Sad but true. Hillary Clinton can’t be shocked and appalled by Harvey Weinstein without being shocked and appalled by Bill Clinton.
She can’t credibly address the disgrace of having a sexual predator in the White House in reference to President Trump, without addressing another sexual predator named President Clinton. Better to be silent than hypocritical. That’s the price of fidelity to husband and family. Or the cost of denial, take your pick.
The Weinstein scandal shouldn’t be used as a political sword, whatever the extent of Weinstein’s allegiance to liberal causes and candidates. If anything, the vision of this Hollywood creep, naked beneath a bathrobe as he preyed upon young actresses, is just more proof that sexual harassers, from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump, are not limited to any political persuasion.
It’s a bipartisan problem — for wives, too. Just a year ago, after the “Access Hollywood” tape revealed a smirking Donald Trump, lewdly boasting about his ability to grab female body parts, Melania Trump defended her husband’s language as “boy talk.” She called other allegations of sexual misconduct “lies” that were “all organized by the opposition.” Melania saw a left-wing plot where Hillary once saw a right-wing conspiracy. But both stood by powerful husbands, despite detailed accusations of sexual misconduct made against their spouse.
Because of her long years on the public stage and her own career, Hillary has to answer for more. She protected Bill Clinton before, during, and after his presidency. She held public office herself, as a United States senator and secretary of state. She stood up for women’s rights, but not for the rights of women who accused her husband of groping and rape. Blame it on loyalty or ambition. With either comes the shadow cast by Bill Clinton’s behavior. It darkened Hillary’s presidential campaign and, thanks to the timing of the Weinstein news, it darkens her post-defeat book tour.
In her book “What Happened,” Clinton addresses her second debate with Trump, when he brought “three women who had accused my husband of bad acts decades ago.” It was, as she put it, “an awful stunt,” which she said he carried out to divert attention from the “Access Hollywood” tape and “throw me off my game.” But the stunt did more than that. Trump’s willingness to dredge up what she called “old allegations that had been litigated years ago” also blunted Clinton’s ability to use Trump’s sexual misconduct against him.
The same is true with the Weinstein headlines. Clinton was criticized for not denouncing Weinstein when the story first broke, a silence attributed to the millions he had donated to her various campaigns over the years, as well as to the Clinton Foundation. Finally she did address it, declaring herself “shocked and appalled” and commending the women who came forward.
“But I think it’s important that we not just focus on him and whatever consequences flow from these stories about his behavior, but that we recognize this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated anywhere, whether it’s in entertainment, or politics,” she added. “After all, we have someone admitting to be a sexual assaulter in the Oval Office.”
With that, she was talking about Trump, but the BBC interviewer rightly pressed her about Bill Clinton. Asked to explain her dismissal of those women brought onto the debate stage by Trump, she again described it as a matter of old charges already litigated. With that, she set herself up for the usual attacks that always come back to Bill.
As a wife, she has every right to forgive and forget. But her choice to stand by her man without acknowledging his behavior saps her ability to speak up for victims of sexual harassment.
Sad but true.Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.