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Bill Clinton: Time for a Reckoning

Your first heartbreak is something you never really get over…

I’ve told this story many times but it’s worth repeating…  For the first 6 years of my political life I considered myself a devout liberal. My awakening came during the first Gulf War when I thought we were making unnecessary enemies in the Middle East and realized I didn’t like our foreign policy very much. In high school and college I ran with a crowd that listened to the Grateful Dead, grew our hair long and saw ourselves as modern hippies. By 1998 I was 23, my daughter was 4 and while I was trying to figure out how to be a parent, I was also thinking a lot about the world she would grow up in, At the same time the office of the Presidency, for which I still hold a great deal of respect, was being tarnished by a sitting President who seemed to be a sexual predator and had broken the law while in office to minimize the impact of his crimes. I was outraged at every new detail that emerged. By the time President Clinton was impeached the following year, I had set upon the path towards conservatism, but my outrage extended far beyond politics.

Before I continue, I would remind readers to think about every person that has come forward in recent months to accuse a man in a position of power. Actresses who were silent for decades because of the power of a Hollywood producer. Female comedians who were unwilling to report a man who masturbated in front of them because they feared what he could do to their career. A gay man and aspiring actor who was 14 when a much-older actor, whose career was on the rise, seduced him into a months-long sexual relationship. The list goes on.

It seems fair to say that for at least 20 years, the Left has been waging a crusade against what they see as sexual hypocrisy on the Right. From the Catholic priest scandal, to closeted gay politicians who were outspoken against same-sex marriage, to family values proponents that were secretly stepping out on their spouses; liberals have taken a certain delight in pointing out how conservatives talk family values but do naughty or downright illegal things in private. Democrats have walked a fine line in how they deal with sexual behavior. They portray themselves as both respectful of what people do behind closed doors, but also being willing to expose that same behavior if it seems hypocritical. To be honest, while this used to bug me as a political move, now that I am a bit older and a lot more cynical, I just chalk it up to politics. Where I still struggle is when considering A) The Left’s permissive attitude towards the bedroom B) Their willingness to expose sexual misbehavior to score political points and C) Their advocacy for the victims of sexual predators. This seems hard to reconcile with the way they have celebrated Bill Clinton.

At the time their affair started, Monica Lewinsky was 22 years old and a low-level staffer at the White House. Bill Clinton was 49 and the most powerful man on the planet. Lewinsky has talked at length about not just the infatuation that a young girl had for an older man in a position of power but also the terrible fallout that landed on her when it became public. She wasn’t defended by the Left as the victim of a man in power, but vilified as a calculating individual that was trying to bring down a beloved Democratic president. As a result of what the Clintons and their supporters did to her, she spent most of the last 20 years trying to hide from the public. I think about my daughter, who is now older than Lewinsky was at that time. I like to think she has great judgement and is very mature for her age, but how many mistakes did we all make at that age? Can any of us say we had great judgement at 22? And that was exactly what Bill Clinton took advantage of.

Defenders of Bill Clinton, many of whom are the same people in Hollywood that are now applauding the brave accusers of Harvey Weinstein, have spent the last 20 years telling us that Bill Clinton was impeached for getting a blowjob. They imply that his perjury and obstruction of justice wouldn’t have been necessary if prudish Republicans weren’t looking into his bedroom. Nevermind that Clinton abused the very power granted to him by voters, but I also consider that his wife, who ran for the same office twice, did her best to destroy Lewinsky when it all became public. Harvey Weinstein’s wife appears to be leaving him for the behavior she says she was unaware of. In 1998, Hillary Clinton spearheaded the efforts to cover up and minimize the crimes of her husband. Even if I had been inclined to vote for a Democrat in our last election, because of what I saw 20 years prior, I could never have endorsed Hillary Clinton. In my mind, her crimes were nearly as bad as her husband’s.

In reviewing this essay, one of my fellow editors pointed out that the Lewinsky affair was the least worst thing that Clinton did and urged me to also discuss his other crimes. Clinton does indeed have a long history of sexual misbehavior and Lewinsky was certainly not the first woman that Hillary Clinton tried to silence. But the reason that the Lewinsky affair affected me so much was because of her age. She is only about 18 months older than me and if I’m being honest, she seemed like the kind of girl that, if I knew her personally, would have had a crush on. So perhaps I personalized the behavior of the President a bit, felt like he wronged someone I actually knew, and this added to my outrage. But as I said at the beginning of this piece, it was also the first time I had my heart broken.

I was a History major and was well-aware that many of our previous Presidents were flawed men, but this was the first time I had seen one fall in my adult life and I guess I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t a Puritan about sex. I was in my early 20s, already a father and had an extremely tolerant attitude about what people did behind closed doors (and still do). But this wasn’t just a private affair between two consenting adults. I was still pretty naive about a lot of things in 1998, but somehow I still felt that the President had abused his power and needed to pay for it. Impeachment seemed to be the best way to do that. I didn’t care about the politics, only the justice.

Two decades after the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, I am still shocked by how many of my liberal friends that dismiss the entire story as politics. I would remind them that other than being impeached, disbarred and paying Paula Jones a settlement, President Clinton has never really suffered for all of his mis-doings. Unlike Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK, who are all justly paying for their actions, Bill Clinton very nearly returned to the White House last year. In politics, timing is everything. If the #metoo movement had happened last spring, it’s possible that we would have a different President today. Hillary might not have been so successful at portraying herself as the forgiving wife and lost the nomination. Our current President, who has his own history of bad behavior, might have just been a weird blip in the primary process that we told our grandkids about. Regardless, we find ourselves here today and what we do going forward says everything about our values as a country.

I am not the first person to write about the reckoning that is long overdue for the Clintons and even some Democratic politicians are starting to speak out, but as Clinton’s accusers have asked, where were liberal women 20 years ago? Knowing the way that I was affected by the events, how it changed my politics forever, I think that older liberals should start to better understand why so many young women didn’t get behind Hillary last year. I remember my oldest daughter, a fierce Sanders supporter, talking about Bill’s behavior and Hillary’s role in things. Maybe young people were a lot more clear-eyed about history than the people who lived through it and should have remembered it.

Pundits are starting to call for a fresh look at Clinton and for him to apologize for past behavior, but I’m more interested in hearing from all the people that defended Clinton for the last 20 years. Was the defense of Bill Clinton simply a case of politics being more important than the victim, or should we have expected Monica Lewinsky to understand exactly what she was doing? It seems that until we revisit that topic, we are ignoring the obvious. Viewed through the lens of today, does the Impeachment of Bill Clinton now mean something more than it did 20 years ago?


