And now it’s Bill Clinton who was on the wrong side of history all along.
Bill Clinton was Harvey Weinstein before being Harvey Weinstein was uncool. This makes the Spectator’s own R. Emmett Tyrrell something of a premature anti-sexual harassment activist.
The fall from fashion of fat, ugly, bald rapists comes as a very recent phenomenon, as, just a short time ago, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and so many hearing a question directed specifically at them by The Beatles in “Baby You’re a Rich Man” rushed to pose for photographs with a certain fat, ugly, bald rapist. Oh, so sorry fat, ugly, bald alleged rapist.
Rapists rarely change. Times do.
Two years ago, Hanna Rosin argued in the Atlantic that “you could make a good case that [R. Emmett] Tyrrell’s Clinton obsession essentially killed” The American Spectator. But, as evidenced by your presence here, dear reader, reports of the Spectator’s death — well, you know the rest. Bill Clinton, in contrast, looks to a future so bright he’s got to wear night-vision goggles.
The 42nd president’s reputation stands as one of the somewhat overlooked casualties of the current national obsession with sexual abuse violations of law and, in some cases, merely manners. Kirsten Gillibrand, who sits in the Senate seat once occupied by Hillary Clinton, now sounds more like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the man the First Lady replaced. She told the New York Times that she believes Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Comedian Chelsea Handler, demonstrating her woke-ness by expressing outrage at Alabama U.S. senatorial candidate Roy Moore, received a wake-up-call scolding by Juanita Broaddrick, which elicited a rare trait on Twitter: humility. “I believe you,” Handler told Broaddrick. The New York Times headlined a Michelle Goldberg piece, “I Believe Juanita.” But the most powerful Clinton reassessment came from, of all places, the same Atlantic that published Rosin’s 2015 piece. Caitlin Flanagan, who also finds Juanita’s rape allegations against the president believable, writes:
It was a pattern of behavior; it included an alleged violent assault; the women involved had far more credible evidence than many of the most notorious accusations that have come to light in the past five weeks. 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 party was on the wrong side of history, and there are consequences for that.
The consequences include Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, and Brett Ratner. If the president of the United States can get away with predatory behavior with female underlings, why can’t the co-founder of Miramax Films?
The “wrong side of history” admission stuns. Just a few years ago, Clinton apologists, and people not nearly so blinded by partisanship, dismissed Tyrrell, Ken Starr, and others involved in investigating Bill Clinton as Anthony Comstock-type figures destined for ridicule in the history books. Suddenly, they appear ahead of their times.
“We at The American Spectator were the first to remark on the hypocrisy of the media and the feminists covering up ithyphallic Bill,” Bob Tyrrell recently explained to your correspondent. “Had we not successfully exposed ithyphallic Bill in the 1990s there would be no exposés in Hollywood, New York, and Washington today.”
True, but a counterfactual thought occurs: What if the people deriding Bob Tyrrell then but sounding like him today wiped the partisan muck from their lenses way back when? Predatory men (emboldened by the lack of consequences for the president) who subsequently saw power as above the law might have shown restraint if only for fear of repercussions.
“In the 1990s Clinton was the leader of liberalism, now called progressivism,” Tyrrell notes. “Anything that hurt him set the left back. Anything that hurt him helped the conservatives. Now the cohesion of the left is gone.
“As I have written, liberalism is dead. Now the left has no leader and some women and groups of women can suddenly advance themselves by knocking off powerful males for doing what Bill Clinton was caught doing in the 1990s. At the present moment even Bill is not safe from these self-aggrandizing gals.”
One likes to think that the American Left, despite its “progressive” self-designation, finally caught up to The American Spectator after a quarter-century or so. But that not so much gives the Spectator too much credit as it does the American Left.
The reassessment of Bill Clinton owes much to the ongoing national purge — at times resembling a needed cleansing, at time resembling a witch hunt — involving misbehavior among powerful American males. But more so it depends on the fact that, for the first time in a long time, no Clinton appears on a ballot anytime soon. So, he gets the Bob Packwood-Clarence Thomas treatment despite the “D” next to his name that once worked as a cloak of immunity. Liberals no longer need him. He is expendable. And, to their credit, they appear to put principle above partisanship in their efforts to put powerful men in check. As Weinstein, a megadonor to liberal causes, shows, no indulgence can stave off those carrying pitchforks and torches.
One can hardly blame Rosin for falling short of Nostradamus two years back, when Hillary’s election to the presidency appeared to require a mere coronation rather than a campaign, and Bill’s reputation inched upward even among his most bitter enemies in the wake of the Barack Obama presidency. Now, after losing the presidency to their handpicked opponent, elements of the Democratic Party who felt the Bern feel the burn — the same way victims of a natural disaster in Haiti, investors in Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, and employees of the White House travel office felt burned by the Clintons’ corruption. Worse still, for Hillary’s better half, people facing accusations of less serious sexual indiscretions than he once faced (and still does face) suffer the loss of careers, good names, money, and much else.
“By now, it’s clear which man won,” Rosin wrote in 2015. “Tyrrell’s magazine is a footnote, in danger of going under once and for all. Clinton, on the other hand, may be on the verge of returning to the White House with his wife.”
Rosin’s take ages more like milk than wine. And the Bob Tyrrell of the 1990s more closely resembles prophet than prude.