"I believe Juanita," declares the headline on a New York Times piece by Michelle Goldberg.
Juanita is of course Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who came forward to accuse then-President Bill Clinton of rape. At the time, Broaddrick was treated in the legacy media like something the cat dragged in. But that was then.
Now, Goldberg joins with MSNBC host Chris Hayes to urge that we look at the "credible evidence that Juanita Broaddrick was telling the truth." Nevertheless, Goldberg accuses Republicans of being "apparently eager to use the Clinton scandals to derail discussions about Roy Moore." She charges that they are guilty of of "bad faith" in bringing up Clinton.
This would be a more credible accusation if Republicans were in fact trying to derail discussions of Moore. But this is not the case. The Republican establishment, unlike the feminist establishment in the nineties, is treating the Moore accusations as credible and refusing to support Roy Moore, even though they realize that this could cost them a Senate seat when they have a razor thin majority. And they are doing this now, when it matters.
Chris Hayes and Michelle Goldberg aren't the only liberal media figures who are suddenly acknowledging former President Bill Clinton's –er–flaws. Among others now re-evaluating the Clinton sexual legacy is Caitlin Flanagan, who has written a widely circulated piece headlined "Bill Clinton: The Reckoning."
The deck on the story succinctly sums up the gist of Flanagan's article:
Feminists saved the 42nd president of the United States in the 1990s. They were on the wrong side of history; is it finally time to make things right?
Flanagan does an amusing job of recounting the feminist support for Bill Clinton while he was still in the White House:
But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced. Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement had by then ossified into a partisan operation, and it was willing—eager—to let this friend of the sisterhood enjoy a little droit de seigneur.
The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.
Called “Feminists and the Clinton Question,” it was written in March of 1998, when Paula Jones’s harassment claim was working its way through court. It was printed seven days after Kathleen Willey’s blockbuster 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley. If all the various allegations were true, wrote Steinem, Bill Clinton was “a candidate for sex addiction therapy.” To her mind, the most “credible” accusations were those of Willey, who she noted was “old enough to be Monica Lewinsky’s mother.” And then she wrote the fatal sentences that invalidated the new understanding of workplace sexual harassment as a moral and legal wrong: “Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb, and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.”
But again: that was then. This is now. Like Hayes and Goldberg, Flanagan is now soul searching over Bill Clinton's transgressions. Just one problem: It's too late. Better late than never doesn't really apply here, especially if you're Juanita Broaddrick.
Hayes, Goldberg, and Flanagan had ample opportunity to find Broaddrick's claims credible and worthy of investigation when she showed up at the second presidential debate. But they did not do so then. That was back when they believed that the offender's wife was going to be president. Could that have been why they held back?
I've loved some of Flanagan's work, and I don't want to impugn her motives. She may have just had an epiphany. But, if so, it came at a moment when Democrats are eager to see the end of the Clintons. In fact, Flanagan's story contains this gemlike description of a geriatric Bill Clinton:
How vitiated Bill Clinton seemed at the 2016 Democratic convention. Some of his appetites, at least, had waned; his wandering, “Norwegian Wood” speech about his wife struck the nostalgic notes of a husband’s 50th-anniversary toast, and the crowd—for the most part—indulged it in that spirit. Clearly, he was no longer thinking about tomorrow. With a pencil neck and a sagging jacket he clambered gamely onto the stage after Hillary’s acceptance speech and played happily with the red balloons that fell from the ceiling.
When the couple repeatedly reminded the crowd of their new status as grandparents it was to suggest very different associations in voters’ minds. Hillary’s grandmotherhood was evoked to suggest the next phase in her lifelong work on behalf of women and children—in this case forging a bond with the millions of American grandmothers who are doing the hard work of raising the next generation, while their own adult children muddle through life. But Bill’s being a grandfather was intended to send a different message: Don’t worry about him anymore; he’s old now. He won’t get into those messes again.
Nothing like kicking gramps when he's down.
There is a second reason for the"reckoning": Democrats and members of the legacy media (but I repeat myself) know that they can't fully indulge in all that MeToo excitement with the figure of Bill Clinton lurking in the background. So here is the logic of the sudden re-evaluation of Clinton's sexual misconduct: Kick Bill so we can kick Republicans. Small price to pay. Now.
Like I said, this sudden "reckoning" comes too late to matter.