EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (except those of you who make your dogs wear pants — you’re dead to me.),
But there is good news.
For those of us who toiled in the fetid swamplands of the 1990s culture wars, particularly the boggy tributaries fed by Bill Clinton’s pants, this is a moment of effulgent wonder.
Let’s back up a moment.
That ’90s Show
There’s a lot of talk these days about how feminist attitudes towards sexual assault have evolved in recent years. And that’s true as it far as it goes. What it leaves out is that we’ve been here before. Starting in the late 1980s, “awareness” about sexual harassment and sexual assault became a huge issue. There was the nomination fight over Senator John Tower to become Papa Bush’s Defense Secretary, and allegations about his drinking and “womanizing.”
Side-note: It was a long time ago, but I remember thinking at the time that, given the charges against him, at the last minute the kids from Scooby-Doo would step up, rip off the John Tower mask and exclaim, “Why it’s Ted Kennedy!”
Velma: He’s the one who was chugging boilermakers in the cloak room and shagging his secretary all along!
Senator Kennedy: That’s right, and I would have kept on doing it, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids! Hey, I have an idea, why don’t you kids relax and let me take you for a drive in that bitchin’ van of yours? What could go wrong?
By the way, “womanize” is a weird word. As an intransitive verb, it means to have casual sex with many different women. As a transitive verb it means to do what Bruce Jenner’s makeover team does to create Caitlyn Jenner.
Zero Tolerance 1.0
Where was I? Oh right, it was the late 1980s and early 1990s, the golden age of the mullet, the hairstyle that’s business in the front and a party in the back — which, oddly, is how they described various private jets Bill Clinton has flown on. After John Tower there was Bob Packwood, a name so perfect for a sex scandal even porn moguls would say, “That’s a bit too on the nose, don’t you think?” Packwood, a liberal Republican who had a good relationship with feminists, was thrown to the wolves. Investigators rummaged through his diary and he was hounded from public life.
Then there was the fight over Clarence Thomas, who was alleged to have made a joke about a pubic hair on a Coke can and asked a colleague out for a date. And this was enough to make his accuser into feminist martyr. It’s difficult to exaggerate the feminist feeding frenzy those hearings created in the media. Carol Mosley Braun and Patty Murray ran for the senate in protest of the hearings, giving rise to the Year of the Woman. It was zero tolerance, not just for rape, but for even the slightest verbal misstep.
Similarly, the discussion on college campuses then would seem familiar to people today. There was lots of talk about a rape epidemic and how “women don’t make these things up” or words to that effect. Feminists were even declaring open war on the porn industry, something they would never dream of doing today.
Enter the Clintons, a husband-and-wife team if ever there was one. While no one talked about Bill Clinton being the Messiah or a “lightworker” or anything like that, Clinton was still a much-adored figure in all the predictable circles. (And I don’t mean Little Rock brothels.) The media, which loathed the Reagan-Bush years with a passion that hastened the demise of mainstream media credibility, saw Clinton as a redeemer figure in his own right. He was also powerful. And as I keep saying, power corrupts the worshipper more than it corrupts the worshipped.
The Bill We All Knew
There’s no need to recount all the sordid details, but it became very clear that Bill Clinton had a zipper problem. Behind every story or allegation that made it into print there were dozens that stayed out of the papers but were nonetheless traded around Washington like baseball cards. Some were probably just rumors. Others had names and dates attached, but the people telling them didn’t want the hassles. In short, Bill Clinton put more uninvited hands on females than a woman’s prison guard in charge of searching for contraband. In 1992, the Clinton campaign had a full-time team to deal with what one staffer called “bimbo eruptions.”
And when the time came for feminists and the media to choose between sticking to the zero-tolerance principle they worked so hard to establish and throwing a Democratic president under the bus, they chose to hold a fire sale on their principles. Gloria Steinem, feminist matriarch, raced to the op-ed page of the New York Times to declare a “one free grope rule” for lechers. “There is nothing inherently wrong . . .” wrote Katie Roiphie, also in the Times, “with [Monica Lewinsky’s] attempt to translate her personal relationship with the President into professional advancement.” Clinton’s baron-and-the-milkmaid act with an intern, declared feminist author Jane Smiley, was simply an admirable “desire to make a connection with another person.”
Of course, in practice the one-free-grope rule became unlimited free-gropes. Every time a new allegation surfaced, the grope-quota would be expanded. Time magazine’s Nina Burleigh even admitted she’d have happily serviced him, just for keeping abortion legal. Because, feminism!
The Co-Dependent Co-Presidency
So here’s the fun part. A big source of Bill’s appeal to feminists was none other than his wife. She was more left wing than Bill. She was also not just a career woman, she had a chip on her shoulder about it. “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” she famously snapped. “But what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”
RELATED: President Bill vs. Candidate Hillary
I have no objection whatsoever to career women. Indeed, I’m glad that the term “career woman” itself sounds a bit archaic to the contemporary ear. But the important part of that line was her shot at traditional mothers. It was her version of sneering at the “bitter clingers,” and a lot of female journalists shared her contempt and resentment.
Hillary had hitched her wagon to Bill’s. She helped circle the wagons around his philandering.
Hillary’s popularity had little to do with her personality. How could it have been otherwise? That’d be like loving saltines for the taste, or watching Girls for the nudity.Rather, it stemmed from the idea that she represented a kind of feminist ascendancy. From the earliest days, Bill suggested that he would have almost a co-presidency. Elect him and you’d get “two for the price of one,” he famously promised. And lurking behind that was the much-discussed possibility that she would have her “turn” after him.
