Why Bill’s Mistakes Matter for Hillary

Actions speak louder than words

Election Tracker | Matt Boomer | January 12, 2016

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They say every once in a while, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn. Donald Trump is more than a blind squirrel. He is a squirrel that has received the Metallica treatment: blind, deaf, no arms or legs, so separated from reality that he lacks a defined target for the rage burning within him as he reaches desperately for a sense of purpose – and yet, an acorn he has found.

Last week, Trump attacked Bill and Hillary Clinton for their respective histories of sexual-assault accusations and victim-blaming the makers of said accusations. While he expressed himself in characteristically petulant fashion, he was right.

The trail of accusations behind Bill Clinton is long, so I will choose one: Juanita Broaddrick, a onetime volunteer for his gubernatorial campaign who accuses him of pulling her onto the bed of a Little Rock hotel room and raping her above her vocal objections. The alleged assault left behind swelling and bruising on Broaddrick’s lip (confirmed by Broaddrick’s friends and then-boyfriend), to which, per Broaddrick, Bubba responded, “You better get some ice for that.” He then put on his sunglasses and exited, presumably before setting off an explosion and walking away without looking back.

It is not my job to adjudicate 38-year-old disputes, and while it has never been refuted, Broaddrick’s claim has also never been proven. Moreover, Bill Clinton is not running for president. It would be unseemly to attack his wife for his indiscretions. Donald Trump, a reptilian twit for whom propriety is an utterly alien concept, has done so, but I do not intend to.

There is, however, a dimension of this story that is relevant to Hillary Clinton’s campaign: her conduct with respect to sexual assault and victims thereof in light of her rhetoric and status as a totem-bearer of feminism, which generally embraces the strident, if irresponsible tenet that alleged victims ought to be believed with or without evidence. To put it bluntly, Clinton is a hypocrite of jaw-dropping proportions.

Let’s return to 1978, shortly after the hotel incident. According to Broaddrick, Hillary approached her at a rally, saying “I am so happy to meet you. I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill”, before losing her smile and repeating, “Everything you do for Bill”. While there are many ways to interpret this, Broaddrick saw it as an attempted silencing, and from her perspective it’s hard to see it as anything else.

Hillary showed a similar side as her husband rose to prominence, dismissing the numerous women who accused Bill of varying degrees of misconduct as “whiny women,” “trailer trash,” etc. Nowadays she talks a big game, saying all accusers in sexual-assault cases have a “right to be heard” and “a right to be believed.” Yet her behavior confirms that her commitment is as shallow as it has ever been.

At a town hall over the New Year’s weekend, Mrs. Clinton was confronted by Kathleen Prudhomme O’Brien, a Republican lawmaker, sexual-assault survivor and victims’ advocate, about her husband’s misdeeds. O’Brien began shouting at Clinton, to which Clinton responded that she was “very rude, and I’m not ever going to call on you.” Pro-Clinton members of the media circled the wagons around her, depicting O’Brien as an impudent heckler and Clinton’s shutdown as an example of Beyonce-esque feminine badassery. Apparently being a rich, powerful Democrat and feminist icon means never having to say you’re sorry – even when you tell a sexual-assault victim to shut up and mind her place.

Ask yourself: if a Republican had a history of publicly shaming any woman who accused a powerful man of sexual assault, would he be a feminist, or a promoter of rape culture?  Say he was confronted by a protestor demanding answers and responded by telling her to stop being so forceful. Would this be acceptable? Or would it be insensitive, sexist tone-policing indicating his fear of empowered women?

Let’s say that while cutting his teeth as a defense attorney, this same candidate got two men who were accused of beating and raping a twelve-year-old girl off with minimal sentences. Suppose that during the case he exceeded his ethical duties as counsel and went out of his way to humiliate the victim, laughing at her and smearing her as a neurotic, unstable fabulist. Suppose he did all this while believing the accused to be guiltyand bragged about it. Would this be ignored by feminists and the media? Would Marco Rubio, who had the New York Times and Washington Post rake him over the coals for a speeding ticket and a refrigerator repair, be spared the way Hillary Clinton has for orchestrating this contemptible miscarriage of justice?

Much of electoral politics is about media constructions: turning human beings into icons, legends. Hillary Clinton, feminist, is one such construction, but make no mistake: when you vote, you are voting for a human being. If Hillary Clinton, human being, which is to say Hillary Clinton, browbeater of sexual-assault victims, is a feminist, that word has lost all its meaning.