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Mike Dwyer is a writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture and the outdoors for Ordinary Times. He is also one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky. Mike is active on Facebook and Instagram. He lives with his wife and daughters in the distant suburbs, at the place where neighborhoods give way to farms and forest.

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307 thoughts on “Bill Clinton: Time for a Reckoning

  1. Clinton is the way I measure how my attitudes about sexual harrasment and assault have evolved. Back then, it was all about two consenting adults. Today I recognize that the power differential is important and problematic.

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    • I respectfully dissent. There are a million criticisms you can make about Clinton, including about the damage an affair does to a family. However there’s never been a claim that any of it with Lewinsky was nonconsensual (I understand that is not the case for some of the other accusations). I posit that the talk about ‘power differentials,’ while not out of bounds when we’re talking about personal ethics, is too relative to be a basis of social opprobrium or legal sanction. Trying to do that gets us to a place where we are second guessing people’s personal decisions which are none of anyone else’s damn business.

      We also should be very wary of our modern tendency to infantilize people. I think this is especially so for women. Telling them they’re always victims and at the mercy of men is not a way to prepare them to assert themselves when its in their interest. It might even encourage the opposite. I’ve got total faith that the ladies can handle themselves and am perplexed that so many of their supposed advocates apparently believe the opposite.

      If we need to criticize Clinton’s personal failings then I think calling him a shitty husband and father is more than fair. All this talk about ‘power differentials’ though is to imply that Lewinsky and maybe all women are in some way lesser and incapable of full agency. That should be rejected outright.

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      • “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Powerful people and especially powerful men, whether they be politicians, military leaders, business men, artists, clergy, or anything else have been able to get willing romantic partners more easily than less powerful people for all of human history. This doesn’t mean that powerful men never used force to gain sex, they clearly have, but power of any sorts is sexually attractive to many people and they can give knowing and enthusiastic consent.

        The argument that the Clinton-Lewinsky affair was not consensual on both sides rests on the notion that less powerful people, and especially women, can’t really give meaningful consent to powerful people because the ability to have a no respected is nill. This argument seems bizarre and it infantilizing as you noted above. For enthusiastic consent between adults to be the ethical standard for sex, you can’t have a situation where an enthusiastic yes doesn’t count because reasons, except with the case of being under the influence maybe.

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          • This is probably a good idea but in small organizations, some bosses like a much more informal friendly approach than a distant approach. Many people also really don’t have the type of personality for the more distant approaching to being a boss because they are by nature friendly, open-heated, and charismatic people. Asking them to be more formal in their boss approach is not going to work.

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            • There’s a difference between being “friendly open-hearted and charismatic” and not being social friends outside of work with the people you have boss power over. I manage that differential every day and I also fairly smoothly transition from one to the other IF the person I supervise wants to, as they wrap up their college years and leave my employ. It just takes a lot of self-awareness and willingness to reflect on consequences.

              The only exception I’m willing to grant (mostly for very selfish reasons) is that if you’re *already* friends with someone outside of work, they might still be the best possible boss available for you, and I grant friendships the same weight as love relationships in that regard. In fact, I think friendships are generally more stable and less likely to mess things up.

              But (like romantic relationships), navigating that pre-existing situation requires openness from all parties (not just with each other but also with management) and a concerted effort to figure out where the friend-coworker line is drawn in the organization, and compartmentalize to that line while at work.

              I mean, coworkers in my org are very close with one another, across all kinds of lines. We joke-but-not-really-joke about being each other’s “work family” and tell each other all kinds of personal things. Groups of people will go on retreat together to accomplish particular goals, and those groups are as much a matter of affiliation as job duties. But we never form “particular friendships” (to borrow a phrase from the nuns) across existing supervisory lines. Not because of some work rule about it but because it’s just bad practice and messes everything up.

              Regardless of how friendly and charismatic we are.

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          • I think this rule is too absolute. I am extremely good (nonsexual) friends with a former boss of mine. We still have lunch all the time, and he asks me for advice about stuff. I think the boss needs to exercise a lot of circumspection about their employees private lives, but the door can be open if others want to approach.

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            • Former is fine. Having low key social functions where everyone is invited is fine*. Being on a business trip where the boss is dining with as few a one employee is fine**.

              On the opposite end of the spectrum, closing out the bar at last call is not fine. Even less extreme, the boss asking employees to socialize on a casual basis over the weekend (i.e. essentially, looking for friends) is not fine.***

              *though most of those veer into ‘obligation’, though again, if they’re sufficiently infrequent those are fine.

              ** I don’t think this is fine at the hometown office, unless its takeout/pizza at the office itself working toward a tight deadline.

              ***as a boss, I was once set up on a blind date with an employee’s friend (who worked in a completely different industry and profession) and that was fine.

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    • The power differential is important. It is problematic. And if Lewinsky had ever said that she felt pressured or cornered, I would have felt a lot differently than I do. But even now she says, “I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship”.

      It isn’t too hard to find stories about women signing up on lists to give blowjobs to hip-hop stars or quarterbacks. People do this kind of thing these days. Not all people, but some. It’s kind of way too transactional for me, but it happens. Furthermore, these people don’t seem to consider it to be sex. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing happens with politicians (other than Bill Clinton). Obviously, they need to be more discreet.

      Monica never ‘came forward’ and said she had a problem. That’s what Linda “Worst Friend Ever” Tripp did.

      The next point is that while the very specific age line we draw for consent is unquestionably arbitrary, there’s still a huge difference between someone who’s 14 and someone who’s 22.

      Huge.

      There are stories coming out these days about college reviews of sexual assault where they ignore the woman’s protestations that a sexual relationship with an accused man was consensual. I don’t think that’s a good place to be, it troubles me.

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    • I’m between Oscar Gordon and InMD on this issue but lean closer to InMD’s side. For consent to be important and mean something between adults you need to sometimes ignore power differentials. Monica Lewinsky seemed to have been a willing and enthusiastic participant in her affair. Yes, there was a big power differential and that deserves some consideration because its more difficult to say no to a powerful person in theory. Recent events do show that even when a powerful differential exists, its kind of easy to distinguish between a genuine enthusiastic yes and a “yes because I have no other choice” and that people do attempt to say no to a powerful person. Monica Lewinsky was in the genuine enthusiastic yes camp as opposed to Harvey Weinstein’s victims.

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    • Ya’ll a reading too much into my comment. In my youth, the power differential between the POTUS and an intern was utterly irrelevant if was consensual. Now… It’s an issue. How much of an issue is variable.

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      • I take you at your word for what your youth was like. But it was a topic of discussion for me in my youth, and that was the 70’s. AND, I know, for instance, couples that have been married happily for 30 years that met in a dojo where he was the sensei. AND I also know stories about other dojos where women had to “qualify” for promotions with sexual favors.

