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Bill Clinton: Time for a Reckoning

Your first heartbreak is something you never really get over…

I’ve told this story many times but it’s worth repeating…  For the first 6 years of my political life I considered myself a devout liberal. My awakening came during the first Gulf War when I thought we were making unnecessary enemies in the Middle East and realized I didn’t like our foreign policy very much. In high school and college I ran with a crowd that listened to the Grateful Dead, grew our hair long and saw ourselves as modern hippies. By 1998 I was 23, my daughter was 4 and while I was trying to figure out how to be a parent, I was also thinking a lot about the world she would grow up in, At the same time the office of the Presidency, for which I still hold a great deal of respect, was being tarnished by a sitting President who seemed to be a sexual predator and had broken the law while in office to minimize the impact of his crimes. I was outraged at every new detail that emerged. By the time President Clinton was impeached the following year, I had set upon the path towards conservatism, but my outrage extended far beyond politics.

Before I continue, I would remind readers to think about every person that has come forward in recent months to accuse a man in a position of power. Actresses who were silent for decades because of the power of a Hollywood producer. Female comedians who were unwilling to report a man who masturbated in front of them because they feared what he could do to their career. A gay man and aspiring actor who was 14 when a much-older actor, whose career was on the rise, seduced him into a months-long sexual relationship. The list goes on.

It seems fair to say that for at least 20 years, the Left has been waging a crusade against what they see as sexual hypocrisy on the Right. From the Catholic priest scandal, to closeted gay politicians who were outspoken against same-sex marriage, to family values proponents that were secretly stepping out on their spouses; liberals have taken a certain delight in pointing out how conservatives talk family values but do naughty or downright illegal things in private. Democrats have walked a fine line in how they deal with sexual behavior. They portray themselves as both respectful of what people do behind closed doors, but also being willing to expose that same behavior if it seems hypocritical. To be honest, while this used to bug me as a political move, now that I am a bit older and a lot more cynical, I just chalk it up to politics. Where I still struggle is when considering A) The Left’s permissive attitude towards the bedroom B) Their willingness to expose sexual misbehavior to score political points and C) Their advocacy for the victims of sexual predators. This seems hard to reconcile with the way they have celebrated Bill Clinton.

At the time their affair started, Monica Lewinsky was 22 years old and a low-level staffer at the White House. Bill Clinton was 49 and the most powerful man on the planet. Lewinsky has talked at length about not just the infatuation that a young girl had for an older man in a position of power but also the terrible fallout that landed on her when it became public. She wasn’t defended by the Left as the victim of a man in power, but vilified as a calculating individual that was trying to bring down a beloved Democratic president. As a result of what the Clintons and their supporters did to her, she spent most of the last 20 years trying to hide from the public. I think about my daughter, who is now older than Lewinsky was at that time. I like to think she has great judgement and is very mature for her age, but how many mistakes did we all make at that age? Can any of us say we had great judgement at 22? And that was exactly what Bill Clinton took advantage of.

Defenders of Bill Clinton, many of whom are the same people in Hollywood that are now applauding the brave accusers of Harvey Weinstein, have spent the last 20 years telling us that Bill Clinton was impeached for getting a blowjob. They imply that his perjury and obstruction of justice wouldn’t have been necessary if prudish Republicans weren’t looking into his bedroom. Nevermind that Clinton abused the very power granted to him by voters, but I also consider that his wife, who ran for the same office twice, did her best to destroy Lewinsky when it all became public. Harvey Weinstein’s wife appears to be leaving him for the behavior she says she was unaware of. In 1998, Hillary Clinton spearheaded the efforts to cover up and minimize the crimes of her husband. Even if I had been inclined to vote for a Democrat in our last election, because of what I saw 20 years prior, I could never have endorsed Hillary Clinton. In my mind, her crimes were nearly as bad as her husband’s.

In reviewing this essay, one of my fellow editors pointed out that the Lewinsky affair was the least worst thing that Clinton did and urged me to also discuss his other crimes. Clinton does indeed have a long history of sexual misbehavior and Lewinsky was certainly not the first woman that Hillary Clinton tried to silence. But the reason that the Lewinsky affair affected me so much was because of her age. She is only about 18 months older than me and if I’m being honest, she seemed like the kind of girl that, if I knew her personally, would have had a crush on. So perhaps I personalized the behavior of the President a bit, felt like he wronged someone I actually knew, and this added to my outrage. But as I said at the beginning of this piece, it was also the first time I had my heart broken.

I was a History major and was well-aware that many of our previous Presidents were flawed men, but this was the first time I had seen one fall in my adult life and I guess I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t a Puritan about sex. I was in my early 20s, already a father and had an extremely tolerant attitude about what people did behind closed doors (and still do). But this wasn’t just a private affair between two consenting adults. I was still pretty naive about a lot of things in 1998, but somehow I still felt that the President had abused his power and needed to pay for it. Impeachment seemed to be the best way to do that. I didn’t care about the politics, only the justice.

Two decades after the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, I am still shocked by how many of my liberal friends that dismiss the entire story as politics. I would remind them that other than being impeached, disbarred and paying Paula Jones a settlement, President Clinton has never really suffered for all of his mis-doings. Unlike Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK, who are all justly paying for their actions, Bill Clinton very nearly returned to the White House last year. In politics, timing is everything. If the #metoo movement had happened last spring, it’s possible that we would have a different President today. Hillary might not have been so successful at portraying herself as the forgiving wife and lost the nomination. Our current President, who has his own history of bad behavior, might have just been a weird blip in the primary process that we told our grandkids about. Regardless, we find ourselves here today and what we do going forward says everything about our values as a country.

I am not the first person to write about the reckoning that is long overdue for the Clintons and even some Democratic politicians are starting to speak out, but as Clinton’s accusers have asked, where were liberal women 20 years ago? Knowing the way that I was affected by the events, how it changed my politics forever, I think that older liberals should start to better understand why so many young women didn’t get behind Hillary last year. I remember my oldest daughter, a fierce Sanders supporter, talking about Bill’s behavior and Hillary’s role in things. Maybe young people were a lot more clear-eyed about history than the people who lived through it and should have remembered it.

Pundits are starting to call for a fresh look at Clinton and for him to apologize for past behavior, but I’m more interested in hearing from all the people that defended Clinton for the last 20 years. Was the defense of Bill Clinton simply a case of politics being more important than the victim, or should we have expected Monica Lewinsky to understand exactly what she was doing? It seems that until we revisit that topic, we are ignoring the obvious. Viewed through the lens of today, does the Impeachment of Bill Clinton now mean something more than it did 20 years ago?


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Mike Dwyer is a writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture and the outdoors for Ordinary Times. He is also one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky. Mike is active on Facebook and Instagram. He lives with his wife and daughters in the distant suburbs, at the place where neighborhoods give way to farms and forest.

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307 thoughts on “Bill Clinton: Time for a Reckoning

  1. Clinton is the way I measure how my attitudes about sexual harrasment and assault have evolved. Back then, it was all about two consenting adults. Today I recognize that the power differential is important and problematic.

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    • I respectfully dissent. There are a million criticisms you can make about Clinton, including about the damage an affair does to a family. However there’s never been a claim that any of it with Lewinsky was nonconsensual (I understand that is not the case for some of the other accusations). I posit that the talk about ‘power differentials,’ while not out of bounds when we’re talking about personal ethics, is too relative to be a basis of social opprobrium or legal sanction. Trying to do that gets us to a place where we are second guessing people’s personal decisions which are none of anyone else’s damn business.

      We also should be very wary of our modern tendency to infantilize people. I think this is especially so for women. Telling them they’re always victims and at the mercy of men is not a way to prepare them to assert themselves when its in their interest. It might even encourage the opposite. I’ve got total faith that the ladies can handle themselves and am perplexed that so many of their supposed advocates apparently believe the opposite.

      If we need to criticize Clinton’s personal failings then I think calling him a shitty husband and father is more than fair. All this talk about ‘power differentials’ though is to imply that Lewinsky and maybe all women are in some way lesser and incapable of full agency. That should be rejected outright.

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      • “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Powerful people and especially powerful men, whether they be politicians, military leaders, business men, artists, clergy, or anything else have been able to get willing romantic partners more easily than less powerful people for all of human history. This doesn’t mean that powerful men never used force to gain sex, they clearly have, but power of any sorts is sexually attractive to many people and they can give knowing and enthusiastic consent.

        The argument that the Clinton-Lewinsky affair was not consensual on both sides rests on the notion that less powerful people, and especially women, can’t really give meaningful consent to powerful people because the ability to have a no respected is nill. This argument seems bizarre and it infantilizing as you noted above. For enthusiastic consent between adults to be the ethical standard for sex, you can’t have a situation where an enthusiastic yes doesn’t count because reasons, except with the case of being under the influence maybe.

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          • This is probably a good idea but in small organizations, some bosses like a much more informal friendly approach than a distant approach. Many people also really don’t have the type of personality for the more distant approaching to being a boss because they are by nature friendly, open-heated, and charismatic people. Asking them to be more formal in their boss approach is not going to work.

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            • There’s a difference between being “friendly open-hearted and charismatic” and not being social friends outside of work with the people you have boss power over. I manage that differential every day and I also fairly smoothly transition from one to the other IF the person I supervise wants to, as they wrap up their college years and leave my employ. It just takes a lot of self-awareness and willingness to reflect on consequences.

              The only exception I’m willing to grant (mostly for very selfish reasons) is that if you’re *already* friends with someone outside of work, they might still be the best possible boss available for you, and I grant friendships the same weight as love relationships in that regard. In fact, I think friendships are generally more stable and less likely to mess things up.

              But (like romantic relationships), navigating that pre-existing situation requires openness from all parties (not just with each other but also with management) and a concerted effort to figure out where the friend-coworker line is drawn in the organization, and compartmentalize to that line while at work.

              I mean, coworkers in my org are very close with one another, across all kinds of lines. We joke-but-not-really-joke about being each other’s “work family” and tell each other all kinds of personal things. Groups of people will go on retreat together to accomplish particular goals, and those groups are as much a matter of affiliation as job duties. But we never form “particular friendships” (to borrow a phrase from the nuns) across existing supervisory lines. Not because of some work rule about it but because it’s just bad practice and messes everything up.

              Regardless of how friendly and charismatic we are.

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          • I think this rule is too absolute. I am extremely good (nonsexual) friends with a former boss of mine. We still have lunch all the time, and he asks me for advice about stuff. I think the boss needs to exercise a lot of circumspection about their employees private lives, but the door can be open if others want to approach.

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            • Former is fine. Having low key social functions where everyone is invited is fine*. Being on a business trip where the boss is dining with as few a one employee is fine**.

              On the opposite end of the spectrum, closing out the bar at last call is not fine. Even less extreme, the boss asking employees to socialize on a casual basis over the weekend (i.e. essentially, looking for friends) is not fine.***

              *though most of those veer into ‘obligation’, though again, if they’re sufficiently infrequent those are fine.

              ** I don’t think this is fine at the hometown office, unless its takeout/pizza at the office itself working toward a tight deadline.

              ***as a boss, I was once set up on a blind date with an employee’s friend (who worked in a completely different industry and profession) and that was fine.

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    • The power differential is important. It is problematic. And if Lewinsky had ever said that she felt pressured or cornered, I would have felt a lot differently than I do. But even now she says, “I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship”.

      It isn’t too hard to find stories about women signing up on lists to give blowjobs to hip-hop stars or quarterbacks. People do this kind of thing these days. Not all people, but some. It’s kind of way too transactional for me, but it happens. Furthermore, these people don’t seem to consider it to be sex. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing happens with politicians (other than Bill Clinton). Obviously, they need to be more discreet.

      Monica never ‘came forward’ and said she had a problem. That’s what Linda “Worst Friend Ever” Tripp did.

      The next point is that while the very specific age line we draw for consent is unquestionably arbitrary, there’s still a huge difference between someone who’s 14 and someone who’s 22.

      Huge.

      There are stories coming out these days about college reviews of sexual assault where they ignore the woman’s protestations that a sexual relationship with an accused man was consensual. I don’t think that’s a good place to be, it troubles me.

