Culture

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 Clinton’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:

“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.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming . . . 

We already know who Time’s Person of the Year is going to be, right? Don’t they have to choose the women who came forward to speak about sexual misconduct in Hollywood studios, cable news networks, state capitols, and so on?

Here are just the latest allegations in the past twenty-four hours . . . 

At NPR . . . 

As NPR’s Board of Directors meet in Washington, D.C., this week, the network finds itself confronted by a series of dispiriting developments: a CEO on medical leave; a chief news executive forced out over sexual harassment allegations; the sudden resignation of a board chairman; fresh complaints over inappropriate behavior by colleagues; and a network roiled by tensions over the treatment of its female workers.

On Wednesday, NPR Board Chairman Roger LaMay announced that he was stepping down at the end of his second one-year term. LaMay, who remains on the board, said he needed to devote more time to running the popular Philadelphia public radio music station WXPN, where he is general manager.

However, according to a knowledgeable source, LaMay is the subject of a complaint filed with NPR alleging past inappropriate behavior. Few additional details are currently known.

Again, out in Hollywood . . . 

Another woman who worked on Transparent has made allegations against star Jeffrey Tambor, claiming the actor became inappropriately physical and made sexual comments while they worked together on the Amazon show.

And on Capitol Hill . . . 

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan Democrat, announced Thursday that she has accepted the resignation of her chief of staff following allegations that he sexually harassed several former office staffers.

Last week, Lawrence placed chief of staff Dwayne Duron Marshall on administrative leave Nov. 7 while she investigated allegations that he sexually harassed multiple former staff members.

And of course, you heard about Al Franken’s crude, unwanted physical advances on that USO trip in 2006.

This world has its share of men on the Right who believe they’re entitled to act this way – either because they’re convinced the world needs them, or because God is on their side, or because they stand for so many good things, and they believe they do so many good things, they don’t have to be a good person in this arena.

But the world also has its share of men on the Left who believe they’re entitled to act this way — because they’re convinced the world needs them, or because they’re Progressive and helping build a better world, or because they stand for so many good things, and they believe they do so many good things, and have donated to so many good causes, they don’t have to be a good person in this arena.

And all these long-held secrets get spoken and all of this dirty laundry gets exposed, nobody knows which side of the ideological divide will be hurt more.

Alabama voters want a candidate who will represent their state with honor — and they think Doug Jones has strong moral character and Roy Moore doesn’t. That gives the Democrat the lead in the U.S. Senate race.

Jones is up by eight points over Moore among Alabama likely voters, 50 percent vs. 42 percent, in a Fox News Poll conducted Monday through Wednesday evenings. His lead is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error (±3.5 percentage points). Nine percent are undecided or plan to vote for someone else.

Candidates who believe they’re on a mission from God are generally quite difficult to persuade to withdraw from a race.

ADDENDA: One other contender for the story of the year, one strangely under-covered in this country: the gradual defeat of the Islamic State. They’re out of business in Iraq…

Iraqi forces have retaken the town of Rawa from ISIS, one of the militant group’s last footholds in the country.

The Iraqi national flag was raised over Rawa around midday Friday, Iraq’s Joint Operation Command (IJOC) said in a statement.

A spokesman for the command told CNN that engineers laid down a pontoon bridge across the Euphrates River around dawn to allow Iraqi forces to cross near the outskirts of the town.

Located in Anbar province in the Euphrates valley, Rawa was the last known Iraqi town still held by ISIS militants. Recapturing it means ISIS has been defeated in all of the country’s towns and cities, though pockets of resistance still exist and the group does control some territory in the deserts of western Iraq.