Hillary had hitched her wagon to Bill’s. She helped circle the wagons around his philandering. She “thanked” — wink, wink — Juanita Broaddrick for not making too big a deal about the fact that Bill raped her, “allegedly.” Indeed, she famously blamed all such allegations on Bill’s enemies and their desire to hurt the country.
The Bill Comes Due
Fast forward to two weeks ago. Hillary is as close as she’s ever been to finally fulfilling her destiny. Everyone — at least everyone who matters — is finally “Ready for Hillary.” The tireless effort by her minions to make Bill’s behavior a trivial and private issue seemed to have paid off. Bill is popular, very popular. Despite the fact that pretty much no one thinks he mended his ways after he left office, all of the sophisticated people think criticizing his “personal” behavior is boorish and deranged. At the same time, feminists have finally completed their restoration project. The last stones have been mounted atop the wall of Zero Tolerance 2.0.
And then, as Jeffrey Epstein’s flight attendant once said, Bill Clinton comes out of nowhere to bite her on the ass.
Whereas Bill was supposed to be Hillary’s “not-so secret weapon,” he’s now a liability. It’s schadenfreudetastic to watch liberals forced to choose between the Scylla of the Hillary campaign and the Charybdis of the feminist project.Of course, liberals are mad at . . . conservatives (and Donald Trump) for pointing it out. I particularly love the subhead on this Slate piece. “The right hopes to turn the feminist consensus on rape against the Clintons.” Ah yes, those terrible conservatives, how dare they take feminists seriously!
(As I noted in the Corner the other day, the fact that the Clintons were completely intimidated by Trump should create a real opportunity for Bernie Sanders. Hillary’s supposed to be tough-as-nails in her fight against sexism. Sanders should point out that she has a glass jaw — because of Bill.)
Oh, I very much doubt this will spell the doom of the Clinton campaign. But I cherish the possibility. Hillary’s whole campaign is premised on the idea that she can win because she’s a woman. Whenever she’s asked if she’s a “change candidate,” she skips past the inconvenient fact that the Clinton name is like a familiar callous on the foot of the body politic, and goes straight to the fact that she’s a woman. She’s not a particular woman, she’s a victory for EveryWoman. To the extent she wants to be more than a mere biological category, she leans heavily on the positive associations with her husband’s presidency. And now, the other legacy of her husband’s presidency is eating away at her feminist sales pitch, like a dose of slow-acting strontium-90.
I would feel bad for her, but if there’s a person more fully aware of who and what she got in bed with than Hillary Clinton, I don’t who she, or he, is.
Various & Sundry
I’m scheduled to be on Special Report and Hannity tonight. I say “scheduled” because my last three appearances were cancelled, two because of breaking news over terror attacks and one because they skipped having a live panel Christmas night. Thanks very much to everyone who’s asked to see more of me on the panel, by the way.
My column from yesterday is a compare-and-contrast between how the media lionized Cindy Sheehan and has largely ignored Charles Woods.
The latest GLoP podcast can be found here.
If you have ten minutes, I thought this was pretty hilarious.
Tails from the Home-front: It’s been a long haul for me personally since last we talked. My wife and daughter went off to Hawaii on Christmas day, while I stayed behind to work on my book and attend to the Goldberg Quadrupeds (and played an embarrassing amount of Unkilled on my iPad. I’m ranked in the top 300 worldwide!).
The first problem: The dogs and cats love my wife, a lot. When she’s gone, they become both needier and more jealous of one another. So for nearly two weeks, I endeavored to write my book while fending off one animal after another trying to climb onto my lap, which is particularly problematic since I work on a laptop for the most part. Whenever Pippa tried to get on my lap, Zoë would run over and try to depose her. When Zoë tried to get on my lap, Pippa would either cry or try to join in. When the good cat or my wife’s cat made a similar play for some loving, Zoë would either try to eat them or threaten to tweet that I am a cat-lover. When they weren’t doing that they were constantly asking to go outside. They’re both incredible liars. “No, really! I have to poop!” “Oh my gosh! There’s a huge pile of human currency outside. I’ll show you!” For the first few days, the rain wouldn’t stop and Pippa learned how to dig really exciting mud holes in the backyard. And Zoë figured out how to climb up a woodpile and jump over the backyard fence.
Things got even rougher this week because my mother-in-law had a bad fall in Hawaii and my wife had to stay behind to take care of her. Obviously, that’s more important, but instead of getting a relief dog walker I got an added bipedal ward to take care of. (Things are looking better for my mother-in-law, but no word when the Fair Jessica will return.)
Anyway, the Dingo and Pippa are doing fine, for the most part. Though Pippa has taken to having complete breakdowns on the car ride to the park. I had to install a dog barrier-fence thing (to use the technical term) in the back because she kept climbing over the seat and trying to jump out the window or climb all over me while I was driving. So now, she just screams “Where are the tennis balls!!?” over and over as we drive to the park. She’s generally quiet on the return trip.
Anyway, if you’re interested, I’ve been doing a lot of dog tweeting. Here’s Zoë missing her mom. Here’s Zoë trying to figure out how to eat Pippa: “I just don’t know where to start!” And here are Zoë and Pippa celebrating that they got me out of bed at 5:30 in the morning. Here’s Zoë looking exasperated with all of the dog-tweeting.
And now, the other stuff:
(My research assistant apologizes for forgetting to include Debby’s Links since the December 4 G-File. I will double the beatings. You can find the missing links here.)