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    • I’m between Oscar Gordon and InMD on this issue but lean closer to InMD’s side. For consent to be important and mean something between adults you need to sometimes ignore power differentials. Monica Lewinsky seemed to have been a willing and enthusiastic participant in her affair. Yes, there was a big power differential and that deserves some consideration because its more difficult to say no to a powerful person in theory. Recent events do show that even when a powerful differential exists, its kind of easy to distinguish between a genuine enthusiastic yes and a “yes because I have no other choice” and that people do attempt to say no to a powerful person. Monica Lewinsky was in the genuine enthusiastic yes camp as opposed to Harvey Weinstein’s victims.

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      • I take you at your word for what your youth was like. But it was a topic of discussion for me in my youth, and that was the 70’s. AND, I know, for instance, couples that have been married happily for 30 years that met in a dojo where he was the sensei. AND I also know stories about other dojos where women had to “qualify” for promotions with sexual favors.

        All of which means that for me, I had to sift through the details and try and figure out which kind of situation something is. This issue concerned me with Monica, but there wasn’t the slightest sliver of support for my concerns in anything I saw. There still isn’t.

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        • Thing is, where you see such power differentials not be a problem is where there is an actual relationship happening. A powerful person just getting a bit on the side with a subordinate isn’t a relationship, so regardless of consent, the optics are bad.

          I mean, if Bill had been getting together with a young woman he met at McDonald’s, it would be less of an issue than the young woman who works for his office.

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            • Oscar didn’t even say it was nonconsensual, man. He said it was “important and problematic”. You’re the one reading “the only thing that matters is consent” into what Oscar said, and inferring that he thinks it was nonconsensual.

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                    • Exactly — removing an issue from the realm of criminal liability doesn’t remove the issue from the arena of questionable-to-dubious moral acceptability.

                      In the case of Clinton-Lewinsky, downgrade “questionable” to “indefensible,” for reasons discussed supra and infra.

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                      • My point is that there is a very good reason we incentivize public and private organisations to have clear and well enforced guidelines regarding romantic (and/or sexual) relationships in the workplace, especially between leadership and subordinates. Because even if the relationship is consensual, it will have first and second order effects that cause problems for the org. I mean, besides the obvious power dynamic that the boss can ruin the subordinate, you have the dynamic expresses, that the scuttlebutt can damage morale and team cohesion. Then there is the optics and the ick factor, but those are quite a bit further down the list. The problem was that Bill decided to put his personal satisfaction above the health of the organization, which is not what a responsible leader does.

                        Should Monica have spelled the end of Bill? Perhaps, but certainly not through impeachment. Bill had much more serious abuses of power under his belt already that could have been a much more solid basis for that.

                        But in the end,the problem with being A-OK with what Bill did is that it sends a message that it’s OK for powerful people to have, from their perspective, casual sexual relationships with distant subordinates. But such relationships are almost never ‘casual’ from the perspective of the subordinate, or their peers*. Or worse, that such casual encounters are such the norm that when actual abuse happens, everyone blows it off (see Charlie Rose and the attitude of his producer).

                        *In the event that the subordinate is somehow immune to the power differential and does see it as solely a casual encounter.

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                        • Ok I see what you’re saying but I’m still not sure I see a solution beyond the types of policies that already exist around sexual harassment. POTUS v. Intern is probably about the starkest power differential we could ever come up with, and I’m fine with a rule that says ‘POTUS may not have sexual relationships with interns.’ What bothers me is that the further into the social/economic ladder this goes the murkier it gets.

                          So my question is this: is the rule that punishes the POTUS for consensual sex with the Intern also going to be used to punish the consensual relationship between the cashier and the day shift supervisor, or the server and the assistant manager, and are we sure we are comfortable with that writ large across society? I ask because right now I’m envisioning a power dynamics org chart that says who it is and isnt permissible for people to have consensual sex with and I’m not sure thats a world we want.

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                          • What most orgs do, if there is a relationship (an actual relationship, not a casual fling), is to insist that the parties inform HR about it, so HR can asses things and see if it is necessary for the org chart to change somewhat, or if that isn’t possible, let the parties know that at least one of them has to choose the job or the relationship.

                            I knew a couple when I was in the military who were something of an extreme version of this, in that he was enlisted and she was commissioned. They were married, and one was assigned to Bremerton in the Puget Sound, and the other to San Diego. That way there was zero possibility that her rank could influence his career path in any way. The both lived in base housing and flew Space-A as often as possible to see each other. Kept that up until his enlistment was over.

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                          • With regard to casual sex, yes, companies do get a say in who can sleep with who. Now the cashier and the shift super are probably not going to raise any alarms unless it is obviously affecting morale or performance, but the greater the differential, the more seriously HR is going to take things.

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                            • The military is another beast and I’m not sure thats a good model for this discussion. What you’re talking about out in the working world sounds kind of Orwellian to me and ripe for abuse. Now I think in practice, for college educated professionals ‘pick the relationship or the job’ isn’t so terrible (even if I don’t love it) but thats not most people. Outside of extraordinary circumstances I just can’t be so sanguine about private companies delving into their employees’ sex lives.

                              It sounds to me like the kind of thing that in practice further empowers employers at the expense of everyone else. I also can envision a trajectory not unlike all those drug laws written for kingpins but enforced against the poor. So here’s my question- is making it tougher on the Bill Clintons of the world worth the downstream repercussions? Maybe someone has done the math on that but I’d need to see it before I could entertain getting on board.

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                              • It does, in a sense, empower employers, but only because, in this type of situation, history has proven that workplace sexual/romantic relationships cause chaos in the org.

                                If two people can be serious professionals and avoid allowing domestic issues to spill over into the office, most companies wouldn’t care. But most people suck at keeping such things separate, so companies get a say.

                                Does it suck? Sure. Can it be a problem? Yep. But I don’t see a better option.

                                ETA: Yes, the military is a whole other beast, but a lot of the policies the military has are mirrored to a lesser degree in the private sector and government offices.

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                                • Reading this I think we may be talking passed each other. There are aspects of how things are done now I have my qualms about but I’m not losing loads of sleep over it. What I’m hearing is calls for unspecified change around the issue. Thats what I’m challenging.

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                                  • The change, such that it is, isn’t to change policy, per se, but to actually follow it. At least with regard to the workplace. Powerful people, be they public or private, have enjoyed a certain amount of insulation from the consequences of breaking those policies because they are at the top. If they were not immune, we wouldn’t need to rake so many of them over the coals with scores of public accusations, because the internal machinery of the various orgs would have already dealt with things.

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                        • The problem was that Bill decided to put his personal satisfaction above the health of the organization, which is not what a responsible leader does.

                          Let’s put details on “health of the organization”.

                          Bill’s fling with Monica damaged him so much he wasn’t able to effectively act against Al Qaeda because the GOP assumed he was manufacturing distractions.

                          There’s a path going from Bill-with-Monica to 911.

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  2. who are all justly paying for their actions, Bill Clinton very nearly returned to the White House last year.

    I contend that the fact that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House right now was the invoice finally coming due.

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  3. Monica Lewinsky’s problems come about almost entirely because of the media and the concerted and well-funded effort of the right to bring down Clinton. These were two willing parties. If this happened with another president and another time in history, this might not have ever been reported on and Lewinsky’s story might have been different. Don’t let Richard Mellon Scaife or Matt Drudge off the hook. For that matter, don’t let the purient and hypocritical American public off the hook either.

    I’m also not a fan of infantalizing Lewinsky, or of ratcheting up the age at which one can make rational decisions in one’s own interest when ratcheting it up proves useful.

    That leaves us with infidelity, which is certainly a Bad Thing, but too common of a sin to put a pall on someone’s historical legacy. To do so would just be a gift to people with enough dumb luck to get away with it.

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    • There’s a lot of “hide the ball” in these arguments.

      “Bill Clinton has a established pattern of sexual predation.”

      “No. Bill Clinton does not!”

      “Um, there’s Kathleen Willey… there’s Paula Jones… there’s Juanita Broaddrick…”

      “Those women are exaggerating what happened. Bill Clinton might have thrown clumsy passes but he accepted when they were turned down.”

      “Um, that’s not the story that they tell.”

      “I appreciate that you might feel squicky about infidelity but your Congressmen and Senators do the exact same thing! So there!”

      “Um, okay. That doesn’t really change that Bill Clinton has an established pattern of sexual predation of the women he works with.”

      “Monica Lewinsky was one-hundred-percent consensual. One. Hundred. Percent.”

      What are we arguing again? What is the proposition that we’re arguing against?

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        • I wonder how much of their birthright the Democrats sold for that mess of pottage given them by the Clintons.

          They had to defend Bill Clinton only a few years after the ground gained in the Clarence Thomas hearings. On top of that, they had to defend such things as Clinton’s voting for the Iraq war, other stuff that she had her hand in during her tenure as Secretary of State, and then found themselves doing such things as defending taking huge amounts of money from banks for giving speeches and the like during the last election campaign while, at the same time, smearing Berniebros as being childish and puerile.

          And, even now, during the whole #metoo thing, people are finding reasons to explain that what Clinton did wasn’t so bad. Not because his stuff doesn’t deserve *SOME* criticism, just not as much as the other side is shoveling out.

          Mmmmm. Pottage.

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            • In this case, I don’t think I’m blending them together as much as merely noticing how many times either one of The Clintons have been singlehandedly responsible for turning a conversation from “This is about Principle!” to “Well, the world is complicated… you have to understand…” and successfully applied the brakes to any given Principle being applied.

              (Though, I’ll grant that the fact that they blended themselves together does blur things. “Two for the Price of One” and all that.)

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            • Because Hillary Clinton herself very conspicuously used Bill Clinton as one of her key assets in pursuing the Presidency in 2008 and 2016.

              Hillary Clinton also used the fact that she is a woman as one of the principle arguments, both times, as to why she should be President.

              The merging in the 21st century is her fault – or at least, the merge were the terms on which she wanted her professional career discussed.

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          • I don’t think its a selling out so much as the tactical stupidity of embracing a leader from a different era. Now maybe the election of Trump proves that the only thing worse than a crime is an error. However Clinton, H. and Clinton, B. are both products of the politics of the 90s and their stances are fully consistent with what at the time was center left. Doesn’t free them from criticism on policy grounds but in the 90s embrace of big finance was good politics and we were still many years away from being compelled to ‘believe the survivor’/impose a particular narrative on these situations no matter the circumstances.

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            • “Survivors” were generally believed by the left up until the Clinton impeachment. Prisons were chock full of convicted rapists. In fact, they were so much believed that it took books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” to point out that victims might not be honest in all cases.

              Then the left beheld the Clintons and concluded that Republicans were using evil lying women to try and stop feminism in its tracks – or something. After that they would have invited Ted Bundy to give keynote speeches on women’s rights, just like they invite Muslim terrorists to lead feminist marches today.

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                    • It’s not hyperbole. When the Lewinsky story first broke the networks went live to the home of one of her college professors where hundreds of people, including college students who knew her, had gathered to denounce her as a long-time stalker and predator.

                      Somehow we were supposed to think the late night speech from his porch, under klieg lights, was all spontaneous. That bimbo eruption approach didn’t play very well so the Clinton’s went with the vast right-wing conspiracy angle.

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                        • @george-turner

                          George, if you’re gonna call the leader of the women’s March (or anyone not obviously such) a Muslim terrorist, I am going to need a cite and I’m not doing that work. Produce a credible source please. And if I don’t like the cite, or you don’t produce one, you’ll be on notice.

                          That said, , while I’m not sure about the exact gloss George put on the situation, he’s not making up the vengeful dude (and his wife) nor the presence of other witnesses at the press conference.
                          (FWIW, I agree with Lewinsky’s lawyer’s characterization of the dude as a “child-seducing teacher”, or at least a young-person seducing one (she was 19). But he did call a press conference and all that.)

                          http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/sex-crazed-ex-lover-monica-planned-prez-seduction-teacher-article-1.791263

                          But if you google “Andrew Bleiler” you’ll find a jillion other articles. And I remember people talking about it at the time.

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            • Well, if we’ve moved from talking about principles to talking about errors, I suppose there’s nothing that I can really say.

              I still think that progressive types have left a whole lot more on the table than they ended up winning because of the Clintons but maybe I’m looking at it wrong.

              If you measure Clintonian success by how loudly the opposition shrieks, the Clintons are the most successful politicians in living memory. (Well, unless you count Trump, I guess.)

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              • Well heck, progressive types hatred of the Clintons is second only to the deranged obsession that right wingers hold. The Clintons ushered centrist economics to their current place of primacy in the Democratic Party. They also brought in a higher level corporatism and coziness with Wall Street which is considerably less laudable. The Clintons triangulated and compromised like crazy on social issues. Progressives had plenty to hate about them even without factoring in the allegations against Bill.