        All of which means that for me, I had to sift through the details and try and figure out which kind of situation something is. This issue concerned me with Monica, but there wasn’t the slightest sliver of support for my concerns in anything I saw. There still isn’t.

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        • Thing is, where you see such power differentials not be a problem is where there is an actual relationship happening. A powerful person just getting a bit on the side with a subordinate isn’t a relationship, so regardless of consent, the optics are bad.

          I mean, if Bill had been getting together with a young woman he met at McDonald’s, it would be less of an issue than the young woman who works for his office.

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          • I think most people could agree it was ill-advised, dumb, and irresponsible. It might even be unethical. That’s not the same thing as nonconsensual. People consent to idiotic and detrimental things all the time.

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            • Oscar didn’t even say it was nonconsensual, man. He said it was “important and problematic”. You’re the one reading “the only thing that matters is consent” into what Oscar said, and inferring that he thinks it was nonconsensual.

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                    • Exactly — removing an issue from the realm of criminal liability doesn’t remove the issue from the arena of questionable-to-dubious moral acceptability.

                      In the case of Clinton-Lewinsky, downgrade “questionable” to “indefensible,” for reasons discussed supra and infra.

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                    • Fair enough, but I guess that leads me to the question of what’s your point then? Just that Bill is an icky guy? If that’s it I agree but it sounds like there’s more to it that I’m missing.

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                      • My point is that there is a very good reason we incentivize public and private organisations to have clear and well enforced guidelines regarding romantic (and/or sexual) relationships in the workplace, especially between leadership and subordinates. Because even if the relationship is consensual, it will have first and second order effects that cause problems for the org. I mean, besides the obvious power dynamic that the boss can ruin the subordinate, you have the dynamic expresses, that the scuttlebutt can damage morale and team cohesion. Then there is the optics and the ick factor, but those are quite a bit further down the list. The problem was that Bill decided to put his personal satisfaction above the health of the organization, which is not what a responsible leader does.

                        Should Monica have spelled the end of Bill? Perhaps, but certainly not through impeachment. Bill had much more serious abuses of power under his belt already that could have been a much more solid basis for that.

                        But in the end,the problem with being A-OK with what Bill did is that it sends a message that it’s OK for powerful people to have, from their perspective, casual sexual relationships with distant subordinates. But such relationships are almost never ‘casual’ from the perspective of the subordinate, or their peers*. Or worse, that such casual encounters are such the norm that when actual abuse happens, everyone blows it off (see Charlie Rose and the attitude of his producer).

                        *In the event that the subordinate is somehow immune to the power differential and does see it as solely a casual encounter.

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                        • Ok I see what you’re saying but I’m still not sure I see a solution beyond the types of policies that already exist around sexual harassment. POTUS v. Intern is probably about the starkest power differential we could ever come up with, and I’m fine with a rule that says ‘POTUS may not have sexual relationships with interns.’ What bothers me is that the further into the social/economic ladder this goes the murkier it gets.

                          So my question is this: is the rule that punishes the POTUS for consensual sex with the Intern also going to be used to punish the consensual relationship between the cashier and the day shift supervisor, or the server and the assistant manager, and are we sure we are comfortable with that writ large across society? I ask because right now I’m envisioning a power dynamics org chart that says who it is and isnt permissible for people to have consensual sex with and I’m not sure thats a world we want.

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                          • What most orgs do, if there is a relationship (an actual relationship, not a casual fling), is to insist that the parties inform HR about it, so HR can asses things and see if it is necessary for the org chart to change somewhat, or if that isn’t possible, let the parties know that at least one of them has to choose the job or the relationship.

                            I knew a couple when I was in the military who were something of an extreme version of this, in that he was enlisted and she was commissioned. They were married, and one was assigned to Bremerton in the Puget Sound, and the other to San Diego. That way there was zero possibility that her rank could influence his career path in any way. The both lived in base housing and flew Space-A as often as possible to see each other. Kept that up until his enlistment was over.

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                          • With regard to casual sex, yes, companies do get a say in who can sleep with who. Now the cashier and the shift super are probably not going to raise any alarms unless it is obviously affecting morale or performance, but the greater the differential, the more seriously HR is going to take things.

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                            • The military is another beast and I’m not sure thats a good model for this discussion. What you’re talking about out in the working world sounds kind of Orwellian to me and ripe for abuse. Now I think in practice, for college educated professionals ‘pick the relationship or the job’ isn’t so terrible (even if I don’t love it) but thats not most people. Outside of extraordinary circumstances I just can’t be so sanguine about private companies delving into their employees’ sex lives.

                              It sounds to me like the kind of thing that in practice further empowers employers at the expense of everyone else. I also can envision a trajectory not unlike all those drug laws written for kingpins but enforced against the poor. So here’s my question- is making it tougher on the Bill Clintons of the world worth the downstream repercussions? Maybe someone has done the math on that but I’d need to see it before I could entertain getting on board.

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                              • It does, in a sense, empower employers, but only because, in this type of situation, history has proven that workplace sexual/romantic relationships cause chaos in the org.

                                If two people can be serious professionals and avoid allowing domestic issues to spill over into the office, most companies wouldn’t care. But most people suck at keeping such things separate, so companies get a say.

                                Does it suck? Sure. Can it be a problem? Yep. But I don’t see a better option.

                                ETA: Yes, the military is a whole other beast, but a lot of the policies the military has are mirrored to a lesser degree in the private sector and government offices.

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                                • Reading this I think we may be talking passed each other. There are aspects of how things are done now I have my qualms about but I’m not losing loads of sleep over it. What I’m hearing is calls for unspecified change around the issue. Thats what I’m challenging.

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                                  • The change, such that it is, isn’t to change policy, per se, but to actually follow it. At least with regard to the workplace. Powerful people, be they public or private, have enjoyed a certain amount of insulation from the consequences of breaking those policies because they are at the top. If they were not immune, we wouldn’t need to rake so many of them over the coals with scores of public accusations, because the internal machinery of the various orgs would have already dealt with things.

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                        • The problem was that Bill decided to put his personal satisfaction above the health of the organization, which is not what a responsible leader does.

                          Let’s put details on “health of the organization”.

                          Bill’s fling with Monica damaged him so much he wasn’t able to effectively act against Al Qaeda because the GOP assumed he was manufacturing distractions.

                          There’s a path going from Bill-with-Monica to 911.

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  2. who are all justly paying for their actions, Bill Clinton very nearly returned to the White House last year.

    I contend that the fact that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House right now was the invoice finally coming due.

