"Those who cannot remember the past," the philosopher George Santayana reminded us, "are condemned to repeat it." The young, particularly the young voters of 2016, have no memory of Bill Clinton, and we're all about to be treated to "a little deja vu all over again."
The many sexual misadventures of Bill, who was the Bill Cosby of his day, and the excuses and enabling behavior of Hillary Clinton on his behalf, will come not as old news but as the newest of scandals. William Faulkner observed that the past is not dead because it is not even past — and he reached that conclusion before the existence of Internet and social media, where nothing goes to die. The reprise of old news won't be flattering to Hillary Clinton and her second presidential campaign, which is not off the rails but does not look as steady on the rails as it once did.
Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Sally Perdue, Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky, names that once dominated conversations, enlivened front pages and lit up television screens across the land, are ancient history now, names as remote as Mary Pickford, Aimee Semple McPherson and Amelia Earhart.
But everything that goes around comes around, and Kathleen Willey, a particularly embarrassing name from the Clinton family past, announced this week that she is putting up a website to remind everyone of Bill's gory days and Hillary's unsavory supporting role.
Willey tells how she, having been a volunteer in Clinton campaigns, called on the president after her husband died unexpectedly, to ask for a job. Instead of talking about job prospects, she said, he attempted to kiss and fondle her. She has set out to hear from women who have been "harassed, stalked, intimidated or persecuted by a person in (a) position of power or public trust."
But it's not Bubba from whom she seeks vengeance, retribution and further accountability. She's after Hillary for what she calls, with considerable evidence, her complicity in her husband's sexual abuses and scandals.
"She is the war on women, as far as I am concerned," the widow Willey says, "... she's made it a point to find out ... every woman ... who's crossed his path over the years. She's orchestrated a terror campaign against every one of these women, including me."
Hillary called Monica Lewinsky, the object of the president's dalliance that led to his impeachment, "a narcissistic loony toon," and dismissed Gennifer Flowers, Bill's mistress when he was governor of Arkansas, as "trailer trash." Flowers alleged in a lawsuit in the year 2000 that Hillary ran a "war room" during the Clinton presidential campaign of 1992 to "smear, defame and harm" women such as herself. Juanita Broadrick, who credibly accused Bill of violently raping her in a Little Rock hotel room when he was the state attorney general, said that in the days after she made the accusation in a television interview, Hillary threatened her face-to-face. Not exactly solidarity in the sisterhood.
When Sen. Bob Packwood was accused of sexual harassment in unrelated incidents early in the Clinton presidency, Hillary complained to her friend Diane Blair that she was "tired of all these whiny women," according to Blair's records. Hillary needed Mr. Packwood's assistance in the health-care initiative her husband had assigned to her. The initiative failed, whiny women or not.
This would be irrelevant news but for Hillary's early determination to build her campaign around women's issues. She appeared in early events in April and May of this year to boast of her record as an advocate for women. This is what makes the old news relevant. Her double standard persists and grows stronger in the wake of the Bill Cosby disclosures that particularly infuriate young women.
"Right from the start," Camille Paglia tells Salon, "when the Bill Cosby scandal surfaced, I knew it was not going to bode well for Hillary's campaign, because young women today have a much lower threshold for tolerance of these matters. The horrible truth is that the feminist establishment in the U.S., led by Gloria Steinem, did in fact apply a double standard to Bill Clinton's behavior because he was a Democrat. The Democratic president and administration supported abortion rights, and therefore it didn't matter what his personal behavior was.
"But we're living in a different time now."
Modern young women, millennials who are intolerant of both abuse and excuses for abuse, are reflective of the age, where emotions and feelings are politicized along with everything else, and particularly sexuality.
Hillary Clinton's cruise to the Democratic nomination, planned as a fiesta in the sun, is suddenly interrupted by events, and none of them happy ones. Santayana nailed it.