Donald Trumpís philosophy is never to use a scalpel when a meat ax is available, and so it is with his attack on the Clinton scandals of the 1990s.
And yet, in slamming Hillary as Billís "enabler" and daring to invoke the allegation of rape against Clinton, Trump is again demonstrating his unsurpassed ability to needle his opponents and expose their vulnerabilities.
Hillary Clintonís self-image as a feminist champion has always been at odds with her political partnership with a serial womanizer whose electoral career has depended on discrediting and smearing the women with whom heís had dalliances.
Hillary tends to get a pass, because the 1990s were a long time ago, the media often scold anyone who brings up the scandals and most politicians think itís bad form to talk about someone elseís marriage. Unconstrained by all these boundaries, Trump is hitting her with his characteristic abandon.
Hillaryís defenders say this is tantamount to blaming her for Billís infidelities. Of course, sheís not responsible for his wanderings. But as a fully vested member of Billís political operation, Hillary had as much interest in forcefully rebutting all allegations of sexual misconduct as he did.
According to journalist Michael Isikoff, the Clinton campaign in 1992 spent $100,000 on private-detective work related to women. The approach, when rumors first popped up, was to get affidavits from women denying affairs the reflex of most women is to avoid exposure and, failing that, to use any discrediting tool at hand.
Hillary was fully on board. When a rock groupie told Penthouse in late 1991 that a state trooper approached her on Gov. Clintonís behalf, Hillary said, "We have to destroy her story."
When the Star tabloid reported that Clinton had affairs with five Arkansas women, including Gennifer Flowers, the Clinton campaign waved affidavits signed by all them denying it. (This is what Clinton had advised Flowers to do in a taped conversation.) Then, Flowers admitted to an affair, saying it had lasted 12 years.
In response, Hillary did the famous "60 Minutes" interview with Bill, sitting by him as he delivered a lawyerly denial of the 12-year allegation specifically (he later admitted having sex with Flowers once). Hillary joined the strategy sessions over what verbiage to use in the interview.
When, after Bill was elected president, state troopers began to tell of how he had used them to procure women, the possibility of federal jobs and threats of retaliation were wheeled out to try to keep them silent.
One of the procured was Paula Jones. When she came forward, she was abused as trailer-park trash. Even though her sexual-harassment suit was dubious, her story of a gross come-on by Clinton in a hotel room was credible, and she told numerous people at the time.
Hillary apparently didnít spare a momentís thought why her husband the governor would have wanted a private meeting with a 24-year-old state employee. She interviewed superlawyer Bob Bennett to handle the case and insisted on a hardline defense. Bennett spread rumors of nude pictures of Jones and had another lawyer subpoena men to try to find evidence of Jonesí alleged promiscuity.
The allegation with which the Clintons have never truly had to grapple is Juanita Broaddrickís charge of rape. The media roll their eyes whenever this comes up, but Broaddrick deserves better. Her story has been consistent over the years; she told people about the alleged assault at the time; and her account includes telling details that accord with what other women have said about encounters with Bill.
Perhaps you think Hillary had no choice but to stand by her man, or she made the correct calculation that the broader political project both of the Clintons and of liberalism justified waging political war against a few inconvenient women. Even so, there is no doubt Hillary compromised herself, by the standards of feminism 20 years ago, and even more by the standards of today.
Is there anyone more "privileged" than a white male who is a governor and a president? Even if you donít believe the worst, Bill didnít live up to contemporary norms of consent, to put it mildly. If consistency mattered, feminists would be demanding safe spaces whenever Bill Clinton approached a college campus.
Trumpís assault on Hillary is a blunderbuss affair (and, given how heís been on all sides of everything, he himself defended Bill Clinton from these charges in the 1990s). But Hillaryís answer to Trumpís offensive is telling nothing. Sometimes thereís just not a good answer.