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  3. Monica Lewinsky’s problems come about almost entirely because of the media and the concerted and well-funded effort of the right to bring down Clinton. These were two willing parties. If this happened with another president and another time in history, this might not have ever been reported on and Lewinsky’s story might have been different. Don’t let Richard Mellon Scaife or Matt Drudge off the hook. For that matter, don’t let the purient and hypocritical American public off the hook either.

    I’m also not a fan of infantalizing Lewinsky, or of ratcheting up the age at which one can make rational decisions in one’s own interest when ratcheting it up proves useful.

    That leaves us with infidelity, which is certainly a Bad Thing, but too common of a sin to put a pall on someone’s historical legacy. To do so would just be a gift to people with enough dumb luck to get away with it.

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    • There’s a lot of “hide the ball” in these arguments.

      “Bill Clinton has a established pattern of sexual predation.”

      “No. Bill Clinton does not!”

      “Um, there’s Kathleen Willey… there’s Paula Jones… there’s Juanita Broaddrick…”

      “Those women are exaggerating what happened. Bill Clinton might have thrown clumsy passes but he accepted when they were turned down.”

      “Um, that’s not the story that they tell.”

      “I appreciate that you might feel squicky about infidelity but your Congressmen and Senators do the exact same thing! So there!”

      “Um, okay. That doesn’t really change that Bill Clinton has an established pattern of sexual predation of the women he works with.”

      “Monica Lewinsky was one-hundred-percent consensual. One. Hundred. Percent.”

      What are we arguing again? What is the proposition that we’re arguing against?

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        • I wonder how much of their birthright the Democrats sold for that mess of pottage given them by the Clintons.

          They had to defend Bill Clinton only a few years after the ground gained in the Clarence Thomas hearings. On top of that, they had to defend such things as Clinton’s voting for the Iraq war, other stuff that she had her hand in during her tenure as Secretary of State, and then found themselves doing such things as defending taking huge amounts of money from banks for giving speeches and the like during the last election campaign while, at the same time, smearing Berniebros as being childish and puerile.

          And, even now, during the whole #metoo thing, people are finding reasons to explain that what Clinton did wasn’t so bad. Not because his stuff doesn’t deserve *SOME* criticism, just not as much as the other side is shoveling out.

          Mmmmm. Pottage.

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          • I think it’s fascinating the way you merge the two individuals together in this area. He blends into her whenever we’re talking about the bad, allegedly bad or troublesome things they’ve done over the years.

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            • In this case, I don’t think I’m blending them together as much as merely noticing how many times either one of The Clintons have been singlehandedly responsible for turning a conversation from “This is about Principle!” to “Well, the world is complicated… you have to understand…” and successfully applied the brakes to any given Principle being applied.

              (Though, I’ll grant that the fact that they blended themselves together does blur things. “Two for the Price of One” and all that.)

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            • Because Hillary Clinton herself very conspicuously used Bill Clinton as one of her key assets in pursuing the Presidency in 2008 and 2016.

              Hillary Clinton also used the fact that she is a woman as one of the principle arguments, both times, as to why she should be President.

              The merging in the 21st century is her fault – or at least, the merge were the terms on which she wanted her professional career discussed.

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          • I don’t think its a selling out so much as the tactical stupidity of embracing a leader from a different era. Now maybe the election of Trump proves that the only thing worse than a crime is an error. However Clinton, H. and Clinton, B. are both products of the politics of the 90s and their stances are fully consistent with what at the time was center left. Doesn’t free them from criticism on policy grounds but in the 90s embrace of big finance was good politics and we were still many years away from being compelled to ‘believe the survivor’/impose a particular narrative on these situations no matter the circumstances.

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            • “Survivors” were generally believed by the left up until the Clinton impeachment. Prisons were chock full of convicted rapists. In fact, they were so much believed that it took books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” to point out that victims might not be honest in all cases.

              Then the left beheld the Clintons and concluded that Republicans were using evil lying women to try and stop feminism in its tracks – or something. After that they would have invited Ted Bundy to give keynote speeches on women’s rights, just like they invite Muslim terrorists to lead feminist marches today.

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                    • It’s not hyperbole. When the Lewinsky story first broke the networks went live to the home of one of her college professors where hundreds of people, including college students who knew her, had gathered to denounce her as a long-time stalker and predator.

                      Somehow we were supposed to think the late night speech from his porch, under klieg lights, was all spontaneous. That bimbo eruption approach didn’t play very well so the Clinton’s went with the vast right-wing conspiracy angle.

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                        • @george-turner

                          George, if you’re gonna call the leader of the women’s March (or anyone not obviously such) a Muslim terrorist, I am going to need a cite and I’m not doing that work. Produce a credible source please. And if I don’t like the cite, or you don’t produce one, you’ll be on notice.

                          That said, , while I’m not sure about the exact gloss George put on the situation, he’s not making up the vengeful dude (and his wife) nor the presence of other witnesses at the press conference.
                          (FWIW, I agree with Lewinsky’s lawyer’s characterization of the dude as a “child-seducing teacher”, or at least a young-person seducing one (she was 19). But he did call a press conference and all that.)

                          http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/sex-crazed-ex-lover-monica-planned-prez-seduction-teacher-article-1.791263

                          But if you google “Andrew Bleiler” you’ll find a jillion other articles. And I remember people talking about it at the time.

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            • Well, if we’ve moved from talking about principles to talking about errors, I suppose there’s nothing that I can really say.

              I still think that progressive types have left a whole lot more on the table than they ended up winning because of the Clintons but maybe I’m looking at it wrong.

              If you measure Clintonian success by how loudly the opposition shrieks, the Clintons are the most successful politicians in living memory. (Well, unless you count Trump, I guess.)

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              • Well heck, progressive types hatred of the Clintons is second only to the deranged obsession that right wingers hold. The Clintons ushered centrist economics to their current place of primacy in the Democratic Party. They also brought in a higher level corporatism and coziness with Wall Street which is considerably less laudable. The Clintons triangulated and compromised like crazy on social issues. Progressives had plenty to hate about them even without factoring in the allegations against Bill.

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                • The move to the right on economic issues in the Democratic Party started during the Reagan years. The debate whether this was a genuine ideological shift or if the Democratic Party sensed the mood of the country and decided the needed to find another way to achieve progressive social ends divorced from their previous economic policy.

                  There was a similar shift in nearly all social democratic parties in the West away from socialism during the second to last decade of the 20th century. The rift was the most notable in he Labour Party because they held onto the idea of public ownership, Clause Fourt, longer than other social democratic parties, who tended to abandon these clauses around the 1950s and 1960s. It was least noticeable in the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party always saw itself a free market capitalist party no matter how much the right howled.

