My fellow pro-Hillary Americans, let’s face it: this whole eleventh-hour e-mail nightmare is one hundred per cent our own candidate’s fault.
It’s not FBI Director James Comey’s fault. It’s not Donald Trump’s fault. It’s not the Republican Party’s fault. It’s not Huma Abedin’s fault, and (for once) it is not Anthony Weiner’s fault. Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton is the one who decided to have that stupid server set up in that stupid basement in that stupid house. If she had not done that, Comey and company would not have anything to do to her now. For the hundredth or thousandth time, if she had not given in to her famous instinct to hide things, she would not now be suffering from the toxic perception that she must have things to hide.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing that I can imagine Hillary Clinton having done, tried to do, or thought about doing to our country in the dark that would strike me as one-sixtieth as frightening as almost everything that her opponent — and for that matter, almost all of her opponent’s competition for the Republican nomination — routinely swear on their respective stacks of Bibles to do in broad daylight. If tomorrow those e-mails revealed Hillary Clinton to have been sexting with Anthony Weiner over their mutual lusting to quintuple NAFTA, open all our borders, and embroider the phrase “Black Lives Matter” into the underwear of every police officer in America, I would not hesitate to vote for her over the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, isolationist all-purpose blowhard ignoramus she is running against. And of course, the odds are overwhelming that in the end, those e-mails are going to reveal a whole lot of almost-nothing, like always, leaving her friends bitter; her enemies enraged; and everyone else bewildered that such brilliance and such ineptitude can have lived together in one person for such a long time.
I have always been in Group Three, plus I like NATO, so I hope Clinton gets elected in spite of this mess. In fact, I hope (against hope) that she gets a Democratic House and Senate because of it. That’s perverse, of course: Logically, this last-minute derangement should only strengthen one’s deeply American impulse to put a check on the power of the President. Unfortunately, no currently imaginable Republican Congress will provide a check on this president. They’ll tie a noose around the neck of her tenure, tighten it with a series of un-endable investigations, and proceed to hang the country. I’m against that.
Just because I am “with her”, however, I am not going to pretend that at this moment of white-hot crisis, Hillary Clinton is primarily a victim of anyone other than Hillary Clinton. None of her other supporters should pretend that, either.
It is at precisely such a moment that we most need to face our least-favorite fact. Hillary’ Clinton’s impulse toward self-shrouding — perhaps not unlike Bill’s impulse toward womanizing — is a deeply ingrained personal trait with potentially dire public consequences. Happily, those consequences can be easily avoided, if only she chooses to avoid them. Why is it so hard for this bright woman to accept a reality that she has spent her whole life creating? Being who she is and having taken the path that she has taken to where she is, Hillary needs to abandon any attempt to skirt public disclosure of anything she does other than make a poo-poo. Any such attempt will backfire. It will leak, it will fester, it will look different in the light of day.
It is incredible that coming up on forty years of life in effigy, she still needs to be convinced of this, but someone does need to convince her. Maybe it’s Chelsea, who seems to have had her head screwed on straight about goings-on at the Clinton Foundation and how they would look to everyone other than Doug Band. Maybe it’s Huma (umm…ok, probably not.) Maybe it’s her old friend Betsy Ebeling. Maybe it’s revered Methodism founder John Wesley raised from the dead, dusted off, and hauled in as a special counselor.
Then again, why not bring in some professionals? Assuming she battles through to the Oval, why not hire the president-elect a top-notch secrecy-sobriety coach? Pack her off for some true transition time at Obfuscation Anonymous. Make her write down all her often-justified resentments on little slips of paper (“Still burnt by offhand cookies-and-tea comment of 1992”…” “Did not kill Vince Foster”… “Blamed for Benghazi by a Congress that had been short-shrifting diplomatic security forever”) and toss them into the Potomac. Feng-shui the White House so that paranoid vibes flow straight down the toilet. Rejigger her cell phone so that if she dials Sidney Blumenthal, the call reroutes straight to Sean Hannity. Better yet, chuck that cell phone into the Potomac, too. George Washington got along just fine without one.
It’s not just what Clinton needs to stop doing, either. It’s also what she needs to start. As president, she needs to call a press conference a week. Give loads of long, open-ended interviews. Casually misspeak so often that all her casual misstatements get lost in the wash of each other. In short, she needs to resolve to screw up a whole lot more in public. It can’t be half as damaging to her as all the screwing up in private — or rather, screwing up solely for the futile effort to operate in private — has been.
Clinton haters like to crow that at this point, her hide-duck-dissemble routine has become an immutable trait, like eye color. Nonsense. This is absolutely something that our girl can address. If she can will herself to become the first woman president, surely she can will herself to an even more historic feat. To succeed, Hillary needs to do whatever it takes to become the first president who grows less paranoid in office, rather than more.
