Politics & Policy

Hillary, Not Trump, Forced Us to Revisit Bill Clinton’s Scandals

The Clintons at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in October. (Scott Olson/Getty)

The country, in desperate need of a path forward, is on the verge of re-litigating the wreckage of our political past. A 68-year-old Hillary Clinton is trying to paint herself as a candidate of the future — an attempt to find stable ground in facing younger more fresh-faced Republican opponents and reset her image after 25 years of being in the public eye.

Despite the need to downplay her status as a permanent political fixture, her campaign has announced they are finally letting former president Bill Clinton off the leash, in hopes of syphoning off his media popularity. But as has happened with every other candidate in the race, the attention has turned squarely from this maneuver to Donald Trump. Trump has been playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in responding to charges from Hillary and members of her campaign that Trump is simply “sexist” for attacking her, even as tepidly as he has up to this point.

Trump, as inarticulate as he can be, has used the occasion to subtly remind Hillary and Bill of their own past indiscretions concerning treatment of women and is, as always, using free media exposure to drive home his point. A network media complex that’s been all too happy to put Trump front and center for clicks and ratings now find themselves awkwardly on the defense against their own lionizing of Bill Clinton.

Savannah Guthrie approached the subject in a Today show interview with Trump with the tried and true Bill Maher defense of President Clinton’s relationship with then-20-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky as merely a private and personal “extra-marital affair.” Guthrie even went so far as to call it an “alleged” affair, before conceding that Clinton had of course admitted to it.

Guthrie insinuated, as have others in media, that questions about Bill Clinton’s behavior while in office are somehow off limits, yet his record as president is something to be admired and remembered, a record Hillary Clinton this campaign season has selectively distanced herself from on many occasions.

The media apparently believe that remarking on the party-boy antics of Bill somehow makes the people in the country that elected him into unwelcome voyeurs, peering into the private life of a governing executive. But the Clintons dragged the country into the mess of their personal lives, not the other way around.

Does the injunction to always believe victims depend on what side of the political aisle a woman happens to fall on?

What neither defensive liberal media nor the Clinton campaign quite get is that if they want to set rules in stone for how we talk about “rape culture” and sexual harassment, then the former president and his defenders can’t complain when his actions are judged by those standards.

Lena Dunham asks us to accept at face value claims she made that she was sexually assaulted in college, then openly campaigns for the Clintons, who virtually destroyed the personal reputations of women over similar claims. Is Dunham or her fans aware of Clinton confidant James Carville’s referring to Bill Clinton accuser Paula Jones as “coming out of the trailer parks”? Or, as far as culture shapers and Hollywood are concerned, does the injunction to always believe victims depend on what side of the political aisle a woman happens to fall on?

#share#Last year, on the heels of the explosive and discredited rape accusations against a fraternity at UVA leveled by journalist Sabrina Erdely and Rolling Stone, Zerlina Maxwell, a Washington Post contributor and progressive women’s rights activist, wrote a column with the headline, “No Matter What Jackie Said, We Should Automatically Believe Rape Claims.” (The title of the article was later stealth-edited, but the URL link contains the original title.)

Earlier that year, appearing on MSNBC in a segment featuring comments Rand Paul had made about the media giving Bill Clinton a pass, Maxwell said:

I’m very uncomfortable, mainly because one, it’s old news. I’m not condoning anything President Clinton did in the Nineties obviously, but I would say that this is being used to hit Hillary Clinton and this is not an attack on President Clinton, it’s an attack on Hillary and the underlying message there is blatant sexism. Why are we even talking about what President Clinton did in the Nineties. The only reason is because Hillary is running. And it’s not her fault, so why are we even talking about it in this moment.

Let’s navigate through that word salad and get right to Maxwell’s point: Why are we even addressing this again? It’s because the Clintons have asked us to address it.

The country is not asking Hillary Clinton to run for president (again), she is asking the country to elect her, and we have every right to know what exactly we’re getting with the Clintons (again).

Why are we even addressing this again? It’s because the Clintons have asked us to address it.

Upon Hillary’s inauguration, Bill Clinton will not just be stashed away on an island off shore with a volleyball never to be heard from for four to eight years. Just this week, she said he would play an integral part in advising her on everything from economics to foreign policy.

The Democratic party hopes to bring the Clintons back to the White House after successfully tarring their Republican opponent with the “war on women” charge. The attacks on the Clintons by Rand Paul, Donald Trump, and other candidates undermine that narrative, which in the case of Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, and Paula Jones is more important to them than defending the lives and reputations of women.

If progressive women’s groups on the left are ever curious about why those of us on the right tend to write off their hysterics over a culture of rape, the fact that they’re lionizing a party currently being guided back into the arms of the Clintons, who themselves went out of their way to decimate the reputation of any woman standing in the way of their ambition, has a lot to do with it. And it’s a hypocrisy they should have to address.

These are not only questions Mrs. Clinton should and will have to face, especially if her opponent is the indiscriminate Donald Trump, but are questions the media, which not only defend her husband’s past transgressions but have also employed members of the Clinton family, should have to answer. What Trump may succeed in doing is to remind the country what it was exactly the Clintons dragged us through, and cool any desire to revisit those times again. Most people won’t look forward to a constant stream of dramatic scandals and a shady swath of Scooby-Doo villains and donors turning the Lincoln Bedroom into the Clintons’ own personal Airbnb.

If the Clintons and their protective media continue to demand the country look back in time in fondness to the more peaceful and unified republic of the Nineties, as they believe it was, then they are by default asking us to look back at the wreckage they left in their wake as they exited (for good, we thought).

#related#The Clinton campaign and the phalanx of media that will no doubt attempt to dismiss the issue of Bill’s personal conduct don’t get to be the arbitrators of what we as a country decide is or is not important or newsworthy. If Monica Lewinsky wishes to resurface with a life in the public eye focusing on bullying and Internet harassment (a noble cause and one Lewinsky should not be harangued for taking up) then it’s worth pointing out exactly who were the bullies and aggressors toward her all those years ago when she was a 20-year-old intern standing in the office of the most powerful man on the planet.

If revisiting the Clinton’s sordid history is somehow problematic for the progressive Left’s narrative of empowering women (but only those they agree with politically), then it’s a problem that should be dropped at the Clinton’s doorstep, and no one else’s. Not even Donald Trump’s.


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