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December 18th, 2017

Insight

Playing the 'Bill card' against Hillary

Glenn Reynolds

By Glenn Reynolds

Published Dec. 31, 2015

Hillary Clinton stepped in it big time. Trotting out the "war on women" card that she has played so effectively, she charged Donald Trump with sexism.

But Trump, unlike other Republican candidates in the past, wasn't having any of it. He fired back, on Twitter, "If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women's card on me, she's wrong!"

And boom! The issue switched to President Clinton's record, turning him from a campaign asset to a campaign liability. As the only president to be impeached over sexual harassment (technically, for lying about sexual harassment), and as a political figure who has faced numerous accusations of rape and sexual abuse, Bill Clinton isn't a good choice for feminist standard-bearer. Worse yet, bringing up Bill's misbehavior also brings up Hillary's role in covering for his abuses, and in attacking and humiliating his accusers.

Even The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus concluded that Trump was right, and that Bill's awful record with women is "fair game."

The former president, Marcus noted, has a real problem. " 'Sexism' isn't the precise word for his predatory behavior toward women or his inexcusable relationship with a22-year-old intern. Yet in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton's conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said. Trump has smeared women because of their looks. Clinton has preyed on them, and in a workplace setting where he was by far the superior. That is uncomfortable for Clinton supporters but it is unavoidably true."

Yes, and it's a pretty ugly story. As The New York Times' Maureen Dowd wrote, feminism died when Hillary and other top Democratic women circled the wagons around Bill and attacked his accusers:

"Feminism died in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica (Lewinsky) as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones by saying he had merely made clumsy passes, then accepted rejection, so there was no sexual harassment involved. As to his dallying with an emotionally immature (22-year-old), Ms. Steinem noted, 'Welcome sexual behavior is about as relevant to sexual harassment as borrowing a car is to stealing one.' "

Steinem must not have attended any human resources lectures lately. And accusations from Juanita Broaddrick are worse: Clinton persuaded her to have coffee with him in her hotel room during a conference of nursing home administrators in 1978. She alleges that he then forced her on to the bed, where he held her down, bit her lips and raped her.

Broaddrick, too, was attacked by the Clinton camp, but as Alex Griswold wrote in Mediaite, "The media and Democrats alike elected not to believe a single accusation" against him, adding that "Clinton's own stalwart ally James Carville was just as blatant: 'Drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, there's no telling what you'll find,' he said."

Even before Trump, people — though, notably, not members of the news media — were already quizzing Hillary Clinton about her record on rape and abuse. After she tweeted that rape accusers should be believed, a woman at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire asked Hillary whether that applied to her husband's accusers, mentioning Broaddrick, Willey and Jones. Clinton's awkward reply: "I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence."

Neither Republican candidates nor journalists have been willing to make a big issue of Bill's shady sex-abuse record and Hillary's enabling. Trump, on the other hand, went there, with devastating effect. Which raises a question: If Hillary can't win by playing the "woman card," can she win at all?

Previously:
12/21/15 Dems' terror compassion gap
12/14/15 Libs have chosen The Donald as their 'Destructor'
11/13/15 After Yale, Mizzou, raise the voting age --- to 25
11/03/15 To reduce inequality, abolish Ivy League
10/12/15 Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. Or is it?
09/28/15 Ignore Trump if you want. But don't deny the lessons of other parts of the world facing an immigration crisis
08/21/15 Fast moving bad news builds prosperity
08/14/15 Trump indicts America's ruling class
08/07/15 Politicos put past before progress
07/15/15 When party outsiders feel ignored, a champion appears to take their interests to heart --- or at least sounds as if he does
07/08/15 Are happier lawyers, cheaper legal fees on the horizon?

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Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself and is a columnist at USA TODAY.

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