CUPP: Liberals must face facts of what Clintons did to sex-assault accusers
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In the past few weeks, I’ve been a woman of split personalities.
On a good day, I’m elated — empowered and inspired by the many women who have courageously opened the floodgates to help end the shroud of silence and shame that surrounds victims of sexual assault and harassment. I shared my stories. I brought other women together to share theirs. We were giddy at the catharsis. It felt like a sea change.
On a bad day, I’m despondent — devastated and angry that so many of the people who were rightly outraged over Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey were utterly disbelieving or even accepting of the allegations against Roy Moore. Though relieved so many Republican leaders have called on Moore to step down, I still can’t believe how many conservatives and evangelicals — some in my own close circle — prefer to believe his denials over the well-sourced and credible accusations of at least five women and two police officers.
Of course, many of those same people also disbelieve the accusations against Donald Trump. I’m old enough to remember when, as conservatives, we used to bemoan the moral relativism of the left.
While the right has certainly lost a significant amount of credibility on that front — conservative evangelicals defiantly embraced Trump despite his many troubling moral deficiencies — the left still has a long overdue unpaid bill to pay. Bill Clinton, that is.
That it has taken liberals almost 30 years to begin to question whether Clinton’s behavior in the 1990s warrants additional scrutiny is both disturbing and unsurprising. Disturbing, because his accusers were in many cases credible, yet were subjected to vicious smear campaigns by Clinton supporters and the Clintons themselves. Unsurprising, because for the past three decades, Democrats have been trying to elect or re-elect a Clinton to office, and so covering up or denying their numerous and obvious flaws was for many a full-time job.
Now, in the safety of 2017, with no Clintons running for office — we hope — and an environment that is far less friendly to the accused, some are admitting the party may have covered for him for far too long.
It is not, however, a total about-face. Perhaps uncomfortable with just how far Democrats went to defend Bill Clinton, there’s a lot of finger-pointing, hedging and couching.
Chris Hayes at MSNBC still blames Republicans for what he deems is insincere whataboutism, while acknowledging the Democrats’ problem, tweeting, “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is, it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”
Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times writes a column called “I Believe Juanita,” referring to Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Clinton of raping her. But she spends the bulk of it justifying why she and other accusers were not, in fact, to be believed, giving Democrats a slew of excuses as to why they didn’t and shouldn’t have.
For one, she says the vast right-wing conspiracy made it impossible to sort the conservative lies about the Clintons from the truths. “In this environment,” she writes, “it would have been absurd to take accusations of assault and harassment made against Clinton at face value.”
She also still questions Paula Jones because, in part, she inaccurately described Clinton’s penis. I don’t recall a single person asking a single Weinstein accuser to describe his penis in order to take what so many women were saying at face value.
And yet, Goldberg agonizes, “contemplating this history is excruciating in part because of the way it has been weaponized against Hillary Clinton,” as if she is somehow a victim of her husband’s transgressions and not an enabler. In fact, it was Hillary Clinton who weaponized this history against his accusers, and Clinton, Inc. which used it to somehow prove that any and all critiques of her were part and parcel of that same vast right-wing conspiracy. That should be considered equally “excruciating.”
In a far more convincing Atlantic piece, Caitlin Flanagan performs no such contortions, calling out revered feminist Gloria Steinem for an unforgiveable 1998 New York Times op-ed, in which she “slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed” and “urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused.” Steinem referred to Clinton’s alleged crimes as mere “passes” — a term that would be unacceptable if applied today to others accused of serious harassment or rape.
Steinem and other feminists’ sycophantic devotion to Hillary Clinton over the years has manifest in similarly anti-woman attacks on other women. Steinem called Sarah Palin the “wrong woman” for vice president because she believed in creationism, abstinence and gun rights — which are hardly fringe or unpopular beliefs. She chided, “Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton.”
Just this past election, Steinem said the reason some women were supporting Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary was because they just wanted to meet boys.
When you insult, diminish and dismiss many women in the service of protecting one, it’s hard to justify the “feminism” undergirding that project.
Bill Clinton was perhaps a problem that Democrats thought they could either bury forever or at least until they got Hillary elected president. But their 30-year grace period is up. Just as I want my conservative friends to be honest and consistent about Moore and Trump, liberals and feminists must finally do the same about Bill — even if it means acknowledging Hillary’s flaws too.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.
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