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                • The move to the right on economic issues in the Democratic Party started during the Reagan years. The debate whether this was a genuine ideological shift or if the Democratic Party sensed the mood of the country and decided the needed to find another way to achieve progressive social ends divorced from their previous economic policy.

                  There was a similar shift in nearly all social democratic parties in the West away from socialism during the second to last decade of the 20th century. The rift was the most notable in he Labour Party because they held onto the idea of public ownership, Clause Fourt, longer than other social democratic parties, who tended to abandon these clauses around the 1950s and 1960s. It was least noticeable in the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party always saw itself a free market capitalist party no matter how much the right howled.

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              • I guess it depends on how we define success. Bill Clinton gave the center left a viable political counter to the Reagan view of the world that still prevailed. His election was consistent with where the world was at the time as evidenced by similar administrations coming to power in the West (Tony Blair’s Labor, Gerhard Schroeders SDP, etc.).

                Did he get everything right? No. Is there a really strong argument that his wife’s career his presidency propelled way outlived its usefullness? Yes. Should the Democratic party probably reassess the utility of some of the Third Way ideology its leaders have been muddling along with ever since? Absolutely.

                But even with all that I think he did a lot to modernize what was a moribund party and most importantly from a purely partisan perspective he knew how to win. That ain’t nothing.

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              • I think that Bill Clinton is quite likely the only Democratic politician capable of getting elected president in 1992.

                Furthermore, flawed as he might be personally, I never voted for him as my BFF, but because the policies he wanted aligned pretty well with what I wanted. I liked the tax bill. I liked welfare reform. I like that he held the line on SS and Medicare and on the shutdown.

                And if Republicans want to blame their vote for Trump on Bill Clinton, I guess they are welcome to, if that makes them feel better. It comes off as “Well, you Dems degraded and humiliated yourselves for Bill Clinton, so that means we’re entitled to do the same for Trump”

                Ok, now we’re all degraded and humiliated. Can we just focus on trying to make things better instead of tearing each other apart?

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      • Clinton did (and thus still does) have an established pattern of sexual predation, with Willey, Paula Jones, and Juanita Broaderick.

        The cultural shift is in what we call “believing women”, where we generally don’t assume allegations of sexual harassment or assault are false simply because the victims are failing to act according to some imagined script of how “real victims” behave.

        Of course, even with that established pattern, that doesn’t mean Lewinksi was part of it. And at the time, it wasn’t just people defending Clinton who blurred the lines between the predation and the consensual affairs he had; it was also people attacking him, who focused far more on his affair with Lewinski than they did on Jones or Willey. The insistence on victims following certain scripts caused a lot of problems.

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  4. I think focusing on Monica Lewinsky undermines your case pretty badly. I can grant that the power differential is a problematic thing but when we’re talking about the Lewinsky affair we’re talking about an interaction that was consensual and initiated by Ms. Lewinsky as she has stated many times. That definitely makes it sleazy and awkward but doesn’t bring it even remotely into the realm of the scandals we’re discussing in the #metoo present. The difficulties Ms. Lewinsky has suffered since them primarily stemmed from being dragged into public by conservatives who were desperately trying to get something, anything, out of an unsuccessful multi-million dollar fishing expedition. Chait lays it out very well here and I agree with him unreservedly.
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/11/i-opposed-bill-clintons-impeachment-and-i-dont-regret-it.html

    Now Clinton had/has other allegations against him from other women and I think you would have a stronger case focusing on them instead. Certainly anyone lionizing Bill Clinton as a person would have to grapple with those charges. As my own fondness for Bill was primarily on a cynical political/policy level (there’s an emotional component, I was super young in the 90’s and times were economically great but I discount those) so I wouldn’t even try. I don’t get the whole Hillary Clinton angle, though. It is probably my own biases showing but all it looks like to me is an attempt to guilt by association the woman for the behavior of her husband through parsing her tone and attitude towards the woman he cheated on her with.

    It is a silver lining, and perhaps not a small one, to the orange cloud of Trumps presidential victory that the Clintons are now relegated firmly to the past. Neither one have any political prospects (or any indicated political intentions) for the future and they have no successors or future candidates for the same. The Democratic Party and liberalism is moving past them and it would not surprise me if Bills reputation continues to suffer from these allegations nor would I call that unjust.

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    • I think any young woman who has consensual sex with a powerful Democrat should have her life destroyed by teams of Democrats assigned to handle bimbo eruptions. Her college friends and professors should hold immediate televised press conferences to denounce her as a deranged stalker and sexual predator. Her entire past, brief as it is, should be raked over in public. For the rest of her life she shouldn’t be allowed to work in a real job and shouldn’t be allowed to have a family, much less a boyfriend. What happened to her was due to her egregious behavior and she should reap the direst of consequences.

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    • A woman who had the experience working in and after this White House – or the previous – that Monica Lewinsky did in Bill Clinton’s would be right to describe that experience using the #MeToo hashtag. Easily.

      Now, no one is saying that every experience that falls under that hashtag is equivalent. But are those distinctions ones that online society has tended to act deeply concerned about when the business at hand has not been defending this particular president?

      No.

      And this leaves aside that the more damning cases against Clinton may be related to complaints by women other than Lewinsky. So how does that improve his standing?

      Nevertheless, I have heard this meme repeated in recent weeks – even by those looking to push a “new reckoning” where Clinton’s behavior was concerned. A willingness to concede that his relations with Ms. Lewinsky in particular were not as a general matter of the kind of concern that the actions toward women of so many men high-placed men in workplaces as have been revealed in recent weeks are. And it’s crap. The Lewinsky affair is the picture of what we have been talking about.

      The rest of what Clinton is accused of, if true, merely serves to put him in the category of some of the gravest abusers – eclipsed only by the serially violent sexual abusers like Weinstein and Spacey. The Lewinsky part of it alone establishes him as one of the bad ones.

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            • But she doesn’t say the hashtag was related to Clinton or if so, how. My understanding is she is pissed at Bill for denying that it was a mutually consensual relationship, and characterizing her as a slut that took advantage of him while he was under political stress.

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                • It’s also possible that Monica is indeed referring to what happened to her in Washington, but not the actions of Bill Clinton.

                  There certainly were comments, a _lot_ of comments, made about her after the relationship came out that could qualify as sexual harassment.

                  I can’t read her mind about what that hashtag meant, but I have read interviews with her where she’s said it was those comments, the treatment of her afterward, that basically ruined her life.

                  EDIT: That said, Bill Clinton pretty clearly did sexually harass other women, so I’m not really sure what the point of figuring out if he harassed Monica is.

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                    • Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual advances or a hostile work environment, and she repeatedly insisted everything in that relationship that happened was entirely wanted by her. We can’t decide Monica Lewinsky was sexually harassed by Bill if she thinks otherwise.

                      We also have no idea if Bill is the one that even made the sexual advances. For all we know, she proposed the relationship with him.

                      …and someone’s about to say I’m trying to excuse his behavior by blaming Monica.

                      No. I’m really saying his and her behavior, toward each other, doesn’t need excusing. (WRT us, at least. WRT his spouse is something else entirely, and that’s pretty much entirely on him.) Two consenting adults found each other, and there’s no evidence that any sort of pressure was applied to the person who could have had pressure applied to her, and she herself said that there wasn’t and she doesn’t regret anything.

                      Let’s not confuse a consensual relationship, that presumably had some wanted sexual advances in it, with an unwanted sexual advances, and let’s not put words in Monica Lewinsky’s mouth just because she said #metoo.

                      But Monica has specifically said she was harassed, repeatedly, for years, by people who disapprove of the relationship, or that she ‘went public’ with it. (She did not, she tried to it a secret and lied about it until she was threatened with prison, but harassers are often stupid.)

                      Here are her previous words on the topic:
                      https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2014/05/monica-lewinsky-speaks

                      Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position. . . . The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power

                      I think it’s entirely reasonable to assume the thing she called ‘abuse’ is the thing she is #metoo-ing.

                      Now, she does say that Clinton ‘took advantage’ of her, but immediately says it was all consensual, so I’m reading that as ‘He promised me stuff he never intended to do, like leave his wife, and I was dumb enough to believe that’.

                      Perhaps more to the point, it’s not any sort of ‘out’ for Clinton because we literally know Bill Clinton sexually harassed women. He sexually harassed Paula Jones, and that’s pretty much a matter of public record. (The suit was dismissed because she couldn’t show any damages under the law, not because what she was saying was false.)

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    • While Lewinsky owns her view on the relationship as mutually consensual, as Maribou explains elsewhere, that’s not the end of it. Sexual harassment also includes consensual sexual relations if it gives the appearance to others that sex is a way to get ahead, or if sex results in favors or lack of advancement. What did other people in the White House think? And would they not speak-out for fear of burning the same bridges within their tribe that is preventing lobbyists, interns and journalists from naming names today?

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      • This is similar to some of the suspicions about Joss Whedon. It wasn’t that he assaulted the actors who worked his scripts. Heaven forbid!

        Hey, everything that happened between Joss and whomever was 100% consensual. Enthusiastic, even.

        (But did so-and-so get her role expanded due to an exchange of goods/services? Did such-and-such get lines/scenes cut due to this expanded role for this other character?)

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  5. Ms. Lewinsky was hurt far worse by Linda Tripp and Ken Starr than by Bill Clinton. Without them, none of us know who she is, and Clinton is just a private memory from when she was young and foolish.

    And if we want to discuss hypocrisy, this is the same Ken Starr who covered up sexual assault to protect his college’s football team.

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    • I don’t recall Linda Tripp and Ken Starr spending decades making sure Monica Lewinsky didn’t get a life.

      But in any event these kinds of things wouldn’t happen if prosecutors would just refuse to pursue rape allegations.

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      • That’s a highly incendiary charge, for which I have never seen a shred of evidence, and you do not offer any here. Furthermore, it is very much not aligned with what Lewinsky has to say for herself.

        After 10 years of virtual silence (“So silent, in fact,” she writes, “that the buzz in some circles has been that the Clintons must have paid me off; why else would I have refrained from speaking out? I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth”), Lewinsky, 40, says it is time to stop “tiptoeing around my past—and other people’s futures.

        https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2014/05/monica-lewinsky-speaks

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  6. I was a Reagan Republican in 1992, a confirmed dittohead and of course Clinton was my natural enemy.

    As the Lewinsky scandal unfolded though, an odd thing happened. I observed that fixating on a sex scandal, however awful it might be, was the weakest form of politics.

    Was I to believe that Newt Gingrich, Denny Hastert, and the rest of the conservatives were innocent of similar things, I asked my friends at the time? Without even knowing what we now know about them, it seemed absurd.

    And the more attention paid to his personal life, the less was paid to what I saw as substantial case in favor of conservatism.
    Except unless…the case was not that strong.

    Thats why even to this day, I don’t care much one way or the other about sex scandals, because they are part of the human condition and tell us nothing about politics.

    I won’t defend Clinton or Franken but as I ended up saying about the Republicans in the late 90s as my breakup note- If all you got is a sex scandal, you got nothing.

    But I would tag on to that, to my fellow liberals- if you believe that our guys have somehow escaped the gravitational pull of human evils, you are fooling yourself.

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    • Endorsed.

      Particularly where society has come a long way really quickly, and politicians are generally old. I suspect a large percentage of 80 year old men did things in an office setting to women that would not be acceptable today.

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  7. Somehow, if an intern at my company blew me in my office, even if it was consensual, I don’t think the reaction would be “well it was consensual” by HR, or my management team. I think I would deep shit.

    Oh, but this is President, so, different rules for important people I guess.

    Additionally, I was wonder when the firestorm would get around to Clinton. It seems to be burning out of control now.

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    • My advice to powerful people, especially men – if you have ever done anything to a female subordinate that might even remotely be construed as sexual harassment or worse, you may want to resign now, hide all your assets, and retire to some out of the way place.

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        • Honestly, if you are a guy who is unsure of where the boundaries lay, then yeah, Pence is onto something. That probably means that Pence shares the same failing, but at least he has decided that if it’s between exercising political power, or sexual power, he really wants the political kind.

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          • Oscar,

            It’s not about knowing boundaries, it’s about the appearance.

