When it comes to “standing up for women,” “stopping the war on women” or whatever bumper-sticker slogan you want to invoke on the issue, president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a Bill Clinton problem. She has a Hillary Clinton problem.
Yes, it all starts with his multiple past sex scandals. But, yes, the public has pretty much moved on from them.
For one thing, young voters have very little memory of them. They’re a bit like FDR’s dalliances were to the boomers.
For another thing, the “Big Dog” (more like the big horn-dog) is older, slower, quieter, less energetic and far less charismatic. He doesn’t look like he could be a threat to any woman without an overdose of those little blue pills that are forever being marketed on TV to guys his age.
And, for yet another thing, most Democrats and independents – even a lot of Republicans – don’t think a candidate should be disqualified over the sins of their family members, even a spouse.
So, if it were just a matter of Bill Clinton being a serial cheater who was also accused by multiple women of forcing himself on them, Hillary would be more of a victim than anything else.
But it isn’t just that. Hillary has two big problems regarding her husband’s behavior - both of her own making.
First is the historical record of her response to those accusations – her own directly, or that of the president’s team, of which she was very much a part.
The Clinton team did just about everything that women’s advocates say should not be done to women who make a complaint about sexual assault. The accusers were investigated, intimidated, mocked, called humiliating names – thoroughly smeared.
There is no record of Hillary Clinton objecting to any of this, or “standing up” for any of these women. She either assented to it or was an active participant – even a director of it.
So, it is unwise at a minimum, and it invites scrutiny, to issue a tweet during her current campaign declaring that “every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported,” when you’ve taken part in smearing the reputations and investigating the personal lives of those who say they were victims of your husband’s apparently uncontrollable libido.
Her recent response to a question about whether Bill Clinton’s accusers like Juanita Broaddrick (who said he raped her when he was governor of Arkansas), Kathleen Willey (who said he sexually assaulted her in the Oval Office in 1993) and Paula Jones (who said he exposed himself to her in 1991) was: “Well, I would say that everyone should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.”
But she didn’t even do that. There was no giving their accusations the benefit of the doubt at first. As soon as accusations surfaced, there were ferocious efforts to silence or discredit them, using insulting and personal attacks.
Betsey Wright, a close Clinton aide, referred to them as “bimbo eruptions.” Hillary Clinton referred to Monica Lewinsky, with whom President Clinton eventually admitted he had an “inappropriate relationship,” as a “narcissistic loony-toon.”
The Clinton team used terms like “floozy” and “bimbo” about the president’s accusers long before any there was any sober, objective effort to collect evidence. James Carville, longtime strategist for Bill Clinton, famously said of one: “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”
Classy. And so respectful of women. And so respectful of the “working people” that Hillary Clinton in particular and Democrats in general claim they support.
When it comes to power and money, the Clintons are in the 1 percent while Bill Clinton’s accusers are among the 99 percent. How can she claim she’s going to upend rampant inequality when she has been more than willing to take advantage of inequality to silence her husband’s accusers?
Do we even need to imagine the reaction if an agent for comedian Bill Cosby said that about one of his multiple accusers?
Hillary Clinton’s second big problem is her effort to pretend that all the publicity about Bill Clinton’s sexual past is because Republican Donald Trump decided to dredge it up.
She brought it up first, accusing Trump of having “a penchant for sexism.”
There is plenty of evidence for that; Trump is both sexist and boorish. But it is unwise to throw a rock at another candidate about an issue when you’re doing it from a glass house.
Hillary Clinton’s responses to Trump’s attacks are classic attempts at diversion – to avoid answering questions by saying that Trump can say whatever he wants but that she is going to keep talking about the “real issues” that matter to the American people.
She is the one who has been saying that the “war on women” is one of the issues that the American people care about.
Perhaps she figures most women will give her a pass, just like they gave her husband a pass on his personal behavior because he backed policies they liked.
Voters are obviously free to make that choice, although it is a rather sordid one to excuse enabling and protecting a sexual predator for promises like “equal pay for equal work!”
And it would be yet more evidence that the rules aimed at the rest of us don’t apply to the Clintons. The rules are for the little people.
Taylor Armerding of Ipswich is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.