After perjuring himself in the Lewinsky scandal and unhesitatingly lying to the American people about having sex with a twenty-year-old White House intern, Bill Clinton became not a source of scorn and derision but the highest paid and most sought after speaker on the Democratic Party’s circuit.
Clinton didn’t merely engage in locker room banter about women, he actually did the things that, in Trump’s case, liberal analysts transformed, by rhetorical hocus pocus, from ugly words to actual assault.
In sharp contrast, Clinton’s parsing that he did not have sex with Lewinsky because he was a passive recipient (also a lie) of sex acts and did not participate in intercourse was readily lapped up by true believers.
Feminists who had years earlier stood like a solid wall behind Anita Hill’s account of sexual harassment were nowhere to be found when it came to the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.
Uber feminist Betty Friedan toed the Hillary Clinton party line that it was Bill Clinton who was the victim of some amorphous and vast right-wing conspiracy. Freidan, with uncharacteristic dismissiveness of the women accusing the president, noted that his “enemies are attempting to bring him down through allegations about dalliance with an intern. … Whether it’s a fantasy, a set-up or true, I simply don’t care.”
Feminists, when they did care, were using their verbal talents to mock Lewinsky as the looney tunes piece of trash Hillary had characterized. Erica Jong had joked, “My dental hygienist pointed out that [Lewinsky] had third-stage gum disease.”
None of this should excuse Donald Trump’s descent into vulgarities, but it does show that our sense of morality, outrage, and common decency is not immune from the political outcomes they can serve.
We are a nation of selective moralists. I am reminded of one of my feminist colleagues who said that if Clinton’s needs were so great, women volunteers should have been recruited to satisfy them. So much for protecting the virtues of American womanhood and not objectifying women as sex objects.
As the Middle East continues to explode in violence, as Syrian civilians are caught in the crossfire between sadistic Islamist fanatics and a ruthless dictator clinging to power, as China rises as a strategic threat and our economy is mired in what seems to be endless stagnation, the major issue of our presidential campaign is about locker room banter?
It’s a “gotcha moment” for the mainstream media. Indeed, there is more replay of Trump’s juvenile comments than of the issue of Hillary Clinton’s security-corrupted servers, Benghazi, or her policies that resulted in the collapse of Libya, and the perpetuation of the war without end in Syria.
We would respect the mainstream media more if they were as concerned about the Arab governments that treat women like chattel and expect a return on their donations to the Clinton Foundation, as they are about Trump’s indefensible vulgarities.
There is across the West a growing economic inequality both within and between nations. We are confronting an economic and political disaster, one in which an elite that has benefited from globalization has shown a disregard for the rest of its fellow citizens, if not for humanity in general.
Such inequality will inevitably lead to a rapid delegitimacy of political and economic institutions. How Mr. Trump or Secretary Clinton will deal with this and other critical issues should be the focus of this election. Instead we are caught in the quagmire of selective outrage over the insipid. That should be far more frightening and threatening than the next replay of Donald Trump’s indulgence in locker room banter or reminders of Bill Clinton’s perjury.