            Two examples. Business: One wise person in my industry, and people in HR and Ethics have also said, do not say or write anything you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times. Personal: I called my wife at the time and told her I was going to have dinner that night with a former boss, a single female. Her response was “you’re going on a date with your ex boss”? I said no that it wasn’t a date. Her response was “how would anyone tell the difference?” And she was right. It’s all about avoiding the appearance of inappropriateness. And yes, it’s a major CYA act. You don’t necessarily have to drag your wife to things, but you should be in a group with lots of witnesses.

            When even an allegation can result you losing your job, how is this not the smart thing to do?

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  8. What struck me at the time was how low-rent and reckless this all was. Bill Clinton was a charming, powerful man who had had a long run of consensual sex with lots of women. (Some said it wasn’t consensual. Let’s leave them aside for now.) One can object to this, particularly in a married man, but it is probably only the first circle of Hell, and in this fallen world we wouldn’t seriously try to hound a man out of public office for it — at least if he wasn’t a sanctimonious hypocrite about it. He was the f*****g President of the United States. He could have had consensual sex with beautiful, accomplished women he could have bragged about to his buddies in the golf club locker room, but who would have known how (and when) to keep their mouths shut. For all we know, he did.
    Monica Lewinsky? I believe her when she says, in effect, that he used his power to charm rather than to coerce — again, first circle of Hell stuff — but WTF did Clinton choose such a target? What did it say about him that he didn’t hold off and go for bigger game? He had to have an intern?

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    • It may be that Clinton’s opportunities to pursue an affair were not as capacious as imagined.

      An incumbent, working President is rarely alone for very long, and Clinton was a big collaborator, using his personal charm as heavily as he did. So he probably wasn’t at leisure to pursue a physical relationship for very long. It’s not like he could take his intended out to dinner on a date. That’s not even counting the presence of Secret Service who of course must be to a degree cooperative in who has (especially solitary) access to the President’s person.

      Clintn wasn’t stupid and knew he was even more vulnerable to sex scandals than the typical politician, as evidenced by the fact that he did things during his affair with Lewinsky to make the affair harder to detect (although, in the case of the dress, he was not always successful in those attenpts).

      And he had a smart, politically-active-in-the-West-Wing, wife who was very much on notice of his apparent prediliction for extramarital pursuits. SNL made jokes about it on his very first week on the job, for crying out loud.

      So having decided, “Yes, I’m going to pursue a woman other than my wife,” certainly Clinton could have chosen nearly any woman he wanted, of any age. But that pursuit needed to fit certain criteria: 1) either he needed an arrangement with his wife or the abilty to pursue that relationship surreptitiously, at least to his wife, 2) he needed the ability to pursue his assignations quickly, and 3) he needed someone who would cooperate in seeking discretion and secrecy.

      Someone he had direct power over would make those things a lot easier.

      Someone young, and whose ambitions could be focused entirely on himself, would make those things a lot easier.

      Someone who was going to be in the West Wing a lot of the time anyway would make those things a lot easier.

      A White House intern fits that bill very nicely. One who was visibly starstruck by him even easier. And it’s quite likely that he found her physically attractive to boot.

      So while yes, he had a wide range of candidates from whom to choose, Monica Lewinsky or someone very much like her could easily have seemed a particularly good candidate.

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      • Man, that’s an awful lot of very analytical thinking on Bill’s part. I’m no “Bill,” but I’ve had a couple of romantic encounters and they have never included that kind of strategizing. Maybe he found her attractive. Maybe she found him attractive. For whatever reasons on both sides. And they found times and places to act on it. Stupid? Sure. Horny? Heck yes. Coldly rational? Nope. And if my memory serves, everything I read about their relationship (other than the nasty parts) was kind of cute and romantic. Gifts of stuffed animals and a nice edition of “Leaves of Grass” etc.

        I’m not in the habit of condemning or approving other people’s relationships, but when two adults say “yes” to each other — I have no business whatsoever in there. And, except for a drastic mistake with her “buddy” Linda, they were discrete as well.

        And, just because it occurred to me at this moment: the age thing. Bogart and Bacall hooked up when she was 19 and he was 45 and married (for the third time, right?) and yet it’s everybody’s favorite love story.

        So much of this stuff is based on the kind of publicity it gets. I’d would much rather have the Warner Bros. Publicity Department working on my romances than Ken Starr.

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        • An excuse to tell my Lauren Bacall story. Thanks rexnobus.
          I was a somewhat sickly child, and much of my early youth was spent home watching Ed Murphy’s Hollywood Matinee. (Ed was a local broadcaster who showed old movies in the afternoon.) When I was about 11 years old, I fell in love with Lauren Bacall –one of the Bogey pictures, I forget which. I didn’t know why, being 11 years old, but I did.
          Fast-forward 20 years. A co-worker of mine, a preppy trusts-and-estates lawyer, had a spare ticket to some political fundraiser, so I went with him. As we’re nursing our drinks, I spot Lauren Bacall across the room. “Jeffrey,” I said, “that’s Lauren Bacall.” “Yes, it is,” he said. “I roomed with her son at boarding school. Why don’t I introduce you?””
          He dragged me over. I was close to paralyzed. She smiled. “Jeffrey, how good to see you again.” He asked after her son, whose name I forget, learned that he was fine, and then introduced me. I stared and stammered. She smiled at me and then gave Jeffrey a look that said: “I see you’re still doing charitable work with the mentally disabled.”
          I saw her a few years later at another function, and was determined to make my way over and make a better impression, but she was leaving and I never got the chance.

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        • If Bogart and Becall happened in this day and age, I don’t think it would be everybody’s favorite Love Story. The celebrity power might deflect some nay sayers but there has been a big shift in culture and politics since the mid-20th century. Many people see big age differences as bad, no exceptions allowed.

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  9. For me it had (and has) nothing to do with belief that she didn’t consent, nothing to do with their age differential, and everything to do with the fact that she was his *intern* in his *office*. Heck, if that was a known path to success with him, that doesn’t make it better! It makes it worse. Because it means he was basically establishing a “casting couch” approach to freaking working for the president! And how messed up was that. People talk a lot about structural racism (correctly), but when it comes to sexual harassment they completely forget that structural sexism and hostile work environments are part of the reason the law works the way it does. It’s not just about whether Lewinsky was ok, it’s about what harm was done to other interns who didn’t want to put out and whether they were treated differently because of it. “Surrounding oneself at all times with women who want to have sex with you,” is not actually something the President *ought* to be allowed, even if Clinton was hardly the first one to do so.

    Plus on an individual level, I believed then (when I was roughly the same age as the intern) and still do believe that something can be enthusiastic and consensual on both parts (even years later, even if it turns into a serious, lasting, and wonderful relationship afterward) and still, at the time, *wrong*, deeply wrong, hold-accountable wrong on the part of the more powerful person. (Kristin gets into this a lot more effectively in her essay, but I had seen it among many people I know before I read her post; I was lucky in my contrasting relationship but my partner in that was also *not ignoring any institutional obligations to not fuck up things in that way* and had no power differential to contend with *other* than age.)

    Coupled with the previous allegations of actual sexual assault and rape, which I had brushed off before, but now that I was seeing how he initially reacted to something that both parties eventually claimed was consensual, I had something of an awakening about whether or not he was a liar, generally … I gave up on both him and US politics in that moment.

    , I think you’re right that many Millennial-and-younger women feel betrayed by older liberal women (and lots and lots of men as evidenced by this comment section) not seeing what was wrong with Bill Clinton. But as I remember it, my fellow genXer women, trans men, and genderqueers (here and even in Canada) were also appalled at the time, for the most part. There just weren’t very many of us to be heard. It was the older folks and, most (not all) guys of any age, who either didn’t see the problem or turned it into some kind of partisan battleground. It made me both sad and angry and I found during Hillary’s first run for president that those feelings came up again. Less so during the second because I was too busy freaking out about Trump.

    I’m still too busy freaking out about Trump, but I’m actually okay with powerful men who fear being accused of sexual harassment up and moving to some secluded island as people joke above. Or I would be if I didn’t think somewhere around 50 percent of them would then proceed to harass the people serving them on the secluded island (’cause you know ain’t none of those guys going anywhere without SOMEONE to boss around). Or rather, I’m not okay with it because even if 5 of them didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t want those 5 self-punishing without due process and probably it’s a much bigger percentage than 5. But if you all who are joking about it, had any idea of 1) the scope of women actually being sexually harassed and then their powerful accusees go on to successful delight while the women either shut up or get driven out, or 2) how incredibly freaking *angry* women and other victims of serious, harmful harassment, assault, and rape are about those things, what a deep wound many of us have carried for most of our lives, and how little patience we have for being told we’re in a sex panic or exaggerating or being stirred up by a media frenzy or whatever? I like to think you’d be kinder to the accusers, and less quick to rush to putting your empathy to work for the powerful men.

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    • Or, I dunno, maybe some of you’d just think even more “this could happen to me!” and not “this almost always happens to people who’ve been pushing the lines of consent and appropriate behavior for years and years”…

      Because that’s how the kyriarchy persists, through almost everyone looking up the power lines for admiration / hoping to climb the ladder themselves, and down for the targets of their judgment and criticism.

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    • I can’t speak for others but part of the issue I have with this is the lack of limiting principles and clear coherent proposal defining specifically what conduct is to be addressed and how to address it. We have laws on the books prohibiting sexual harassment, rape, sexual battery and all manner of offenses. We incentivize the private sector to come down harshly on anything that could remotely be construed as inappropriate in employee relations*. In fact, we are so into punishing people and so paranoid about sex and sex crimes that we even make teenagers register as sex offenders for all kinds of stupid teenager things.

      You may hear empathy for powerful men, but what I think is more prevalent is skepticism for what you’re selling. It sounds suspiciously like there’s a movement afoot to (often post hoc) evaluate and punish people (read men) for all manner of sexual relationships, including ones that were consistent with recent-past social norms, based on unclear, poorly defined criteria. One doesn’t have to be shedding tears for high profile creeps to be concerned about a project like that. If whats been going on at colleges is any guide the skepticism is not only warranted but crucial in avoiding similar mistakes to those we’ve made before.

      *I’m not saying all of these things are bad, just that the idea that this is something thats gone unaddressed has no basis in the modern United States.

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      • What I hear is that for the most part people in your position want me to make one choice, and there are leaders who support that, and people in positions of power on college campuses make me to want another choice (believe me, I’ve gotten into my share of verbal brawls with them in person with my own workplace, they’re just not here right now), and there are leaders who support that, and there’s very little leadership around “The norms have to change, and part of changing the norms is being blunt and open about how awful many of us think certain past behaviors were, but we’re not going to let the powerful hijack this to be about punishing random teenagers in ways we don’t even allow for murder, while they still do whatever they want no matter how creepy.”

        I am hopeful that some leadership will emerge around the latter.

        But not especially so.

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        • This is not a subject that I want ANY “leadership” from, especially politicians. Frankly, the current law is good enough, because they’d f it up.

          Everything else, it seems to me, falls into the category of “shitty interpersonal behavior best dealt with by a slap on the face” or a bop on the snout.

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      • It seems to me that a lot of women born after 1980 are really trying to change the culture of romance. Since me are traditionally proposing gender in heterosexual couples, women get asked out a lot. Like literally at anytime they happen to be awake and even being a sleep isn’t exactly free. Many women hate this and professional women with interesting careers really hate this. The fact that the propositions are often a lot more aggressive than asking people for a date makes things worse. They want to be able to go about their day and their work without getting propositioned for dates or sex everywhere.

        The only really way to stop the near constant propositioning of women is by creating some very strict guidelines about when and how men can ask women out and date them. Changing culture this much in a diverse country where lots of people believe differently about romantic pursuit involves creating an environment where the most minor misstep looks like it could receive major punishment. Everybody who disagrees, including women who like the traditional system, can go to hell.

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        • It seems to me that a lot of women born after 1980 are really trying to change the culture of romance.

          The phrase “trying to change the culture of romance” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Specifically, you’re putting the cart before the horse.

          For starters — the 1980s? That would be when the children of the 60s — the era of the Pill and free love — came of age. They weren’t changing the culture — the culture had changed them.

          Just like those who came of age in the 90s had different views. And the millennials. Each generation reacts to the one before it.

          And especially there is no static, “traditional” system they were overthrowing. The folks of the 60s and 70s had a very different “culture of romance” than those of the 40s and 50s, just as millennials have a different one than the folks from the 80s and 90s.

