From the last Morning Jolt of the week:
It’s Like an Instant-Replay Review for One of the Big Decisions of 1998
The spectacularly convenient shift among Democrats continues, now with Kirsten Gillibrand leading the charge . . .
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.
Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.”
But she also appeared to signal that what is currently considered a fireable offense may have been more often overlooked during the Clinton era.
(As I wrote a few weeks ago, spectacularly convenient shifts are a habit for Gillibrand.)
Still, for those of us who always felt Bill Clinton escaped serious consequence for his long history of sexually pursuing women who worked for him, this long-delayed emerging bipartisan consensus is a bit of a pleasant surprise, the political equivalent of the Missouri Tigers being officially notified that there shouldn’t have been a “fifth down” in that infamous game against Colorado in 1990. Clinton’s critics were right, and his supporters were defending the indefensible. Let’s start revising those history books, folks.
(I know everybody remembers the Clinton presidency for the dot-com boom, welfare reform, and the Macarena, but there’s a need for a serious reconsideration of the Clinton record — most spectacularly in the rise of al-Qaeda, the aid deal with North Korea, and the botching of probably the best opportunity for entitlement reform . . . )
Plus, the thermonuclear reaction from the remaining Clinton enclave is going to be delightful to watch. Philippe Reines, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is beside himself: “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”
Actually, yes, this is an interesting strategy for the 2020 primaries. Reines seems to think that deviating from the Democratic party’s orthodoxy over an impeachment battle from what will then be 22 years ago will be a make-or-break issue in what is likely to be a crowded primary. By 2020, Bill Clinton’s impeachment will be further back in the past than the Vietnam War was in the 1992 presidential race.
Will the Democratic primary electorate of 2020 be so convinced that a statement like Gillibrand’s is such blasphemy? We can feel the ground shifting beneath our feet. A lot of behavior that was once unsavory but did not generate serious consequence is now fodder for stories and part of a “trend.” (More on that below.) No doubt within the inner circle of the Clintons, women like Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones are all considered to be terrible liars, and Clinton’s interaction with Monica Lewinsky was an entirely personal indiscretion that warranted no serious public scrutiny or consequence. Never mind the country as a whole, I’m not sure most Democrats believe that anymore. Vox contributor Matt Yglesias is getting a lot of skepticism for his recent essay, but I’m willing to take him at his word that he’s really changed his mind:
“My boss took advantage of me,” Lewinsky writes in the same article, a piece in which she correctly argues that the ensuring debate ended up entirely slighting highly relevant issues including “the balance of power and gender inequality in politics and media.”
Had Clinton resigned in disgrace under pressure from his own party, that would have sent a strong, and useful, chilling signal to powerful men throughout the country.
Instead, the ultimate disposition of the case — impunity for the man who did something wrong, embarrassment and disgrace for the woman who didn’t — only served to confirm women’s worst fears about coming forward.
Yes, there is no consequence for Democrats suddenly coming to their senses now and concluding that Clinton deserved to pay a steeper price. That’s why the Clintons should be so terrified. How many Democrats, in the back of their minds, heard a little voice of conscience during the Clinton scandals and knew that they were defending a creep?
(An early indicator: The 2008 Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy-drama Definitely, Maybe features the actor as a political consultant who briefly worked for Bill Clinton, and events of the Clinton presidency are playing in all of the flashback scenes. After Clinton admits the affair with Monica Lewinsky, the Reynolds character grumbles to his friends, “Maybe he should be impeached. Why not? I put my faith in him. We all did. I thought he was gonna be different than the other jokers, but this guy, he can’t even define the word ‘is.’ What happens if they give him one of the hard words, like ‘truth’?” The movie moves on to the romantic plot, but that’s a pretty scathing assessment to hear spoken aloud by the lovable male lead of a romantic comedy, and Hollywood was always one of the places the Clintons were loved the most.)
Maybe a good chunk of Democrats defended Bill Clinton because they felt like they had to, not because they wanted to. And maybe there’s been some resentment over that brewing for the past two decades.