Step one: she has to look in the mirror, not across the aisle, for the source of her woes.
Those of us supporting her need to do the same. National politics has always been rough sport, but when did it become nothing but dueling cults of personality? Whether the issue is personal, legal, tactical, or substantive, it no longer matters what is said or done. It only matters who has said or done it. There seems to be nothing that the rank-and-file won’t rationalize on their own side, or criminalize on the other side.
Sure, it may be the case that Comey timed his letter so as to help Republicans burn Hillary at the stake, as they are predictably and pathetically eager to do. But even if so, the fact remains that by her own actions, she handed them the wood, the straw, and the match.
She’s gotta stop that. She’s gotta stop that.
What can I say? She was dressed for surgery, and she cleanly removed his very last chance to get back into this race.
Then again, by choosing "suspense" over democracy, he assisted brilliantly.
Is it possible to glow with cool?
If so, Melania Trump just did it in her sit-down with Anderson Cooper. Not only did Mrs. Donald appear not to have been remotely crushed by her husband's ever-expanding sexual-assault scandal , she almost seemed to have taken it as some kind of spa treatment.
("Shall we rake you over your coals now, Mrs. Trump?" "Yes, please, and make them hot. I am very strong.")
In fact, Melania did come across as strong, but not harsh. That's no easy feat for a female. Just ask the one who's running for president.
With almost no campaign experience, Melania effortlessly embodied the four c's that distinguish the flawless-diamond class of absolving political spouse from the mere trouper-type gems. She was calm, cool, collected -- and seemingly utterly convinced that her husband's years of misconduct had been cynically manufactured by a media in clear cahoots with his enemies.
It was as if Monica-era Hillary had been turned toward an opposite-wing conspiracy theory, poured into the form of an Eastern European supermodel, pointed toward a camera and told to sing for her husband's life.
But not, one suspects in this case, her own.
First things first:
I believe that, by virtue of his, um, “dalliance “ with Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton sacrificed his second term — and any hope of Al Gore’s getting a first term — to his penis.
I concur with Bill and Hillary Clinton that they have long been the targets of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” hell-bent on shooting their agenda down — which I consider all the more reason to have been enraged with Bill for handing that conspiracy such a powerful bullet. (I say “have been” because nearly twenty years and two full presidencies have gone by since then. Enough already.)
Nonetheless, when the subject does arise, I am now, as I was then, intellectually perplexed and morally appalled by those Democratic partisans who seemed to believe that the (alleged) transgressions of then-Supreme-Court nominee Clarence Thomas and the (confessed) transgressions of then-Senator Bob Packwood made them unfit for human interaction, let alone public service. Yet pretty soon after, these selfsame partisans were eager to downplay the inherently abusive nature of the relationship between the president of the United States and an intern.
At gut level, it bothered me then and it bothers me now that such a feminist president, with such a feminist first lady at his side, ended up serving to revive an anti-feminist dichotomy that the culture ought, by then, to have left for dead. That dichotomy consisted in the old idea that there are females for substance (Hillary, Madeleine Albright, Donna Shalala) and there are females for sex (Monica, Gennifer, et. al) and it is fine, indeed charismatic or something, for even the most illustrious male to dabble in both. But if any of the gals in that second group should tattle in such a way as to inconvenience Golden Boy and his great plans, she’d better watch out.
None of that is even what I am posting about. But I wanted to get all of it out of the way up front because lately, if you are a Hillary Clinton supporter and you express revulsion at Donald Trump’s enthusiastic approach to misogyny, a whole crowd of people on the right instantly tag you as a big fat hypocrite for giving Bill a pass on all his womanizing stuff, even if you have never, ever done any such thing.
What I am posting about is how the political dilemma faced by Lewinsky-era Democrats — not the moral or ethical dilemma, the political dilemma — essentially differed from the political dilemma faced by Republicans now. This is, admittedly, old and very political-junkie terrain. But amid the current swirl of “Democrats didn’t give a hoot about this stuff when it was their guy doing it,” it strikes me as worth covering it once again.
A few points:
First of all, at the time that the Monica Lewinsky scandal became public, Bill Clinton was a sitting president. For any American political leader of either party to call upon the president to resign is a very different, infinitely more problematic, action than that of withdrawing support from someone who has yet to become president. (And just to forestall all those “It wasn’t just Monica! How about Juanita and Paula! And Gennifer Flowers spoke up in 1992!” retorts, let me say: With regard to Flowers, in my view, a presidential candidate’s having previously had a consensual extramarital affair — or even many consensual extramarital affairs — does not remotely equate with a current president having an extramarital affair that cannot, by its very nature, be considered consensual. Although the alleged rape at its center took place in the 1970’s, the case of Juanita Broaddrick, like that of Monica Lewinsky, did not take take on national significance until the Paula Jones sexual-harassment lawsuit went forward, well into Clinton’s presidency. So it is that late 1990’s time frame that matters.)