          The only really way to stop the near constant propositioning of women is by creating some very strict guidelines about when and how men can ask women out and date them

          It’s actually much, much easier. See, I work in a large office. 500+ people in my building. We’ve had roughly a dozen HR issues involving sexual harassment in the last five years, and those involved four people. It seems like 99.9% of our workforce can manage just find without constantly propositioning their colleagues or generating such a problem that it gets elevated to HR.

          In short, the problem is a handful off a**holes. Not women, not men, not “culture of romance”. Just a**holes. Sadly, you can’t get rid of them. Luckily, these days, they’re easier to fire.

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          • There isn’t a static tradition but some elements of romance stay around a lot longer than others. We are still mainly on a men propose/women accept or dispose model even though no sex before marriage is no longer the rule. We had a thread about this. From as far as I can tell, this is going to be the case for a long time no matter how many other things change. I guess my frustration with the current moment is that there are too many people that seemingly want it both ways but you can’t point out all the mutual inconsistencies regarding what people are looking for. You get somebody out for blood that way.

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            • Well, my two cents is — if you’re wanting to date someone, you should probably know them well enough to treat them as an individual, and not apply have to a “cultural norm” to them.

              Certainly before you get to the “proposal” stage

              Again, this gets back to the weird view that there’s “One cool trick” to dealing with dating, as if the the entire opposite sex was just a game where you had to find out the right button mashes to pull of a sick combo.

              Instead of, you know, treating them like individuals.

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    • When this story broke, I did not have the opportunity to talk to you. I was alert to the possibility that this was untoward, but also aware of successful relationships born of such situations.

      It seemed possible that the Clintons were/are poly. At about the same time, Luciano Pavarotti had an affair that became public and his wife said, “Luciano would never leave me for another woman. For a bowl of pasta, maybe, but never for another woman.” What does that say about their marriage.

      I knew I didn’t know what their personal take on his sexual escapades were, but I knew another woman, in the 80’s who had a longish affair with a roommate of mine with the consent and collaboration of her husband. I didn’t understand that. I couldn’t do that. But I knew that it existed, and if one couple can organize their sexual life that way, so can others. If adult parties more intimately involved in the situation don’t object, why should I?

      And so, most of the conservative/Republican protestations of the time seemed to me to have the flavor of “he is not following the One True Sexual Path and must be impeached because of that”. Which did not impress me.

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      • I didn’t care one whit about the adulterous aspect (still don’t consider that any of my business unless the person is actively trying to enact laws to punish it and/or “protect marriage” by harming me and mine), and I had some knock-down drag-outs with Republicans about that at the time. But any time I brought up the workplace situation and how fundamentally creepy that was, to think of the White House as a place where interns couldn’t trust their boss to not have sexual motives, there were plenty of liberals hanging around (as I said, older and/or male) to jump down my throat about it.

        I do believe you would have listened. But you would have been one of the rare exceptions, at the time.

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          • Well, I wasn’t sure what your point was, as a reply to what I said, since none of what I said contradicts it, IMO, so I was just reiterating what I said before while being clearer that I wasn’t necessarily lumping you in to the general frustration I have about it?

            I hope that clears things up but I’m honestly just as puzzled as I was before.

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            • Let me tell you what’s in my heart. I voted for Bill Clinton twice. I did not think he should be impeached. As such, I feel accountable to you in particular to at least explain my thinking at the time.

              I understood the primary complaint to be about Monica and about Bill’s adultery. The Juanita Broaddrick story, if I recall correctly, was hair-raising, except that Broddrick had serious credibility issues.

              To me, adultery is not a “high crime or misdemeanor”. It does not touch his governance, or the manner in which he has held the trust of the public.

              What of the question of Monica’s consent? I watched this closely, for any whisper of something other than consent from Monica, and I saw none.

              I personally know some women who, at that age, engaged in “groupie” behavior, where they sought out sexual encounters with very powerful men, typically with blowjobs. It seemed plausible that Monica might be in that category. Somehow, I feel I need to convey that while this is behavior that really doesn’t work for me, I don’t find it shameful.

              Mix into this the number of highly functional and loving relationships I’ve observed that began from a place of unequal power. For instance, I know of an extremely famous and influential computer science guy who married his grad student. They had a long, and presumably happy marriage. I know other couples from the martial arts realm which began with him being sensei for her. I think such a situation must be handled with extreme care and caution, but I don’t have an absolute rule against them because of this. I knew all of this at the time.

              It was also known at about this time that Bill Clinton was extraordinarily persuasive, particularly one-on-one. The Republican Caucus, after they discovered this, stopped sending Newt Gingrich to the White House by himself, after he came back agreeing to stuff they didn’t like.

              Does that mean he bullied Newt? Coerced him in some way that’s illegitimate? We won’t ever know, nor will we ever know how Bill persuaded Monica. Or maybe Monica was looking for it. Do we need to know that? Or isn’t Monica’s insistence that it was consensual enough?

              In any case, a case of sexual abuse never made it to a level that I thought was serious, nor was it in the charges listed in his impeachment.

              Times are different now, we’re taking the abuse of power more seriously. I would love to see a reduction in such harm. I would love to see the victims of bullying and abuse healed. How do we move forward on that?

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              • Ah, I see better now.

                FWIW, I think part of moving forward is re-examining the past, and listening to those who found it rotten at the time – not so we can justify our past behavior to them (there are things where I find my own past approach rather appalling) – but so we can clarify what was wrong then and apply those lessons to the now.

                There is a way in which it’s far safer and less explosive to pull apart 20-year-old situations involving the POTUS and an intern (especially when it’s done without blaming the intern or denying her lived experiences) than to pull apart such situations in the present with our own friends, neighbors, or colleagues. It’s… well, good practice at being angry, frankly. Because a lot of women don’t have much practice at acting from their anger on these issues – I sure don’t – and it’s probably safer and healthier for all of us if those who are in the same situation as I am, if that anger gets directed at history FIRST, and then once it’s less wild and feral, gets turned to useful change.

                I actually think it will reduce the chances of the kind of mob mentality other people in these threads are so worried about.

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  10. I question whether we are really talking about the same people. I’m 34. I was in high school when the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal went down. Whatever opinion I had at the time was not in any way informed by politics. And it seems to be my generation that is leading the #metoo charge. So I’m not sure that calling *us* hypocrites makes sense. Sure, some may still venerate Bill and if they do while also proudly supporting #metoo, they’ve got some ‘splaining to do. And, yes, there are some folks who were old enough then to have informed opinions on matters and who may have defended him then and now decry others and remain silent on the shift.

    But I’d venture to guess most people pushing #metoo see Clinton as some sort of historical figure whose misdeeds and/or crimes are vague rumors from the past and who only remains in the public consciousness because of his wife. Whether because of the misdeeds/crimes themselves or something else, he did not gain the mythic status that Reagan seemed to among Republicans.

    In short, I see no reason to answer for Bill Clinton supporters because I was never one nor were most of my contemporaries.

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  11. In 1998, Hillary Clinton spearheaded the efforts to cover up and minimize the crimes of her husband.

    The article you cite in support of this instead refutes this: There’s little evidence to support these women’s testimonies about Clinton’s intimidation and silencing, according to PolitiFact, which said the claim that Hillary Clinton “viciously attacked” her husband’s accusers is “mostly false.”

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  12. For me, the most challenging accusation against Clinton is not his “consensual” affair with Monica Lewinsky, but the very-thoroughly-not-consensual … “encounter”? … with Juanita Broaddrick. For purposes of argument, credit Broaddrick’s account, which is substantively similar to a variety of other accounts most people are crediting in other situations these days. It’s not a story of sexual harassment, it’s a story of outright rape.

    Now, Clinton didn’t get impeached on the basis of Broaddrick’s story; he got impeached for perjuring himself during a special counsel investigation that mission-creeped its way from shady real estate deals all the way to how that stain got on that dress. And at the end of the day, the Senate concluded that this wasn’t enough to remove a President from office.

    That was the Senate in the late 1990’s. Query if a Senate in the late 2010’s would make the same political decision. While we may claim politics is more partisan-polarized today than the 1990’s, the vote to either convict or acquit President Clinton of the articles of impeachment against him was significantly partisan.

    Also query if the Senate would have convicted had Juanita Broaddrick’s story been included within the articles of impeachment or at least prominently visible within the political cloud surrounding the impeachment.

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    • There’s a reason Starr dropped the Broaddrick line of inquiry. Now I can very much see her reasoning for doing so, and it’s very believable. But that doesn’t really change the fact that putting forth a witness who has told two contradictory stories under oath doesn’t make for the strongest statement.

      So I don’t see the Senate finding Broaddrick somehow more compelling than Starr himself did. It wasn’t like Starr was known for his sober objectiveness contrasted with the hot-headed Senate.

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    • For me, the most challenging accusation against Clinton is not his “consensual” affair with Monica Lewinsky, but the very-thoroughly-not-consensual … “encounter”? … with Juanita Broaddrick. For purposes of argument, credit Broaddrick’s account, which is substantively similar to a variety of other accounts most people are crediting in other situations these days. It’s not a story of sexual harassment, it’s a story of outright rape.

      This, exactly. I don’t care about the Lewinsky allegations, and I wouldn’t even put the word consensual in quotes. Monica Lewinsky was an adult, and has never claimed any sort of harm from that. (What happened afterward, OTOH…)

      Juanita Broaddrick is something else entirely.

      Note there was actually a story of sexual assault already known at the time of impeachment, Kathleen Willey…except that Willey story was, fairly clearly, bogus. To the point that a friend of hers admitted to committing perjury for her.

      Also query if the Senate would have convicted had Juanita Broaddrick’s story been included within the articles of impeachment or at least prominently visible within the political cloud surrounding the impeachment.

      This does touch on a question that we are running into in other places: What do we do about allegations of powerful people that are outside the statue of limitations? Note we can’t just increase the statue of limitations…that exists for a reason. Legal cases, past a certain point, become very hard to try in court.

      I know, everyone says ‘believe the women’. But we can’t just, as a society, decide we are going to believe every allegation ever made of sexual misconduct.

      Perhaps it is reasonable to believe an allegation made in 1999, where there was plenty of incentive not to say anything…but I’m saying, in the future, we cannot possibly operate that way, where we say ‘If anyone ever says you ever did anything to them, even without them presenting any evidence at all, you have to forever leave public life’.

      But at this point, we’ve either had a lot of evidence, or very clear patterns of abuse that were open secrets, or the accused admitting it. We have yet to have someone point a finger, everyone else look baffled, and the accused say ‘I did not’.

      At that point we…what? If it’s too far back for a trial, we what? If a woman that Al Gore asked out on a date while at Harvard in the 1960s says he raped her, and there is no evidence of this, where exactly do we go from there?

      And, there is, functionally, no way we are ever figuring out the truth of Juanita Broaddrick’s allegations. We can’t figure out what happened in 1978. Hell, we couldn’t have figured it out in 1999 when she made them.

      Bill Clinton has such a pattern of near misconduct and abuse of power that I am maybe willing to believe actual rape. And I don’t think her changing her story means it couldn’t be true, although I do think it is less likely.

      But…what does it mean that I think Bill Clinton _might_ be a rapist? Let’s say I assign that 50% odds of being true. What am I supposed to do with that information? I don’t mean that rhetorically, I am literally asking what any of us are supposed to do with that possibility….we can’t get it figured out in court, it’s forever going to be a question mark. Does it matter if I personally think it’s 25%? 75%?

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      • “But…what does it mean that I think Bill Clinton _might_ be a rapist? Let’s say I assign that 50% odds of being true. What am I supposed to do with that information? I don’t mean that rhetorically, I am literally asking what any of us are supposed to do with that possibility….we can’t get it figured out in court, it’s forever going to be a question mark. Does it matter if I personally think it’s 25%? 75%?”

        And this is why I find the whole reckoning with Clinton conversation to just be absurd navel gazing of the kind we liberals do too often. The facts and unknowns of the Broaddrick and Lewinsky cases remain exactly as they were at the time. We made a pragmatic political choice to prevent his removal from office. Any notion that a) It would have been best to force him from office at the time or b) Some sort of retribution can be extracted from Clinton now, is flawed reasoning. Bill Clinton will live out his days as a wealth elder statesman, welcome in board rooms and palace. There will be no do overs. If there were it would likely produce the same result.

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        • The facts and unknowns of the Broaddrick and Lewinsky cases remain exactly as they were at the time. We made a pragmatic political choice to prevent his removal from office.

