“No wonder that Ruth Marcus, the Washington Post columnist and no conservative, called Bill Clinton’s record with women a fair political issue. At the very least if Mrs. Clinton wants everyone to forget about Bill’s harassment of women, she ought to stop playing the sexism card, or drop Bill as surrogate, or both.” The Wall Street Journal editorial
Donald Trump last week used some typically coarse language to describe Hillary Clinton, who responded by accusing Mr. Trump of sexism while announcing that she is unleashing Bill Clinton to campaign for her. This was too ripe an opening for Mr. Trump, who is now attacking Hillary for acquiescing in Bill’s predations against women.
Mr. Trump is rude and crude, but in this case he is raising an issue that rightly bears on the 2016 election campaign and the prospect of a third Clinton term. Mrs. Clinton wants to use her gender both as a political sword and shield to win the White House. The purpose is to make male politicians less willing to take her on, while reinforcing her main and not-so-subtle campaign theme that it’s time to elect the first woman President.
So she and her allies will try to spin any criticism as sexist. Even politically correct Bernie Sanders got this treatment after he said during a debate this autumn that “all the shouting in the world” wouldn’t keep guns out of the wrong hands. Mrs. Clinton later said that “I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting.” Against Republicans, she’ll play the “war on women” theme non-stop.
Yet no one in American politics better personifies a war on women than Mrs. Clinton’s husband. For readers too young to recall the 1990s, we aren’t merely referring to Trumpian gibes about female looks or “Mad Men” condescension. Mr. Clinton was a genuine sexual harasser in the classic definition of exploiting his power as a workplace superior, and the Clinton entourage worked hard to smear and discredit his many women accusers.
Start with “bimbo eruptions,” the phrase that Mr. Clinton’s Arkansas fixer Betsey Wright used to describe the women who had affairs with Bill. Gennifer Flowers almost derailed his primary campaign in 1992, until Hillary stood by her man on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and the media portrayed Ms. Flowers as a golddigger.
Many more would come forward, not least Paula Jones, an Arkansas state employee who testified that a state policeman working for then Governor Clinton invited her to Bill’s hotel room where he exposed himself and sexually propositioned her. Ms. Jones filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit and Mr. Clinton lied under oath, resulting in his impeachment.
The Clinton menagerie did their best to destroy her too. “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find,” James Carville famously said about the women accusing Mr. Clinton.
Then there was Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern whose story the Clintons want everyone to dismiss as a case of consensual sex and Bill’s runaway libido. But no CEO in America would survive in his job if he had a publicly known affair with a subordinate, much less a 22-year-old.
When news of that affair came to light, the Clintons also waged war on her reputation. Ms. Lewinsky “was known as ‘the Stalker,’” Mr. Clinton told adviser Sidney Blumenthal on Jan. 21, 1998, according to Mr. Blumenthal’s grand jury testimony. Mr. Clinton added that she “came at me and made a sexual demand on me,” but the President “rebuffed her” and the lowly intern then “threatened him.”
This smear quickly became a talking point of Clinton defenders. Gene Lyons, a Clinton media mouthpiece, told NBC that “the President was, in a sense, a victim of someone rather like the woman who followed David Letterman around.” The Associated Press reported that a “White House aide” was calling journalists to offer “information about Monica Lewinsky’s past, her weight problems, and what the aide said was her nickname—‘the Stalker.’”
Mr. Blumenthal denies that he spread the Stalker tale, but the late journalist Christopher Hitchens swore in an affidavit that he had. It broke up their friendship.
Mrs. Clinton described Ms. Lewinsky as “a narcissistic loony toon,” according to the personal papers of Diane Blair, a close friend of Mrs. Clinton from Arkansas. This September Mrs. Clinton declared that “every survivor of sexual assault” has “the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed.” But when her own access to political power was at stake, she dismissed the women and defended her husband.
We rehearse all this not merely to reinforce Mr. Trump’s claims of a Clinton double standard. The point relates to the standards that would prevail in another Clinton Presidency. We know from Mrs. Clinton’s emails that Mr. Blumenthal remains a trusted Clinton friend and adviser who is likely to wield considerable influence in or outside a Clinton Administration. And we know from those emails that the Clintons indulge his political conspiracy theories almost as much as he indulged Mr. Clinton’s about Monica Lewinsky.
No wonder that Ruth Marcus, the Washington Post columnist and no conservative, called Bill Clinton’s record with women a fair political issue. At the very least if Mrs. Clinton wants everyone to forget about Bill’s harassment of women, she ought to stop playing the sexism card, or drop Bill as surrogate, or both.