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              • I guess it depends on how we define success. Bill Clinton gave the center left a viable political counter to the Reagan view of the world that still prevailed. His election was consistent with where the world was at the time as evidenced by similar administrations coming to power in the West (Tony Blair’s Labor, Gerhard Schroeders SDP, etc.).

                Did he get everything right? No. Is there a really strong argument that his wife’s career his presidency propelled way outlived its usefullness? Yes. Should the Democratic party probably reassess the utility of some of the Third Way ideology its leaders have been muddling along with ever since? Absolutely.

                But even with all that I think he did a lot to modernize what was a moribund party and most importantly from a purely partisan perspective he knew how to win. That ain’t nothing.

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              • I think that Bill Clinton is quite likely the only Democratic politician capable of getting elected president in 1992.

                Furthermore, flawed as he might be personally, I never voted for him as my BFF, but because the policies he wanted aligned pretty well with what I wanted. I liked the tax bill. I liked welfare reform. I like that he held the line on SS and Medicare and on the shutdown.

                And if Republicans want to blame their vote for Trump on Bill Clinton, I guess they are welcome to, if that makes them feel better. It comes off as “Well, you Dems degraded and humiliated yourselves for Bill Clinton, so that means we’re entitled to do the same for Trump”

                Ok, now we’re all degraded and humiliated. Can we just focus on trying to make things better instead of tearing each other apart?

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      • Clinton did (and thus still does) have an established pattern of sexual predation, with Willey, Paula Jones, and Juanita Broaderick.

        The cultural shift is in what we call “believing women”, where we generally don’t assume allegations of sexual harassment or assault are false simply because the victims are failing to act according to some imagined script of how “real victims” behave.

        Of course, even with that established pattern, that doesn’t mean Lewinksi was part of it. And at the time, it wasn’t just people defending Clinton who blurred the lines between the predation and the consensual affairs he had; it was also people attacking him, who focused far more on his affair with Lewinski than they did on Jones or Willey. The insistence on victims following certain scripts caused a lot of problems.

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  4. I think focusing on Monica Lewinsky undermines your case pretty badly. I can grant that the power differential is a problematic thing but when we’re talking about the Lewinsky affair we’re talking about an interaction that was consensual and initiated by Ms. Lewinsky as she has stated many times. That definitely makes it sleazy and awkward but doesn’t bring it even remotely into the realm of the scandals we’re discussing in the #metoo present. The difficulties Ms. Lewinsky has suffered since them primarily stemmed from being dragged into public by conservatives who were desperately trying to get something, anything, out of an unsuccessful multi-million dollar fishing expedition. Chait lays it out very well here and I agree with him unreservedly.
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/11/i-opposed-bill-clintons-impeachment-and-i-dont-regret-it.html

    Now Clinton had/has other allegations against him from other women and I think you would have a stronger case focusing on them instead. Certainly anyone lionizing Bill Clinton as a person would have to grapple with those charges. As my own fondness for Bill was primarily on a cynical political/policy level (there’s an emotional component, I was super young in the 90’s and times were economically great but I discount those) so I wouldn’t even try. I don’t get the whole Hillary Clinton angle, though. It is probably my own biases showing but all it looks like to me is an attempt to guilt by association the woman for the behavior of her husband through parsing her tone and attitude towards the woman he cheated on her with.

    It is a silver lining, and perhaps not a small one, to the orange cloud of Trumps presidential victory that the Clintons are now relegated firmly to the past. Neither one have any political prospects (or any indicated political intentions) for the future and they have no successors or future candidates for the same. The Democratic Party and liberalism is moving past them and it would not surprise me if Bills reputation continues to suffer from these allegations nor would I call that unjust.

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    • I think any young woman who has consensual sex with a powerful Democrat should have her life destroyed by teams of Democrats assigned to handle bimbo eruptions. Her college friends and professors should hold immediate televised press conferences to denounce her as a deranged stalker and sexual predator. Her entire past, brief as it is, should be raked over in public. For the rest of her life she shouldn’t be allowed to work in a real job and shouldn’t be allowed to have a family, much less a boyfriend. What happened to her was due to her egregious behavior and she should reap the direst of consequences.

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    • A woman who had the experience working in and after this White House – or the previous – that Monica Lewinsky did in Bill Clinton’s would be right to describe that experience using the #MeToo hashtag. Easily.

      Now, no one is saying that every experience that falls under that hashtag is equivalent. But are those distinctions ones that online society has tended to act deeply concerned about when the business at hand has not been defending this particular president?

      No.

      And this leaves aside that the more damning cases against Clinton may be related to complaints by women other than Lewinsky. So how does that improve his standing?

      Nevertheless, I have heard this meme repeated in recent weeks – even by those looking to push a “new reckoning” where Clinton’s behavior was concerned. A willingness to concede that his relations with Ms. Lewinsky in particular were not as a general matter of the kind of concern that the actions toward women of so many men high-placed men in workplaces as have been revealed in recent weeks are. And it’s crap. The Lewinsky affair is the picture of what we have been talking about.

      The rest of what Clinton is accused of, if true, merely serves to put him in the category of some of the gravest abusers – eclipsed only by the serially violent sexual abusers like Weinstein and Spacey. The Lewinsky part of it alone establishes him as one of the bad ones.

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            • But she doesn’t say the hashtag was related to Clinton or if so, how. My understanding is she is pissed at Bill for denying that it was a mutually consensual relationship, and characterizing her as a slut that took advantage of him while he was under political stress.

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              • Yeah, I thought about the “maybe she was sexually harassed in London when she was working there! She doesn’t say that it was a #metoo related to *CLINTON*!” counter-argument as I was driving to work.

                I made a face.

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                • It’s also possible that Monica is indeed referring to what happened to her in Washington, but not the actions of Bill Clinton.

                  There certainly were comments, a _lot_ of comments, made about her after the relationship came out that could qualify as sexual harassment.

                  I can’t read her mind about what that hashtag meant, but I have read interviews with her where she’s said it was those comments, the treatment of her afterward, that basically ruined her life.

                  EDIT: That said, Bill Clinton pretty clearly did sexually harass other women, so I’m not really sure what the point of figuring out if he harassed Monica is.

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                    • Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual advances or a hostile work environment, and she repeatedly insisted everything in that relationship that happened was entirely wanted by her. We can’t decide Monica Lewinsky was sexually harassed by Bill if she thinks otherwise.

                      We also have no idea if Bill is the one that even made the sexual advances. For all we know, she proposed the relationship with him.

                      …and someone’s about to say I’m trying to excuse his behavior by blaming Monica.