          While I otherwise agree with your comment, the known facts of the Broaddrick case are not the same as when liberals prevented his removal from office.

          She had not come forward at that time, (In fact, she had been questioned by Ken Starr and testified that had nothing happened.) so no one knew anything about that at all. She didn’t come forward until after the Senate had chosen not to remove Clinton from office.

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        • We made a pragmatic political choice to prevent his removal from office.

          No. Oh, no.

          Remove Bill and we have President Gore, maybe for two terms.

          Gore wasn’t the equiv of Dan Quayle, he would have been fine by liberal standards. Think of him as Clinton without the money+sex scandals.

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      • Here’s what I’m struggling with: can you oppose witch-hunts even if there really is a witch?

        Yeah, I feel like society is just now waking up to the fact that some percentage of the male population are, in fact, witches, and going after them, which needed to happen and I am on board with all that…

        …except, well, we don’t seem to have any rules or standards of evidence or anything, and at some point, this is going to go all pear-shaped because there will be a false accusation or at least an accusation that doesn’t appear to have any evidence.

        Which not only is going to possibly hurt some innocent people, but is going to harm the advances being made.

        I dunno what to do here.

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        • Based on LGM, the Left position is that nearly all males are witches and its perfectly fine that women are out for blood because of the sins of the past. It certainly seems to be the Internet position. The Extreme Right position is that everything is overblown. Most people are trying to muck through things.

          Its the problem that Chip noted in Ms. Devine’s thread, people want contradictory things and we are a nation with hundreds of millions of people. Some want to entirely banish flirtation and romance from the office and others thing we can keep them with modification. Some want clear rules on when men should and should not proposition women and others might be fine with clear rules when not to but keeping it vague on when appropriate to approach.

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          • *deep breath* I know this is a complicated situation and emotions are heightened for everyone, but it’s hard not to hear comments like this one… and to some degree others you’ve made all week … as

            “The problem with all these thousands of women announcing that they are somewhere on the spectrum of forced-to-accept-rape-jokes-in-meetings-through-actual-nonconsensual-touching-through-rape-through-child-molestation is that it makes dating really complicated and inhibits men from being able to ask for dates. Also some people might get unfairly fired who aren’t victims, and that’s a lot more worrying than all the people who were unfairly fired for being victims in the past, because even though I have no actual evidence of a real witch-hunt happening where no one was even having sex and no one was being serially awful, people on the Internet are yelling a lot.”

            I realize that’s NOT what you mean at all, and you’ve said other things that were far more thoughtful.

            But it’s really hard not to read much of what you have to say about this topic in this way.

            The idea that the “internet position” is that it’s perfectly fine that “women are out for blood” – a very violent metaphor that you *keep repeating* – is so out of proportion that it’s becoming creepy.

            Again, I don’t think YOU’RE creepy.

            But you are making it increasingly difficult to discuss these topics in a calm environment. You keep talking about “women” or “the left” or “somebody” being out for blood on nearly every dang post. I’m starting to feel like you think non-men are monstrous figures out of Greek mythology like the freaking Maenads or something.

            Can you tone it down some please??

            Asking both personally *and* as a moderator.

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        • So far, given that all that is flying about is accusations (I don’t know of any lawsuits or criminal charges filed) and investigations, this is largely in the realm of the media. And for the handful of cases I’ve read about, the media seems to have a ‘Once bitten…’* vibe and are working to shore up the accusations with at least some degree of corroborating evidence (people who recall the accuser talking about it when it happened, people who are willing to say that the bad behavior was an open secret, etc.). So maybe corners of the ctrl-left are being overzealous about things (re: Lena Dunham and the ‘Girls’ producer she defended), but the mainstream outfits appear to be more cautious.

          *The bite being from incidents like the Rolling Stone case, etc. Or perhaps they are just not interested in hurting the momentum by elevating a false claim that was transparently so.

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          • So far, given that all that is flying about is accusations (I don’t know of any lawsuits or criminal charges filed) and investigations, this is largely in the realm of the media.

            Weinstein has some lawsuits against him. Someone even filed a class action lawsuit against Weinstein, on behalf of actresses in general. Which I’m pretty sure cannot work because the damage was so varied and random, but it’s an interesting concept.

            But lawsuits are exactly the thing I’m not worried about. We know how to deal with stuff when it ends up in court. Even if there are bad court decisions or things are settled out of court, things end up _documented_ and we can look at them and draw our own conclusions.

            It’s the stuff that never going to end up in any sort of court that worries me. Someone said something, the person denied it, and…then what? Maybe some witnesses come forward to side with one or the other, but they aren’t under oath, they aren’t cross examined, we have no idea of their truthfulness, so that’s not any help.

            And for the handful of cases I’ve read about, the media seems to have a ‘Once bitten…’* vibe and are working to shore up the accusations with at least some degree of corroborating evidence (people who recall the accuser talking about it when it happened, people who are willing to say that the bad behavior was an open secret, etc.).

            So you’re saying that as long as the media remain diligent and none of them sensationalize anything or attempt to use any of this for financial or political gain, we’ll be fine? ;)

            But more seriously, yes, as long as the media stays with ‘open secrets’, or actual documentation, we’ll presumably be fine. The problem is, it’s entirely possible for 90% of the media to follow the rules, and then some part of the ‘media’ lie their ass off and everyone treats them the same.

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      • Here’s what I’m struggling with: can you oppose witch-hunts even if there really is a witch?

        Yes. “Witch-hunt” normally means “lower the rules of evidence, we know he/she/someone is guilty so there’s no point in a trial”.

        The original Salem witch hunts were about people using the process for revenge/economic advantage/power. If you assume there really are witches and they really are a problem, then we still had the process go off the rails and convict/kill a lot of innocent people, and in reality all of them were innocent.

        These accusations we’re seeing were needed and IMHO are welcome. Hopefully there will be less crap for my daughters to deal with when they get older.

        However weaponization of this and it’s corruption for crass purposes should also be expected. “Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill” may have been exactly that given the politics and personalities at work.

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        • Even though I disagree with about specific examples at times, and even though I think freaking out about this at this particular moment is rather premature (and relates to society’s general fears about women and women’s anger)…

          He’s not wrong on the general concept.

          One thing that I find helpful to illustrate the idea is to not look at Salem (or Germany or or or or) but to look at a modern “witch hunt” by McCarthy and his ilk during the 50s.

          Were there Communists in America who (with or without self-awareness) were supporting abysmal regimes elsewhere in the world?
          Yes. (And if you read the ridiculously supportive and naive / self-serving things some of them were saying about Stalin and Mao, you might feel pretty disgusted; I know I do.)
          Does that justify the blacklists, the senate hearings, the exchanges of immunity for names (or worse ways to get names out of people) and the lack of care for any other standard of proof than someone naming you, or the social norm shifting to shame anyone who might have known a Communist at some point in their past or spoke with the wrong accent or whatever?
          No, it doesn’t.

          Now, I’m enough of a realist to think that the odds of white straight men of middle-class or higher standing (whether by birth or from having clawed their way there) being dislodged from their position near the top of the kyriarchy en masse is… about as logical as the dang comfortably middle-class Moral Majority being so freaking sure they’re being persecuted (yes, I live in Co Springs, I have literally heard that verb from people who should know better) when someone wishes them Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. (And yes, Christians are sometimes persecuted in some places but that doesn’t mean ANYTHING you are complaining about random poverty-level retail clerks saying to you with relative politeness is valid, 3-car-household, 300K-house everything-in-your-town-goes-your-way random Moral Majority person… *ahem* sorry).

          Anyway, I don’t think it’s a realistic fear right now. Not that no person in that position will ever be unfairly accused of something and lose a job, but you know what? That happens to people in ALL KINDS of positions fairly often – I certainly have seen it happen to plenty of my friends over the years – and until the subject of sexual harassment, free-speech-for-assholes, etc., comes up, the upper-middle-class culturally-in-the-majority folks don’t really seem to have been concerned. Once it’s them (and their husbands) joining the parade of the unjustly treated, suddenly it’s a problem.

          What worries me most, thinking about witch-hunts on these topics, is that I expect they will be turned not against the powerful, but used as a tool by the powerful to divide the less powerful against each other more than we already are. Not that there aren’t black people, working-class people, gay people, etc., who abuse – but that those are the folks who, whether the accusations are correct *or not*, will lose jobs and not be insta-rehired by someone else, be shamed out of town rather than rallied around, etc. I mean, until, what, the mid-2000s? That’s who the “sexual predators” were, *purportedly*… men of color, LGBTQ people of any gender or race, and so-called white trash. (And no amount of statistics to the contrary convinced people, until the culture itself came to some kind of new consensus. A consensus that still feels pretty shaky to me.)

          I don’t think falling back into that will help anybody I care about.

          I just also don’t think that being afraid of women (and others) speaking up and being angry, or trying to “de-fang the #metoo movement” as I read someone say the other day with apparently no idea of how troubled a metaphor that was…. will help either.

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          • As a more concrete example of what I mean, I know two gay men and a lesbian, all of my mother’s generation who could not *possibly* be more traditional and morally upright in the sexual realm (except that that generation was not ok with their same-sex orientation), exceptionally polite and proper in all aspects of life, exceptionally good friends and coworkers, etc etc etc – who spent their whole lives in the closet except to a few *very* close friends, because they were teachers and being out would have literally gotten them fired. If they didn’t get fired FOR being gay, trumped up reasons would have been found.

            Meanwhile I am friends with multiple gay and lesbian teachers my own age or younger, and only one of them is in that not-safe-to-be-out situation (she lives in a super-conservative town, is actually bi, not gay, and doesn’t want to have to address it at the beginning of her teaching career; she’s not planning to stay closeted forever.) The rest are known and *beloved* by their communities, as is.

            The difference is that *most* people – not all, but *most* people – no longer have the “gay panic” anymore. No longer assume gay people will molest or recruit children any more. No longer find it reasonable to worry about that even though THEY wouldn’t think such a thing, and thus act to alleviate purportedly “reasonable” fears by firing teachers, anymore.

            I’m not so sanguine about American politics that I can feel like there’s no way whatsoever we could end up back there.

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          • Just yesterday, one of Roy Moore’s spokescreatures was talking about how Moore needed to be elected Senator to protect girls from the imaginary rash of trans predators that the Right has conjured up out of nothing to provide a pretext for their latest round of bigotry.

            So yes, that is exactly what will happen. The thing that’s been protecting powerful predators from suffering consequences for their predations has is not due process, or lacunae in criminal law, or any desire to avoid leaping to judgement, and much more to do with that power.

            And of course, the Red Scare of the ’50s did seem to often be a way to hound gay people, or Jews, or African Americans, and segregationists sure got a whole lot of mileage out of painting opposition to segregation as a Communist plot.

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  13. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about embarrassment. It’s humiliating to admit that you got taken advantage of by a sexual predator. Ditto when you’re taken advantage of by a politician. We hate to admit that we’re dupes. We heard someone’s spiel, and in retrospect we can see the signs that something was wrong, but we didn’t see them at the time, or we ignored them.

    If there’s any way possible, we’ll avoid looking square at that fact. These women who are coming forward are able to say #metoo where they were never able to say #me, because it’s too embarrassing to stand up on your own and admit that you were fooled. We feel shame. The one person who doesn’t feel shame is the guilty person. It’s almost like he doesn’t understand shame, but that’s not true – he’s an expert in recognizing it and using it as a tool of control.

    The rational part of my brain says that if the women who were abused had spoken up at the time, they could have saved the victims who came later. I also think that the pols who defended Clinton for 20 years are coming forward and rethinking things at an awfully convenient time. But there’s an emotional element that can’t be ignored. It’s too much to expect that abused people will tell their stories on your or my schedule. By all means, let’s look at the assumptions that created the world where the predators acted, but as frustrating as it is, we have to let the victims untangle themselves on their own schedule.

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    • This is a nuanced and thoughtful comment, , and I appreciated it a great deal.

      The one caveat that I would add is that many women who are saying #metoo were already saying me, without the hashtag, and many others (some of the same ones) were ashamed, not because they were embarassed to be made fools of, but because they were so very young (or more rarely, so conditioned by other forms of abuse, even as an adult) that they believed the person who hurt them when he said it was their fault. Most abuse of teens and young children happens at the hands of someone they trust – and kids trust in a different, more absolute way, than adult judgment/discernment does.

