking example of a genre of misconduct that society has a strong interest in stamping out. That alone should have been enough to have pressured Clinton out of office.
I'm going to say this once: Bill Clinton indeed needs to be reckoned with, but right now is about the worst possible time for the Democrats to be having this argument. It's great to say that Clinton should have been pressured to resign two decades ago, but Clinton isn't in the White House right now.
Donald Trump is.
Can we pressure him to resign first since he's the imminent danger? Can we do that? Can we get Roy Moore to drop out? Can we take a look at both Democrats and Republicans who are in Congress now who have sexually assaulted people and need to be pressured into resigning before we tackle Big Dog's very real issues?
Yes, it's far past time to talk about Clinton, sexual predator. I get that. But he's not in office right now. We have sexual predators who are, one of who may be Democratic Sen Al Franken.
Let's deal with them first, shall we?