                      No. I’m really saying his and her behavior, toward each other, doesn’t need excusing. (WRT us, at least. WRT his spouse is something else entirely, and that’s pretty much entirely on him.) Two consenting adults found each other, and there’s no evidence that any sort of pressure was applied to the person who could have had pressure applied to her, and she herself said that there wasn’t and she doesn’t regret anything.

                      Let’s not confuse a consensual relationship, that presumably had some wanted sexual advances in it, with an unwanted sexual advances, and let’s not put words in Monica Lewinsky’s mouth just because she said #metoo.

                      But Monica has specifically said she was harassed, repeatedly, for years, by people who disapprove of the relationship, or that she ‘went public’ with it. (She did not, she tried to it a secret and lied about it until she was threatened with prison, but harassers are often stupid.)

                      Here are her previous words on the topic:
                      https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2014/05/monica-lewinsky-speaks

                      Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position. . . . The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power

                      I think it’s entirely reasonable to assume the thing she called ‘abuse’ is the thing she is #metoo-ing.

                      Now, she does say that Clinton ‘took advantage’ of her, but immediately says it was all consensual, so I’m reading that as ‘He promised me stuff he never intended to do, like leave his wife, and I was dumb enough to believe that’.

                      Perhaps more to the point, it’s not any sort of ‘out’ for Clinton because we literally know Bill Clinton sexually harassed women. He sexually harassed Paula Jones, and that’s pretty much a matter of public record. (The suit was dismissed because she couldn’t show any damages under the law, not because what she was saying was false.)

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    • While Lewinsky owns her view on the relationship as mutually consensual, as Maribou explains elsewhere, that’s not the end of it. Sexual harassment also includes consensual sexual relations if it gives the appearance to others that sex is a way to get ahead, or if sex results in favors or lack of advancement. What did other people in the White House think? And would they not speak-out for fear of burning the same bridges within their tribe that is preventing lobbyists, interns and journalists from naming names today?

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      • This is similar to some of the suspicions about Joss Whedon. It wasn’t that he assaulted the actors who worked his scripts. Heaven forbid!

        Hey, everything that happened between Joss and whomever was 100% consensual. Enthusiastic, even.

        (But did so-and-so get her role expanded due to an exchange of goods/services? Did such-and-such get lines/scenes cut due to this expanded role for this other character?)

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        • …suspicions about Joss Whedon…

          That claim is from Whedon’s mentally ill, pissed off ex-wife. It’s a claim we shouldn’t take at face value because of the whole “weaponization” issue.

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  5. Ms. Lewinsky was hurt far worse by Linda Tripp and Ken Starr than by Bill Clinton. Without them, none of us know who she is, and Clinton is just a private memory from when she was young and foolish.

    And if we want to discuss hypocrisy, this is the same Ken Starr who covered up sexual assault to protect his college’s football team.

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    • I don’t recall Linda Tripp and Ken Starr spending decades making sure Monica Lewinsky didn’t get a life.

      But in any event these kinds of things wouldn’t happen if prosecutors would just refuse to pursue rape allegations.

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      • That’s a highly incendiary charge, for which I have never seen a shred of evidence, and you do not offer any here. Furthermore, it is very much not aligned with what Lewinsky has to say for herself.

        After 10 years of virtual silence (“So silent, in fact,” she writes, “that the buzz in some circles has been that the Clintons must have paid me off; why else would I have refrained from speaking out? I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth”), Lewinsky, 40, says it is time to stop “tiptoeing around my past—and other people’s futures.

        https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2014/05/monica-lewinsky-speaks

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  6. I was a Reagan Republican in 1992, a confirmed dittohead and of course Clinton was my natural enemy.

    As the Lewinsky scandal unfolded though, an odd thing happened. I observed that fixating on a sex scandal, however awful it might be, was the weakest form of politics.

    Was I to believe that Newt Gingrich, Denny Hastert, and the rest of the conservatives were innocent of similar things, I asked my friends at the time? Without even knowing what we now know about them, it seemed absurd.

    And the more attention paid to his personal life, the less was paid to what I saw as substantial case in favor of conservatism.
    Except unless…the case was not that strong.

    Thats why even to this day, I don’t care much one way or the other about sex scandals, because they are part of the human condition and tell us nothing about politics.

    I won’t defend Clinton or Franken but as I ended up saying about the Republicans in the late 90s as my breakup note- If all you got is a sex scandal, you got nothing.

    But I would tag on to that, to my fellow liberals- if you believe that our guys have somehow escaped the gravitational pull of human evils, you are fooling yourself.

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    • Endorsed.

      Particularly where society has come a long way really quickly, and politicians are generally old. I suspect a large percentage of 80 year old men did things in an office setting to women that would not be acceptable today.

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  7. Somehow, if an intern at my company blew me in my office, even if it was consensual, I don’t think the reaction would be “well it was consensual” by HR, or my management team. I think I would deep shit.

    Oh, but this is President, so, different rules for important people I guess.

    Additionally, I was wonder when the firestorm would get around to Clinton. It seems to be burning out of control now.

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    • My advice to powerful people, especially men – if you have ever done anything to a female subordinate that might even remotely be construed as sexual harassment or worse, you may want to resign now, hide all your assets, and retire to some out of the way place.

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        • Honestly, if you are a guy who is unsure of where the boundaries lay, then yeah, Pence is onto something. That probably means that Pence shares the same failing, but at least he has decided that if it’s between exercising political power, or sexual power, he really wants the political kind.

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          • Oscar,

            It’s not about knowing boundaries, it’s about the appearance.

            Two examples. Business: One wise person in my industry, and people in HR and Ethics have also said, do not say or write anything you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times. Personal: I called my wife at the time and told her I was going to have dinner that night with a former boss, a single female. Her response was “you’re going on a date with your ex boss”? I said no that it wasn’t a date. Her response was “how would anyone tell the difference?” And she was right. It’s all about avoiding the appearance of inappropriateness. And yes, it’s a major CYA act. You don’t necessarily have to drag your wife to things, but you should be in a group with lots of witnesses.

            When even an allegation can result you losing your job, how is this not the smart thing to do?

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            • Because a baseless allegation does NOT result in people losing their job. (redacted – maribou – unnecessarily inflammatory) Show me one person who lost his job because he had a work dinner with a female who then falsely accused him of inappropriate behavior.

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                  • That’s a different question than you asked, but as someone who’s attended a total of two social functions offsite in my professional life, I don’t see what harm there is in following the Pence rule.

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                  • The harm to women from his policy is as theoretical as the danger of not following the policy is to him. Can you show us even one actual woman who was harmed by Pence’s actions?