      I know I believed that it was my fault until I found out (decades later) that my father had done the same thing to my younger sister. Of course I felt crushing guilt about not having protected her, but I also felt shock that he had done it to someone else. The part of me that was able to acknowledge his abuse was very very sure it was my fault, and very very unable to get out of the moment/headspace where those abuses happened to communicate with the rest of my brain so it could learn otherwise.

      And even then she and I colluded to be sure it was just about something else (what he was going through at the time, mostly), and not a habitual issue, until we found out he had molested someone else. Looking back there are, IMO, two reasons for this:
      1) We loved him
      2) We were literally (and, in adult retrospect, reasonably) terrified of him. He’d put people in the hospital before more or less for the sheer pleasure of doing it; he used to brag about having put someone in a coma during a blackout bar fight. It was easier to lie to ourselves than to put each other at risk or admit we were protecting each other at the other person’s expense.

      Neither of those really reduces to shame or embarrassment in my view. And it seemed important to mention because so much abuse, so many of those #metoos, were not workplace harassment, or other situations where shame / being fooled was the problem. There are a great number of other reasons. I mentioned the ones for family violence and trauma-related sexual abuse – but there are many other sets.

      That said I think a lot of what you say is generally applicable, and the shame of being fooled stuff applies to any number of situations that abusers do take copious advantage of.

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    • the pols who defended Clinton for 20 years are coming forward and rethinking things at an awfully convenient time

      Sure, but this is always true, and part of the purpose of activism is to create a convenient time.

      It’s like how Obama suddenly changed positions on gay marriage. He picked an obviously convenient time, BECAUSE of decades of hard work to change attitudes, and his change did a lot of tangible good. Let’s hope this follows the same trajectory.

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  14. Contained in this original fine post, the comment threads and really most of the commentary on this subject of late are two assertions:

    A- Bill Clintons behavior was improper ranging from sleazy to borderline criminal especially by current standards.
    B- Republican investigations and their subsequent impeachment efforts in the 90’s were appropriate, justified and Clinton should have been impeached.

    The conservatives all point at assertion A and the widespread agreement on it then pull out their tow hitch and try and fasten assertion B onto the back end of it. If anyone protests they then claim that these people are denying assertion A.

    Most liberals now, and frankly from what I’ve read most liberals in the 90’s, on the other hand affirm assertion A but deny assertion B. That’s certainly my own position (and perhaps that’s why I think this position represents the majority of liberals position but it also jives with what I’ve seen from our own commentariate and liberal opinion writers for my entire political adult life).

    Finally there’s a small subset of liberals who deny both assertions A and B. The most common cited exhibit being Nina Burleigh with her unforgettable assertion about how she thought women should thank the then President for keeping the Theocrats off their backs and keeping abortion legal.

    Oh and I suppose there’s some tiny fringe of people in the right wing woods who think assertion A is false but B is true but they’re even rarer than true libertarians.

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    • The Pro-(phenomenon) and the Anti-Anti-(phenomenon) people have long been lumped together with each other when it wasn’t fair to do so.

      The “what, you’re saying that the Anti-(phenomenon) people are more offensive to you than (phenomenon)?” is always a fun game to play with the Anti-Antis, of course.

      But, hey. Sometimes the Anti-(phenomenon) people *ARE* more offensive than the (phenomenon). Which shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for (phenomenon), of course. As a matter of fact, it’s offensive that you’d even imply that it’s an excuse for (phenomenon)! Nobody is defending (phenomenon)! It’s just that the Antis are really bad too and nobody is talking about that.

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      • Hmmm I took a bit to pondering to unravel it but I don’t think what you’re describing applies here. I mean sure the GOP leaders who were going after Clinton were hypocritical serial adulterers and child molesters but that wasn’t public knowledge at the time so no one could have been offended by it. I don’t think offensiveness really factored in.

        It was more a “you spent years of investigation time and tens of millions of public money to do an extended fishing expedition in Clintons background and after all that when you came up empty all you could do is entrap an intern into confessing to and entrap Clinton into lying about an tawdry affair and now you want to try and impeach him over it?”
        It may or may not have been offensive but it was dumb. It was dumb then and it’s dumb now. The changing mores around Clinton and Lewinsky’s interaction have shifted (for the better I’d agree) but the core dumbness of the GOP’s impeachment charge hasn’t changed and they got shellacked by the public for it. Now, again, we see (particularly with Douthats piece in the NYT) that trailer hitch coming out as they try and couple the two subjects together as if they can somehow retroactively undo how the Clinton affair turned out for them.

        Clinton was problematic to sleezy to potentially a rapist depending on if we’re using the 90’s understanding or todays (and what we know today vs what was known then) but it seems to me that regardless of what knowledge or which eras moral understanding we bring to the table the GOP’s anti Clinton crusade was an idiotic waste of time. That, it seems, is timeless.

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    • FWIW, if it isn’t clear, I affirm A and deny B. But I also affirm C, which goes something like:
      C – Clinton’s behavior, once disclosed, was absolutely inappropriate and anywhere other than the Presidency should have resulted in the CEO being fired or otherwise put out to pasture. So he should have resigned.

      Do I expect him to have? Did I have any realistic hope he would, especially back then?

      No.

      But I still think he should have.

      Gore would have been an annoying, not entirely ethical, and entirely acceptable Democratic president at the time.

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      • Hm, now that I think about it, I also affirm something… like… not exactly this but close to this:

        D – I have the right to be retroactively still pissed off that power over others insulates people from the consequences of their apparently bad actions, and to rant about Bill Clinton being an asshole / the reason I lost respect for Democrats. And to think that people worrying that my or others’ expression of that anger will lead to people who shouldn’t be getting fired, or witchhunts, or whatever other ghosts are in the closet, is at best overblown and at worst just another manifestation of the kyriarchy. Cultural anger is not always bad. Sometimes it’s part of making stuff better.

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  15. Monica didn’t see herself as a victim until the media, HRC, etc put her life in a blender. Without that she and Bill would have had a breakup and presumably she would have been fine.

    Monica was a very young, very naive, 22 year old and might (amazingly) have expected Bill to marry her. My problem with taking Monica more seriously is this also happens where power isn’t on the table. Bill was at the top of the pyramid for power, charisma, and fame. He attracted what I’ll call “groupies” even before he was President, just like a high level athlete or musician.

    Society has problems with power imbalances in relationships because of the potential for abuse, but as far as I can tell, here it was just a “potential”. The bottom line for Monica is she consented to everything, not because she was afraid of Bill’s power but because she was attracted to it. Legally she was an adult with the right to be stupid.

    However, Bill was impeached for lying under oath to a judge and not consensual sex. The problem with Bill wasn’t Monica, it was Paula Jones and others. Quite likely the powerful man who was willing to ask his subordinates for a blow job asked someone who wasn’t as willing as Monica.

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    • The difference between Harvey Weinstein and, say, Mick Jagger. Both have engaged in sexual behavior, enabled by their power and celebrity, that we have every right to deplore. As far as we know, however (big caveat–we don’t know these people), Jagger did it with people who wanted to do it with him.

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      • Jagger also didn’t (again, as far as we know) create an atmosphere where wanting to do it with him, or being willing to pretend you did, was a path to career success, and objecting to it would get you blacklisted forever. That’s a slightly separate thing, although it obviously overlaps.

        I think the environmental aspects of these situations are extremely important.

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  16. It is always so interesting to see a hand tipped so wildly, but for the record:

    1. It is absolutely amazing to see a writer chalking up the entirety of the response to rampant sexual abuse scandals – like the one that consumed the Catholic Church, which the author specifically mentions – to “politics.” As if it were simply impossible to imagine that maybe, just maybe, there is something inherently offensive about the sexual abuse of children, nevermind about an institution that preaches its moral authority also having spent decades aiding and abetting the molestation of children.

    2. Speaking of politics, it is a hell of a thing to see the author insist that it is everybody else who is guilty of playing politics when he implicitly acknowledges throughout his piece that he holds the Clintons to a higher standard than he does literally anybody else, and particularly those on his own side of the political fence.

    3. Finally, what on earth is this, “Unlike Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK, who are all justly paying for their actions…” supposed to mean exactly? How are these men “justly paying for their actions” exactly beyond being slowed in their future earning capacity? They haven’t been charged or jailed. They haven’t paid restitution to their victims. They’ve barely shown substantive remorse, beyond half-hearted attempts to extricate themselves from consequence. That this would be considered just payment is an awfully big part of the overall problem.

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    • I get the feeling you were attempting to be civil with this comment, but for the record you didn’t manage it. (You left it behind in the first sentence, in fact.)

      Which is a vexing thing because there’s plenty of important argument in there, but as it is it’d be hard for the author to respond to your criticisms without also responding to the barely-veiled hostility mixed in with them.

      And that never ends up somewhere good.

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        • I don’t think that was a good choice of example given the reaction you had may be fairly typical (and there are some other reasons), but concluding that Mike is intending to say that you personally are only offended by that particular situation because of politics is probably the least charitable reading you could give what he said… (Fwiw, what you just said, “it’s awfully tough to be civil when…” etc., was, IMO, acceptably civil and a fair call-out, despite its lack of charitableness.)

          Regardless, civility is required.

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          • It wasn’t just me. He directed his criticism broadly, dismissing out of hand that there was anything more at work than simple point-scoring politics. There is no “charitable” reading possible of this:

            It seems fair to say that for at least 20 years, the Left has been waging a crusade against what they see as sexual hypocrisy on the Right. From the Catholic priest scandal, to closeted gay politicians who were outspoken against same-sex marriage, to family values proponents that were secretly stepping out on their spouses; liberals have taken a certain delight in pointing out how conservatives talk family values but do naughty or downright illegal things in private. Democrats have walked a fine line in how they deal with sexual behavior. They portray themselves as both respectful of what people do behind closed doors, but also being willing to expose that same behavior if it seems hypocritical. To be honest, while this used to bug me as a political move, now that I am a bit older and a lot more cynical, I just chalk it up to politics. Where I still struggle is when considering A) The Left’s permissive attitude towards the bedroom B) Their willingness to expose sexual misbehavior to score political points and C) Their advocacy for the victims of sexual predators. This seems hard to reconcile with the way they have celebrated Bill Clinton.

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            • He’s making a generalization that to me, at least, fairly obviously didn’t include me, or others like me, but was more about a political stance taken generally by media, pundits etc. That is the more charitable reading and it took me less than no effort to make it.

              As someone who, like you, is deeply and personally offended by child abuse and especially child sexual abuse – and someone who seems to have a more complex understanding of the relationship between “the Left” and “the Catholic church” than is portrayed by that paragraph (for starters, I think far more Catholics vote Democrat than Republican)… I *saw that pattern* among the political Left at the time, the using-it-to-score-points-against-small-c-conservative-values thing.

              And I was more pissed off by that baying at political targets even than Mike seems to be, mostly *because* I was deeply offended by the criminal behavior in question (not the abuse alone, but also all the coverups) and I thought the left would have been more able to focus on the problems and less on the sneering at hypocrisy. I mean, I expected the non-Catholic right to look down on Catholics and blame all the liberals and “loosening of mores” (even some rightward Catholics did that one) for the catastrophe of abuse that had been happening for years – because I have very few positive expectations of “the Right” (writ large) in the first place.

              But I thought better of “the Left” (writ large) and was really hurt and alienated that more people with loud voices seemed to enjoy pointing out the contrasts for political gain than to be, truly, offended by what happened.

              So when I see a paragraph like Mike’s, I don’t rush to the conclusion that when he says “the Left” he means every single leftward person who was upset, no.

              Would I personally have collapsed voluntary scandals with child abuse? No.

              Do I personally make an effort not to throw around “the right” or “the left” as I have here, as the OP does? Yes, because people seem to read the generalizations they agree with as nuanced and the ones they don’t as blanket condemnations, so it’s not worth trying to expect charitable readings, for me as a writer.

              But it’s not *impossible* to give it a charitable reading. When you call it impossible, you’re literally assuming I’m lying, I suppose – and yet I don’t take what you said that way either, because I read people charitably.

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              • I endorse ‘s comments here.

                One semantic point I would underline is the use of phrases similar to “the Right” and “the Left.” A very large amount of the time, those phrases are used to described a swath of political actors too large to be painted with a broad brush accurately, by way of calling out morally egregious actions or statements of a small subset within that group and then imputing that behavior to everyone.