Second, Clinton was a sitting, second-term president. Although the Lewinsky affair occurred before he was re-elected, it did not come to public attention until two years after. Had the scandal broken in his first term, it would have been a much larger bombshell for Clinton. At a minimum, some Democratic factions would have seriously considered mounting a primary challenge, if only for fear of the incumbent’s vulnerability to attacks on the issue. But Clinton had already won, and he could not run again. Thus, if you were a Democrat, no matter how disgusted you might have been, you had only two practical options. You could either call upon your party’s leader to join Richard Nixon on the resigned-Presidents page of history — thus aligning yourself with a Republican opposition that was busily becoming its own special brand of repugnant. Or you could hold your breath and hope that this whole ugly business would resolve itself with minimal damage to Al Gore and the rest of the 2000 ticket, none of whom had done anything to deserve punishment for the actions in question.
Third, Bill Clinton was brilliant. That was the tragedy of him. He was that rare beast who could fully understand politics and policy, and how truly to interweave the two. Yet he lacked the basic wherewithal not only to curtail his tomcatting for the time he got to live in the White House, but also to keep it away from work. For those who valued the politics-and-policy side of him, it was like watching a unicorn pee itself. “He’s so gifted in so many ways,” his wanted-to-be-admirers would say. “If only he didn’t have that.”
This is not the tragedy of Trump. Long before this crisis hit, he had already dynamited away mile-wide squares of what should have been his bedrock constituency. Evangelical Christians were already divided over his candidacy. Many major GOP donors had already shut their wallets. The gray hairs of national-security eminences who had served Reagan and/or Bush(es) were curling with dread at the thought of The Donald as commander-in-chief. The Republican governor of Ohio did not attend the Republican National Convention…in Ohio. Yes, Trump does have a critical mass of diehard supporters. Yet it is hard to imagine even them saying, “If only Donald could quit walking in on half-naked pageant contestants and then bragging about it, our party and the nation could benefit from his amazing ability to sell our tough stand on immigration (or whatever) while maintaining, and even growing, our base.”
Finally, by the time his fellow Democrats had fallen in line to save him, Clinton had well begun to save himself. Granted, this was partly by getting Americans to conflate their disgust at him with their disgust at his Republican antagonists. But Clinton also at least went through the motions of a public apology and something of a “doghouse” period at home. If all that p.r. did come across largely as b.s., it was at least sanity-based. It did not involve, for example, attacking the Lewinsky family, or arguing that by hitting on Monica he had been doing her a big favor, considering how pudgy she was; or any of the other responses that one can imagine playing out with Trump in the center of that scenario. Most relevant, in years seven and eight of a popular presidency, Clinton was able to draw upon what had become a very deep well of personal and political good will among a very broad range of Americans.
Not so Trump. Not remotely so Trump.
Strictly on the sexual-offensiveness front, I’ll leave it to others to delineate the grossness of Bill Clinton relative to that of Donald Trump (anybody out there want that job?) But as political headaches for their respective parties, these two horndogs could not be more different.
So here are the morning-after-the-debate questions I woke up with. They're all for Donald Trump, because Hillary Clinton just had an okay-boring, Hippocratic kind of night: she did no harm to herself or her opponent.
1. Last night, both Trump and his surrogates were loaded for bear about the issue of sexual assault in America, to the point of flying in a panel of Bill Clinton’s long-running accusers; expressing outrage at the media for not showering their old allegations with new coverage, and so forth. But prior to the Access Hollywood audio tape's landing him in the deep end of the jacuzzi, had Trump, at any point in his campaign, highlighted the issue of sexual assault? Had he even mentioned it? (Mexican rapists don’t count.)
2. On that hastily-convened panel of anti-Clintonistas, there were three women (Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones) who had made direct claims against Bill Clinton. But a fourth woman, Kathleen Shelton, was present because Hillary Clinton had, as a twenty-something court-appointed lawyer, successfully defended the man who raped Shelton when she was twelve. It’s easy to understand why Shelton hates Hillary Clinton. But from the Trump campaign’s perspective, exactly what was she doing there? What anti-Hillary blow does she strike? Are lawyers who defend men accused of assaulting women to be morally equated with the men themselves? Is Trump planning to rewrite the rules of the criminal-defense bar? Should women defense lawyers not take on sex-crime cases, or just advocate poorly for their clients? What’s the idea there?
I know that in a scrupulously logic-free campaign, such points are laughably arcane. But last night, it did look as if Team Trump had just sort of tossed Shelton into a generalized sexual-assault salad to be thrown in Hillary Clinton’s face. If so, that strikes me as a whole new, more calculated magnitude of gross — much more gross than the “banter" in the Access Hollywood locker room on wheels.
