Bill Clinton: An overdue reckoning?
“What about Bill?” said Peter Baker in The New York Times. For more than a year, since the first of more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault against now President Trump, conservatives have been calling liberals hypocrites for refusing to confront the sins of their own predator president, William Jefferson Clinton. This week that reckoning may finally have begun. With every hour seeming to bring new revelations of harassment by powerful men in politics and the media, a host of contrite liberal pundits second-guessed their defenses of Clinton during the impeachment battle. In hindsight, “we got it wrong,” said Matt Yglesias in Vox.com. In the 1990s there really was a well-funded right-wing effort to bring down President Clinton, and too many liberals took that as license to dismiss three women’s stories of his sexually abusive behavior, including a credible accusation of rape from Juanita Broaddrick. Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, though consensual, was an egregious case of “workplace sexual misconduct” by a powerful man. We should have held Clinton accountable back then, forcing him to resign in shame—making a strong statement about “men’s abuse of power for sexual gain.” Instead, by putting politics above principle, as Republicans are doing today with Trump and Senate candidate Roy Moore, “we blew it.”
What convenient timing! said Kevin Williamson in National Review.com. “Our progressive friends have discovered their consciences” about Bill Clinton “at the precise moment the Clintons ceased to be useful instruments of political power.” They hope that with a few crocodile tears they can regain the moral high ground and make conservatives look like the hypocrites and villains of the abuse scandal sweeping the nation. “Don’t let them fool you.” The Left’s belated admission that Clinton was a predator is driven as much by “political calculus” as was their willful blindness back in 1998. “It takes no ‘courage’” to speak up 20 years after it could have made a difference, said David Harsanyi in TheFederalist.com. “This isn’t a reckoning as much as it is a face-saving.”
Actually, this “sudden revisionism is inconveniently late” for Democrats, said Josh Barro in BusinessInsider.com. If they were really thinking tactically, they should have pressured Bill Clinton to resign back in 1998, handing the White House to Vice President Al Gore. Not only would Gore have pursued an agenda identical to Clinton’s, he would have fought the 2000 election—a race he ended up losing by the slimmest of margins—with all the advantages of an incumbent. Better still, it would have brought down the Clinton dynasty, meaning someone other than Hillary Clinton would likely have been the nominee in 2016. Sticking by Bill Clinton in the ’90s, in short, cost Democrats “not one but two presidential elections,” which in moral terms is probably just “what they deserved.”
It’s time to stop thinking of sexual abuse in tactical, partisan terms, said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. Both Democrats and Republicans have sought to exploit their opponents’ harassment scandals for “ideological ends,” while vigorously defending their own predators, whose ranks have included both Clinton and Trump. The truth, we now know, is that sexual abuse is a bipartisan scourge, said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. If we can overcome “the tribalism that poisons our public life,” and hold our leaders accountable for their behavior regardless of their party affiliation, it would “not only be a long-overdue turning point for women.” It would be “a watershed for us all.” ■