Originally published by Salon on January 26, 1998.
Why does President Clinton still get a pass from America’s feminists? Because being a liberal is more important than being a sexual predator.
As American liberals review President Clinton’s latest “bimbo eruption,” one observation remains conspicuously absent from their assessments: the way in which this series of events signifies the end of feminism as we know it, and their spokeswomen exposed as hypocrites and phonies. The once shrill voice of feminist outrage is suddenly, deafeningly still.
What we hear instead from the chorus on the left is a litany that goes something like this: What President Clinton does in his sex life should not be the subject of public concern. Or, as “Politically Incorrect” host Bill Maher summed up the reaction: “Where’s the crime?” Clinton is running the important business of the ship of state. Who should care about his private acts? As though these latest incidents of alleged sexual predation did not take place in the Oval Office, in the seat of government, in the presidential workplace — and were not visited on a presidential employee.
What happened to the feminists’ concern about sexual harassment, especially when it takes place in the seat of federal power. For what place could be more symbolically important to an issue affecting every working woman in America? Have feminists forgotten their crusade against Clarence Thomas? Here was a man with 20 years of unblemished public service and no history (unlike Clinton) of sexual malfeasance, who was publicly burned in a feminist witch-hunt. And for what? Certainly not for allegations that he dropped his pants and told an Arkansas state employee to “kiss it.” Nor for allegedly seducing a 21-year-old summer intern and then encouraging her to lie to cover up the crime. Yet Thomas was subjected to public humiliation and came within an inch of losing a Supreme Court seat for the heinous sins of 1) allegedly mentioning a porn star named Long Dong Silver; 2) allegedly making a joke about a pubic hair on an office Coke can; and 3) allegedly giving verbal signals that vaguely made an experienced civil rights attorney in his employ — not a wet-behind-the-ears intern — feel uncomfortable.
So abominable were these still unproven allegations that righteous feminists, and their male amen corner on the left, still froth at the mere utterance of Thomas’ name. In Clinton’s case, however, we have more than one allegedly wronged woman.
This is not a 10-year old memory of Anita Hill, witnessed by no one, but episodes immediately reported, like the episode featuring Kathy Willey (no longer employed at the White House) observed exiting the Oval Office, her lipstick smeared and blouse undone. Here, moreover, is not just alleged harassment but also alleged crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice. No one ever accused Thomas of that. By her own testimony, Hill regarded Thomas, even after the supposed incidents, as a friend and mentor to whom she could turn for advice, recommendations and career advancements. These — by her own testimony — were not attempts to shut her up but rather to offer her support.
By contrast, we have a sitting president allegedly seducing Monica Lewinsky, who was less than half his age, discarding her and then using the presidential fixer to try and hush her up. If true, this young woman has been talked into committing a felony. Talk about a male boss taking advantage!
And of course, the trashing of Paula Jones — the root cause of these latest events — has roused barely a squeak in feminist circles. Yet the infamous Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., despite apologizing for his tough handling of Hill during Thomas’ confirmation hearing, is still ritually hung out to dry by feminist goon squads wherever he appears. Where were the female guardians when Clinton lawyer Robert Bennett and spinmeister James Carville berated Jones as lying trailer trash? In the face of such double standards, who can take self-styled feminists seriously anymore?
Only conservatives, it appears, can be sexual harassers.
As for liberals, like Ted Kennedy and Clinton, they can have their way with women — any way they want. They can screw them, abandon them, ruin them, even leave them to drown, and feminists will look the other way. In fact, they will fight to keep them in power. It will be interesting to see whether any of them perceive that their own champion, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is in fact a classic abused spouse. And with that perception will come what — more lies to protect the guilty, so long as he is a “liberal”?
Editor’s note: The original column has been reformatted for ease of reading.