Dragging the Clintons Back Into the Mud

If you see through their crocodile tears, the New York Post’s editorial board is employing logic of a certain sort. They’re really sorry, and “with far larger issues out there — jobs, terrorism, etc. — [they]’d rather the race not be dominated by talk of Bill [Clinton]’s, uh, love life.” But, the thing is, it’s not their fault that they’re writing this opinion piece. See, Hillary Clinton has “made ‘women’s issues’ central to her campaign” and “today those issues very much include things like sexual assault and harassment.”

Now, l’affaire Lewinsky was a tawdry, sordid, deplorable, depressing spectacle that no one is any mood to defend eighteen years down the line, and I’m probably not the only one who still resents feeling compelled to stand up to the Republicans’ hypocritical and hysterical reaction to it. But Bill Clinton, however gallingly horrible his personal judgment in beginning a sexual relationship with a White House intern, did not sexually assault or sexually harass Monica Lewinsky, so this really amounts to a promise by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire to bring back up every unsubstantiated allegation made by their swamp of partisan gutter-snipers in the 1990’s.

After all, we all know that Bill Clinton has not been faithful husband, but you don’t accuse a wife of enabling sexual assault and sexual harassment just because her husband cheated on her.

And, yet…

…how institutions should deal with such cases — [is a] major topic on college campuses right now.

So a campaign surrogate who also happens to be a former president impeached over his lying about an affair with a female subordinate will inevitably be “fair game” for the campaign trail.

As will asking about how one partner enables the other’s misbehavior.

College campuses are not having a major discussion about how to deal with adultery, nor how to deal with “affairs with a female subordinate,” so we’re clear here that the Post’s editorial board isn’t really talking about Lewinsky at all, but about rehashing the unproven allegations of women like Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick.

So, how’s this logic work?

When Hillary Clinton talks about “women’s issues” (note the scare quotes) she opens herself up to charges of hypocrisy because if she were so good on women’s issues she never would have “enabled” her husband to sexually assault and sexually harass all these women.

Note, also, that the Post can barely disguise their seething resentment that college administrators are “today” taking sexual assault and harassment seriously. This isn’t a call to embrace these efforts because they’re signs of worthy progress. Rather, this is a petulant cry that “what’s good for the goose (accusing college boys of rape) is good for the gander (accusing the ex-president of rape).”

So, it’s “inevitably fair game” for people to interrupt Hillary’s campaign appearances with hurled and unsubstantiated rape accusations against her husband.

Indeed, it’s shocking that neither Clinton seemed ready for questions on this front. You’d almost think they’d spent the last 16 years in deep denial.

I think it’s fair to say that Bill and Hillary Clinton are experienced enough dealing with their political opponents that they aren’t in denial about what kind of trash will be thrown at them. They won’t even be shocked to learn that they are responsible for inviting these libels and slanders.

Ironically, their experience and success in battling against this garbage is one of the most common points made in their favor by progressives I know who might be more ideologically inclined to support Bernie Sanders.

Whatever his faults (or her’s), partisan Democrats know that they’re aware of what is coming, that they’re fighters, and that the only one who ever beat them wasn’t a Republican.

It may be grotesquely unpleasant to contemplate revisiting the nineties, but it’s not scary.

We’ve seen all these plays before and they don’t result in touchdowns.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.