The Difference Between Private and Public
February 12th, 2014
Let's say there are two financial managers you might trust with your money. One has a sterling record as a manager of other people's money, but you find out he kept some of his own money secret from his wife and spent it on expensive nights out with the boys. The other manager also had the exact same personal misdeeds—but his reputation as a financial manager was terrible, to the point where he seemed downright antagonistic toward his clients. Who would you choose? Ran Paul is trying to make points in a few areas by attacking Bill Clinton recently. He's trying both to sully Hillary's reputation with Bill's, and he's trying to combat the impression that Republicans are waging a war on women:
“He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office,” Paul told host David Gregory. “There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior.” On Newsmax TV Thursday, Paul – reportedly considering a presidential run himself – tried to connect Clinton’s past to 2016 front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton. “What if that unsavory character is your husband?” Paul asked. “What if that unsavory character is Bill Clinton raising money for people across the country, and what if he were someone that was guilty of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior at the workplace – which, obviously, having sex with an intern at the office is inappropriate by any standard.” Then he came back to it in a pre-taped C-SPAN interview to be broadcast Sunday. Said Paul: “The Democrats can't say, 'We're the great defenders of women's rights in the workplace and we will defend you against some kind of abusive boss that uses their position of authority to take advantage of a young women' when the leader of their party, the leading fundraiser in the country, is Bill Clinton, who was a perpetrator of that kind of sexual harassment. Anybody who wants to take money from Bill Clinton or have a fundraiser has a lot of explaining to do.”In one sense, he is correct: Bill Clinton's sexual antics in the White House were, without question, inappropriate. However, his attempt to label Clinton a “sexual predator” and thus his fundraising activities for Hillary are an unacceptable affront... well, that's stretching it a bit. To further claim that personal dalliances somehow rise to the level of public policy is an even bigger stretch. First off, the claim that Lewinsky proves Clinton to be a sexual predator ignores the fact that Lewinsky was herself a predator; her friends reported that she said she would be getting her “presidential kneepads” at the White House. Which sort of makes Paul's claims fall a bit flat. It's a bit difficult to call something sexual harassment if Lewinsky showed enthusiasm for entering the relationship before ever arriving at the scene. It's standard conservative revisionist history, alas—Clinton got into trouble for the affair and for the testimony he gave, not for victimizing Lewinsky. An affair can be overlooked; rape cannot. That's why Paul and others are trying to smear Clinton as a “predator,” because what he actually did can be forgiven. To then further say that since Bill had workplace affairs, Hillary is under suspicion for having Bill campaign for her just does not ring true. And the claim will fall flat—people have had fifteen or more years to form opinions on this, and most see Bill Clinton as a cad, but not an egregious one. They saw Hillary as the victim, and accepted the fact that she and her husband worked things out, however they may have done it. It will be difficult to get past such a long-held conclusion. Moreover, this is a party which sports the likes of Newt Gingrich, who not only had affairs before leaving two wives, but cheated on and left one while she was being treated for cancer, all while he was criticizing Clinton and trying to get him impeached. Kinda makes Clinton look like an amateur. However, there's another reason Paul's assertions fall flat: nothing Bill Clinton did sexually had anything to do with public policy. Clinton did not force rape victims to be violated by the state with an ultrasound wand when they wanted to abort a pregnancy caused by the rapist. Clinton did not try to redefine rape. Clinton did not fight tooth and nail to deny women equal treatment in the workplace. Clinton did not do everything he could to deny women access to contraception or access to reproductive health care. Indeed, whenever conservatives try to point the finger at Democrats regarding the “war on women,” it is always accusations of having sexual affairs, something conservative politicians do just as often. Democrats do not push any public policy issues that are antagonistic to women, which is a huge contrast with Republicans. Women may or may not choose to forgive any politician's personal transgressions, but trying make laws which would hurt millions of women nationwide is simply on a completely different plane. So, no, Paul's criticisms and similar ones by other conservatives are essentially meaningless.