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                    • Widespread adoption of the Pence rule would cut women out of many important opportunities for professional growth, development, and advancement. Do you argue against that?

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                      • Goals:

                        Minimize Harm
                        Maximize Benefit

                        What’s the goal? If the goal is to minimize harm, the Pence Rule seems to do a good job of doing that.

                        (“Ah, but what about the harm done by not maximizing benefits?” is the obvious follow-up question. But it has the somewhat equally obvious follow-up answer of “it’s less harm than the harm done by attempts to maximize benefit.” And then we’re off to the races.)

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                      • That’s a facially plausible argument that supports and is supported by your priors. That’s different than it being true. You’d have to do a lot more work to show that this should be treated as a probable outcome or that the magnitude of the effect would be significant.

                        And anyway, shouldn’t you hold yourself to the same standard of evidence that you just demanded of Damon?

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                        • It is basic logic.

                          Work dinners happen. Exclude people from them and you exclude them from work being done. Excluding them from the work being done excludes them from the benefits of that work. Why is this difficult?

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                          • First of all, the Pence rule is that he doesn’t have a one-on-one dinner with a woman. So you’re making this seem worse than it is, as if he were excluding all women from any work dinner.

                            Second, someone who has a rule about this can also have a rule about not doing any work at all in the context of a one-on-one dinner if doing so would unfairly advantage one set of people over another. Work can be done in an office, in a hotel lobby, etc., and dinner can just be dinner.

                            Could this rule have the effect you describe? Sure. Must it have that effect? Your pseudo-syllogism doesn’t come close to establishing that.

                            Fair warning — this is likely my last comment on this subthread, but feel free to respond.

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  8. What struck me at the time was how low-rent and reckless this all was. Bill Clinton was a charming, powerful man who had had a long run of consensual sex with lots of women. (Some said it wasn’t consensual. Let’s leave them aside for now.) One can object to this, particularly in a married man, but it is probably only the first circle of Hell, and in this fallen world we wouldn’t seriously try to hound a man out of public office for it — at least if he wasn’t a sanctimonious hypocrite about it. He was the f*****g President of the United States. He could have had consensual sex with beautiful, accomplished women he could have bragged about to his buddies in the golf club locker room, but who would have known how (and when) to keep their mouths shut. For all we know, he did.
    Monica Lewinsky? I believe her when she says, in effect, that he used his power to charm rather than to coerce — again, first circle of Hell stuff — but WTF did Clinton choose such a target? What did it say about him that he didn’t hold off and go for bigger game? He had to have an intern?

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    • It may be that Clinton’s opportunities to pursue an affair were not as capacious as imagined.

      An incumbent, working President is rarely alone for very long, and Clinton was a big collaborator, using his personal charm as heavily as he did. So he probably wasn’t at leisure to pursue a physical relationship for very long. It’s not like he could take his intended out to dinner on a date. That’s not even counting the presence of Secret Service who of course must be to a degree cooperative in who has (especially solitary) access to the President’s person.

      Clintn wasn’t stupid and knew he was even more vulnerable to sex scandals than the typical politician, as evidenced by the fact that he did things during his affair with Lewinsky to make the affair harder to detect (although, in the case of the dress, he was not always successful in those attenpts).

      And he had a smart, politically-active-in-the-West-Wing, wife who was very much on notice of his apparent prediliction for extramarital pursuits. SNL made jokes about it on his very first week on the job, for crying out loud.

      So having decided, “Yes, I’m going to pursue a woman other than my wife,” certainly Clinton could have chosen nearly any woman he wanted, of any age. But that pursuit needed to fit certain criteria: 1) either he needed an arrangement with his wife or the abilty to pursue that relationship surreptitiously, at least to his wife, 2) he needed the ability to pursue his assignations quickly, and 3) he needed someone who would cooperate in seeking discretion and secrecy.

      Someone he had direct power over would make those things a lot easier.

      Someone young, and whose ambitions could be focused entirely on himself, would make those things a lot easier.

      Someone who was going to be in the West Wing a lot of the time anyway would make those things a lot easier.

      A White House intern fits that bill very nicely. One who was visibly starstruck by him even easier. And it’s quite likely that he found her physically attractive to boot.

      So while yes, he had a wide range of candidates from whom to choose, Monica Lewinsky or someone very much like her could easily have seemed a particularly good candidate.

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      • Man, that’s an awful lot of very analytical thinking on Bill’s part. I’m no “Bill,” but I’ve had a couple of romantic encounters and they have never included that kind of strategizing. Maybe he found her attractive. Maybe she found him attractive. For whatever reasons on both sides. And they found times and places to act on it. Stupid? Sure. Horny? Heck yes. Coldly rational? Nope. And if my memory serves, everything I read about their relationship (other than the nasty parts) was kind of cute and romantic. Gifts of stuffed animals and a nice edition of “Leaves of Grass” etc.

        I’m not in the habit of condemning or approving other people’s relationships, but when two adults say “yes” to each other — I have no business whatsoever in there. And, except for a drastic mistake with her “buddy” Linda, they were discrete as well.

        And, just because it occurred to me at this moment: the age thing. Bogart and Bacall hooked up when she was 19 and he was 45 and married (for the third time, right?) and yet it’s everybody’s favorite love story.

        So much of this stuff is based on the kind of publicity it gets. I’d would much rather have the Warner Bros. Publicity Department working on my romances than Ken Starr.

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        • An excuse to tell my Lauren Bacall story. Thanks rexnobus.
          I was a somewhat sickly child, and much of my early youth was spent home watching Ed Murphy’s Hollywood Matinee. (Ed was a local broadcaster who showed old movies in the afternoon.) When I was about 11 years old, I fell in love with Lauren Bacall –one of the Bogey pictures, I forget which. I didn’t know why, being 11 years old, but I did.
          Fast-forward 20 years. A co-worker of mine, a preppy trusts-and-estates lawyer, had a spare ticket to some political fundraiser, so I went with him. As we’re nursing our drinks, I spot Lauren Bacall across the room. “Jeffrey,” I said, “that’s Lauren Bacall.” “Yes, it is,” he said. “I roomed with her son at boarding school. Why don’t I introduce you?””
          He dragged me over. I was close to paralyzed. She smiled. “Jeffrey, how good to see you again.” He asked after her son, whose name I forget, learned that he was fine, and then introduced me. I stared and stammered. She smiled at me and then gave Jeffrey a look that said: “I see you’re still doing charitable work with the mentally disabled.”
          I saw her a few years later at another function, and was determined to make my way over and make a better impression, but she was leaving and I never got the chance.