3. As for Willey, Broaddrick and Jones: what exactly is Trump alleging that Hillary Clinton herself did to each of these individuals relative to each of their very different claims?
Yes, yes, I know, she "enabled" years of Bill's sexcapades and plainly guaranteed his political survival of them, in part by participating in the general discrediting of "other women" whom she had to have considered at least somewhat credible. This is not grounds for nomination to the Feminist Hall of Fame. For some people, it is grounds for disqualification from the presidency -- or additional grounds, since few such people like anything else about Hillary Clinton, either. But for the rest of us, ninety-five per cent of this stuff speaks to the character of the former president, and not the (likely) future president. And one hundred per cent of it is gum that has Already Been Chewed.
So: Even at this very late date, if there is something that is truly new, specific, and Hillary-centric to add to the previously published chapters of this sad saga, let's hear it. Otherwise, could we please get back to our plans to get the African-Americans and the Hispanics out of hell?
4. Leaving the sexual-predator portion of our program: How does Trump know that Hillary has hate in her heart? Was that declaration — along with branding his opponent to be the devil — some kind of semantic shout-out to evangelical Christians? If so, I would be curious to know how it landed. The evangelicals I’ve encountered over the years have usually been very eager to emphasize that no matter how harshly they might condemn people for certain actions, no one but God can really know what is in another person’s heart. So the Biblical bent of Trump’s most personal attacks struck me as odd.
5. Whether or not Trump is really as rich as he says he is, can this man not afford an antihistamine?
Even though this blog is called Knickertwist, I did not envision commentary that actually centered upon a presidential candidate’s actual handicapping of his odds of getting into various women’s pants. Yet here I am typing such commentary, and in my very first post. Ah, 2016! Good times!
Who ever would have thought that Access Hollywood would launch the October Surprise?
Clearly, Nancy O’Dellgate is a disaster for the candidacy of Donald Trump and for the Republican Party, some voices in which are now calling for that candidacy to end. But however bad this development is for the GOP as a whole, it does serve a handy immediate purpose for what might be termed the Ayotte wing of the party: those profiles in courage who have been twisting themselves in knots since the primaries, trying to achieve distance from Trump without disavowing him. (Of course, there are enough of these pretzels, from House Speaker Paul Ryan on down, to form a new division of Frito-Lay. But no one has contorted more excruciatingly or cravenly than Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, so in my book, it’s her wing.)
What does this latest Ewwww from the Donald do for the Ayottians?
For a good many days now, it has been obvious that Trump is going to lose this election.
Even if Hillary Clinton had not risen from her sickbed to cudgel him senseless with half her brain in the first debate...and even if he hadn’t then proceeded to unspool a string of gaping stupidities `a la body-shaming the Latina ex-beauty queen….Clinton would still have a tremendous advantage in terms of money and organization going into the home stretch, and that alone would have made things very competitive. But she did cudgel. He did unspool. That money and organization are all still there, probably bigger than before…and all of that makes things seem pretty darn decided. If it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, it feels quite safe enough for fat ladies across America to be crowing already.
Here’s the thing, though: Since the first debate, Trump has been going about the business of losing in such an ambient, tsunami-at-the-nuclear-power-plant way as to make his endorsers fear the rising levels of toxicity in their own political blood. Once Hillary had put the 9/11 pneumonia swoon behind her, the distancing-versus-disavowal question had clearly settled itself on the side of disavowal. Yet, up until revelations of Trump’s “locker room banter” with Bush 43’s anchor-cousin Billy, it was hard to see how to go about it.
After all, none of these people could express upset that Trump is a racist, xenophobic, trade-trashing, tax-weaseling, NATO-bashing, Putin-smooching, planet-pissing-on jackass; everybody has known this all along. So how to cut and run?
Enter Access Hollywood, with the final straw: He’s a creepy misogynist into his mic! For all you out there who thought the dog/slob/pig/fat-Machado/Megyn-Kelly’s-menstruation references were just for show, here is proof positive that Donald Trump is really, truly gross about women!
“That’s the deal breaker?” you may well ask. “He wants to ban Muslims, build a wall, and renegotiate our franchise deal with NATO — but being verbally crude about a few females is the unpardonable sin?"
Not, God knows, that I remotely condone that crudeness. I don't even like frat-boy talk from frat boys, let alone harassment giggles from predators. It’s just that for me, a scandal is not a scandal if it exposes nothing new. If Mike Pence were to be heard making such utterances, that would be a shocker. Donald Trump? I, for one, would have felt almost disoriented if he had not duly scrutinized and summarized the gluteal, mammary and vaginal properties of any woman in his vicinity.
This October Surprise is no surprise. But for any Ayotte worth her pretzel-salt , it could be a silver lining.