                If your comment, your article, or other communication makes use of such a phrase, I’d counsel you to consider carefully what you’re claiming because you’re at risk of rhetorical overreach. That goes for our author, our commenters, me, pretty much anyone.

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              • people seem to read the generalizations they agree with as nuanced and the ones they don’t as blanket condemnations

                Yes, exactly. One of the essay ideas I’ve had in the back of my head for years (don’t worry, none of them are ever actually written) is titled “The Case of the Missing Quantifier.” So many (socio-)political arguments come down to a disagreement over what is or isn’t a fair generalization, and leaving off the quantifier is one of the main ingredients in the stew.

                E.g., I recently watched that dustup between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on Maher’s show, and as far as I could tell, all the heat was just about which kind of Muslims we should have in mind when we talk about “Muslims”.

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  17. Since Mike wrote this, more accusers have come out against Al Franken.
    On top of that, multiple accusers have come out against John Conyers.

    The response to these guys happening at the same time as attacks flying against Moore has a lot of people holding their breaths.

    How important is principle in the first place? Is it just a tool to wield against someone when it’s convenient to do so?

    Buzzfeed has an article about the Conyers thing that really veers into “WHAT THE HECK!” territory when it starts talking about Congress’s Office of Compliance. The two sentences that grabbed my eye:

    In a statement to BuzzFeed News, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was not aware of the settlement.

    And:

    “Speaker Boehner was not aware of this,” Dave Schnittger, a spokesperson for John Boehner, told BuzzFeed News in an email Tuesday. Boehner was the speaker of the House when the settlement was made.

    I don’t know which is worse… the possibility that they’re lying or the possibility that they’re telling the truth.

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    • Vox is coming out strong on the whole “the principle is what’s important” thing.

      Here’s the conclusion:

      Will the first female speaker of the House hear them? Will she listen to one woman who spoke up?

      Last year, Pelosi joked about a flap between Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, repeating Albright’s famous line: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

      Whatever happens next, today Pelosi is that woman.

      Golly.

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        • There are any number of people who agree.

          That said, I think that there are upcoming elections that will be decided on the meta-game of “who also agrees/disagrees that ‘it’s the principle’ is a poor way to frame this?”

          For example, I suspect that how Franken is handled will determine the attitudes of those on the fence in Alabama when it comes to voting for Moore.

          (Yes, I know that there are a lot of differences. I’m not interested in that there are a lot of differences half of much as I am in that how Franken is handled will determine the attitude of those on the fence.)

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    • Why should they be aware? 538(ish) Congressmen plus staff, maybe half of whom have serious ethical issues.

      I say “half” because unlike in industry, getting into trouble doesn’t get you fired, and might even be an advantage for being in office. Further you’ve got the whole “power leads to sex” thing that high level men always have.

      Both Boehner and Pelosi have day jobs, they don’t have the power to do much of anything about these issues, so why should they know or care about every Congressman who cheats on his wife, or sexually harasses his staff?

      Voters get to decide who is in office.

      The only real exception is the police have the power to arrest people for serious crimes from which Congress can’t exclude themselves. The “Office of Compliance” has been compared to a pack of golden retriever puppies. Their job is to look like things are being done while making sure Congress(men) aren’t held accountable for their actions… i.e. to make sure the Police don’t get involved.

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      • Both Boehner and Pelosi have day jobs, they don’t have the power to do much of anything about these issues, so why should they know or care about every Congressman who cheats on his wife, or sexually harasses his staff?

        Well, I’m not asking “hey, is it scary that leadership doesn’t know who is engaging in enthusiastic consensual affairs with his/her peers” but “hey, is it worse that leadership does or that they don’t know who is settling sexual harassment cases with his or her staff for hundreds of thousands of dollars?”

        In any case, I imagine that if they legit didn’t know, it is now the case that leadership sure as hell knows that they’re going to be asked about it on Meet The Press someday.

        I’m not entirely sure that “I had no idea!” will be a sufficient answer, say, a year from now.

        I suppose it might depend on which party the assailant is in, of course.

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        • hey, is it worse that leadership does or that they don’t know who is settling sexual harassment cases with his or her staff for hundreds of thousands of dollars?”

          “Hundreds of thousands of dollars” isn’t even pocket change to Congress. I don’t keep track of every penny or nickel in my spare change bucket here on my desk. The money as a budget item is meaningless… and up until now the ethical issues haven’t been relevant either.

          To be fair it’d be nice if the leaders of Congress know which of their members are the least ethical and are out there sexually harassing their staff and other crimes… but the nature of the beast is they only care about “ethics” if it has electoral (or criminal) consequences.

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          • I must be naïve because my suspicion is that it’s still somewhat scandalous because even though I don’t know exactly how much my household spent on food in the last week and I don’t know how much my household spent on gasoline, I know exactly how much my household spent in sexual harassment settlements.

            For what it’s worth, the number is a number that I, personally, am at ease with.

            I can’t help but think that hundreds of thousands of dollars is hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the number that leadership ought to be at ease with and I suspect that they’ll find that out too.

            I, personally, think that leadership should have pulled the guy aside and said something to the effect of “hey, congressman… we’re thinking that you ought to retire and become a lobbyist.”

            But, hey. Maybe leadership said “what’s a couple hundred thousand dollars?”

            I imagine that we’ll all find out the answer to that question over the next few weeks or so.

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            • …I don’t know exactly how much my household spent on food in the last week and I don’t know how much my household spent on gasoline…

              I don’t know those either, but I can tell you that the #1 line item on our household budget is various insurances (medical, homeowners, liability, auto, etc).

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            • I, personally, think that leadership should have pulled the guy aside and said something to the effect of “hey, congressman… we’re thinking that you ought to retire and become a lobbyist.”

              The way the system is set up, none of the leaders even know that.

              The entire point of the Office of Compliance appears to be ‘pay out victims while making sure that no one ever hears about any of this’.

              Hey, here’s a fun question: The Office of Compliance, along with the settlement, makes a victim sign a non-disclosure agreement.

              Does it ever seem reasonable that the US government should be asking people to sign non-disclosure agreements about elected officials?

              I mean, it probably is constitutional, It’s not that difference from the ‘I will not disclose classified information’ thing people have to sign before getting access to classified information, but it’s about the _behavior of elected officials_ instead of classified information.

              Does it seem reasonable in the slightest that the US government will give people money if they will agree to not say things about elected officials?

              If so, does this apply only to victims? Could the US government go to someone who is running in opposition to the president, and say ‘We know your opposition research dug up the fact he had an affair, but we will give you a million dollars if you don’t talk about it.’?

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              • Does it ever seem reasonable that the US government should be asking people to sign non-disclosure agreements about elected officials?

                Oh, I disagree with the concept in general (i.e. not limited to the US gov). Sunlight deals with filth. These sorts of deals clearly allow predators (and other types of misbehavior) to continue.

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                • Yeah, that’s my point. The US government should not be spending taxpayer money to pay people to ‘not say bad things’ (Especially _true_ bad things) about specific elected officials.

                  I would argue that that is unconstitutional, in fact. I was wavering on it in my original post because ‘paying people not to disclose information’ is basically how ‘jobs that require security clearance’ work, and that are legal…except I think there’s a line in there, somewhere, and I think this clearly crosses it.

                  Paying people to not speak about national security(1) issues with money is acceptable government behavior in my mind, especially as that is usually information that the government has only told the person because they already agreed to those terms anyway. National security, actual national security, is somewhere where we can let the government slightly interfere (In a voluntary manner of the people involved) with the exchange of information.

                  Paying people to not speak about politics with money, especially at the level of specific politicians, is not acceptable government behavior. That is something where we cannot let the government interfere at all with the exchange of information.

                  The first can have somewhat weak first amendment protections, although, again, that ‘weakness’ is entirely voluntary and comprised only of people who agree to be paid off. The latter shouldn’t have the government within 100 feet of it, in any manner at all.

                  I’m not entirely sure where the line is, but just because the middle is vague doesn’t mean the ends shouldn’t be treated different.

                  1) This does not mean we shouldn’t be vigilante to make sure that we aren’t classifying things merely because they are political embarrassing.

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            • “hey, congressman… we’re thinking that you ought to retire and become a lobbyist.”

              After he replies “Fish you”, what then?

              All of these guys have their own power base, their own backers, and they don’t depend on Congressional leadership to get elected. Expecting them to “do the right thing” is hopelessly naive, they’re going to do what’s best for them, including fighting their leadership is need be.

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              • The most they can do (short of expulsion) is stripping them of committee assignments. They have not yet chosen to do so. The last time anyone did was Traficant, and that was en route to expulsion.

                But it is an option at their disposal. It’s an option Republicans will have with Moore, too.

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                • There is also the option of admonishment. When Roland Burris perjured himself about his communications with Illinois Governor Blagoyevich about the circumstances surrounding his appointment to Obama’s seat, he got a letter of disaproval. This seems to be the most probable path these things will follow, because the politicians want clean hands and they are not equipped very well Constitutionally are in the public eye to do much more.

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    • On the one hand it could be easy to see a degree of partisan retaliation for the attacks on Moore in all of this.

      On the other hand it’s also part of a national phenomenon, a cultural shift that’s been underway for a long time finally becoming manifest.

      And Pelosi utterly screwed the pooch with an apparent defense of Conyers. “Look, John has been a friend and an ally for many, many years, so this one really hurts. But there are some things we just can’t tolerate in this day and age. What John was accused of, and then using public money to settle it? We’re going to have to take some action here, and rest assured that we will.” How hard was that?

      …Conyers has since resigned his leadership position but not his membership in the House itself.

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      • Oooh, just read an interesting theory on the twitters.

        There’s this:

        When Nancy Pelosi isn't even on your side in a case where the perp is 88 yrs old and in a safe seat, why on earth would you report sexual harassment?— Laura McGann (@lkmcgann) November 26, 2017

        And it had this response:

        Ever stop to consider maybe Pelosi doesnt want more victims coming forward against other Democrats? https://t.co/gE5E5Fn4BR— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) November 27, 2017

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        • She seems to be moving backwards on her initial defense of Conyers, which is better than not doing so. But it’s far too late in the game for my preference, and her initial reaction really does smack of a partisan double standard. Which is particularly galling given that it abdicates some highly advantageous moral high ground.

          This makes me wonder, should the Democrats actually beat the long-despite-everything odds and take back the House in 2018 or 2020, if she would be the best choice to serve once more as Speaker.

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          • As Chip points out above, why should she have to?

            Look at Moore.

            I mean, unless Moore loses.

            But if Moore wins, why in the heck would Pelosi have to step down? How many people out there will have their attitude toward folks on their own side determined by little more than how the other side treats theirs?

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            • Well, you know there is a whole furious debate going on in liberal circles about how to respond to accusations against fellow liberals.
              It isnt the case that liberals are closing ranks to circle the wagons.

              And I haven’t seen anyone make the argument that conservatives are forcing us to behave a certain way.

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              • It isnt the case that liberals are closing ranks to circle the wagons.

                Depends on how the “debate” is resolved…

                …and how widespread the problem is.

                Running for Congress requires a certain level of hubris, arrogance, maybe lack of ethics, etc, and after you’re there you’ve got the whole “power leads to sex” thing. I.e. the act of running for Congress may be something that selects for guys who are going to abuse power this way, certainly having power encourages it.

                It’s possible this is a VERY widespread problem.

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              • Well, you know there is a whole furious debate going on in liberal circles about how to respond to accusations against fellow liberals.

                Yes. There does seem to be one.

                It isnt the case that liberals are closing ranks to circle the wagons.

                Yeah, that’s the problem with there still being a debate. There are people who are more interested in the circular firing squad than in the circular wagon formation.

                And I haven’t seen anyone make the argument that conservatives are forcing us to behave a certain way.

                I haven’t seen anyone make the assertion that you’re defending against.

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            • Are we sure we’re comparing apples to apples?

              The initial Moore accusations came via a pretty thoroughly vetted investigative journalism piece. Not failproof, but many hoops already jumped through. Is that the case with the allegations against Conyers and Franken? The latter I’m pretty sure not but the former I don’t know.

              So given that there is some amount of “process” that needs to play out, looking for at least some of that to happen isn’t unreasonable and comparing situations in different parts of the process isn’t the fairest thing to do.

              Then you have WaPo’s revelations they were targetted by an O’Keefe/Veritas person hoping to poison the waters with a false allegation against Moore. So… yea… that happened, too…

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