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        • If Bogart and Becall happened in this day and age, I don’t think it would be everybody’s favorite Love Story. The celebrity power might deflect some nay sayers but there has been a big shift in culture and politics since the mid-20th century. Many people see big age differences as bad, no exceptions allowed.

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  9. For me it had (and has) nothing to do with belief that she didn’t consent, nothing to do with their age differential, and everything to do with the fact that she was his *intern* in his *office*. Heck, if that was a known path to success with him, that doesn’t make it better! It makes it worse. Because it means he was basically establishing a “casting couch” approach to freaking working for the president! And how messed up was that. People talk a lot about structural racism (correctly), but when it comes to sexual harassment they completely forget that structural sexism and hostile work environments are part of the reason the law works the way it does. It’s not just about whether Lewinsky was ok, it’s about what harm was done to other interns who didn’t want to put out and whether they were treated differently because of it. “Surrounding oneself at all times with women who want to have sex with you,” is not actually something the President *ought* to be allowed, even if Clinton was hardly the first one to do so.

    Plus on an individual level, I believed then (when I was roughly the same age as the intern) and still do believe that something can be enthusiastic and consensual on both parts (even years later, even if it turns into a serious, lasting, and wonderful relationship afterward) and still, at the time, *wrong*, deeply wrong, hold-accountable wrong on the part of the more powerful person. (Kristin gets into this a lot more effectively in her essay, but I had seen it among many people I know before I read her post; I was lucky in my contrasting relationship but my partner in that was also *not ignoring any institutional obligations to not fuck up things in that way* and had no power differential to contend with *other* than age.)

    Coupled with the previous allegations of actual sexual assault and rape, which I had brushed off before, but now that I was seeing how he initially reacted to something that both parties eventually claimed was consensual, I had something of an awakening about whether or not he was a liar, generally … I gave up on both him and US politics in that moment.

    , I think you’re right that many Millennial-and-younger women feel betrayed by older liberal women (and lots and lots of men as evidenced by this comment section) not seeing what was wrong with Bill Clinton. But as I remember it, my fellow genXer women, trans men, and genderqueers (here and even in Canada) were also appalled at the time, for the most part. There just weren’t very many of us to be heard. It was the older folks and, most (not all) guys of any age, who either didn’t see the problem or turned it into some kind of partisan battleground. It made me both sad and angry and I found during Hillary’s first run for president that those feelings came up again. Less so during the second because I was too busy freaking out about Trump.

    I’m still too busy freaking out about Trump, but I’m actually okay with powerful men who fear being accused of sexual harassment up and moving to some secluded island as people joke above. Or I would be if I didn’t think somewhere around 50 percent of them would then proceed to harass the people serving them on the secluded island (’cause you know ain’t none of those guys going anywhere without SOMEONE to boss around). Or rather, I’m not okay with it because even if 5 of them didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t want those 5 self-punishing without due process and probably it’s a much bigger percentage than 5. But if you all who are joking about it, had any idea of 1) the scope of women actually being sexually harassed and then their powerful accusees go on to successful delight while the women either shut up or get driven out, or 2) how incredibly freaking *angry* women and other victims of serious, harmful harassment, assault, and rape are about those things, what a deep wound many of us have carried for most of our lives, and how little patience we have for being told we’re in a sex panic or exaggerating or being stirred up by a media frenzy or whatever? I like to think you’d be kinder to the accusers, and less quick to rush to putting your empathy to work for the powerful men.

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    • Or, I dunno, maybe some of you’d just think even more “this could happen to me!” and not “this almost always happens to people who’ve been pushing the lines of consent and appropriate behavior for years and years”…

      Because that’s how the kyriarchy persists, through almost everyone looking up the power lines for admiration / hoping to climb the ladder themselves, and down for the targets of their judgment and criticism.

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    • I can’t speak for others but part of the issue I have with this is the lack of limiting principles and clear coherent proposal defining specifically what conduct is to be addressed and how to address it. We have laws on the books prohibiting sexual harassment, rape, sexual battery and all manner of offenses. We incentivize the private sector to come down harshly on anything that could remotely be construed as inappropriate in employee relations*. In fact, we are so into punishing people and so paranoid about sex and sex crimes that we even make teenagers register as sex offenders for all kinds of stupid teenager things.

      You may hear empathy for powerful men, but what I think is more prevalent is skepticism for what you’re selling. It sounds suspiciously like there’s a movement afoot to (often post hoc) evaluate and punish people (read men) for all manner of sexual relationships, including ones that were consistent with recent-past social norms, based on unclear, poorly defined criteria. One doesn’t have to be shedding tears for high profile creeps to be concerned about a project like that. If whats been going on at colleges is any guide the skepticism is not only warranted but crucial in avoiding similar mistakes to those we’ve made before.

      *I’m not saying all of these things are bad, just that the idea that this is something thats gone unaddressed has no basis in the modern United States.

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      • What I hear is that for the most part people in your position want me to make one choice, and there are leaders who support that, and people in positions of power on college campuses make me to want another choice (believe me, I’ve gotten into my share of verbal brawls with them in person with my own workplace, they’re just not here right now), and there are leaders who support that, and there’s very little leadership around “The norms have to change, and part of changing the norms is being blunt and open about how awful many of us think certain past behaviors were, but we’re not going to let the powerful hijack this to be about punishing random teenagers in ways we don’t even allow for murder, while they still do whatever they want no matter how creepy.”

        I am hopeful that some leadership will emerge around the latter.

        But not especially so.

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        • This is not a subject that I want ANY “leadership” from, especially politicians. Frankly, the current law is good enough, because they’d f it up.

          Everything else, it seems to me, falls into the category of “shitty interpersonal behavior best dealt with by a slap on the face” or a bop on the snout.

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      • It seems to me that a lot of women born after 1980 are really trying to change the culture of romance. Since me are traditionally proposing gender in heterosexual couples, women get asked out a lot. Like literally at anytime they happen to be awake and even being a sleep isn’t exactly free. Many women hate this and professional women with interesting careers really hate this. The fact that the propositions are often a lot more aggressive than asking people for a date makes things worse. They want to be able to go about their day and their work without getting propositioned for dates or sex everywhere.

        The only really way to stop the near constant propositioning of women is by creating some very strict guidelines about when and how men can ask women out and date them. Changing culture this much in a diverse country where lots of people believe differently about romantic pursuit involves creating an environment where the most minor misstep looks like it could receive major punishment. Everybody who disagrees, including women who like the traditional system, can go to hell.

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        • It seems to me that a lot of women born after 1980 are really trying to change the culture of romance.

          The phrase “trying to change the culture of romance” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Specifically, you’re putting the cart before the horse.

          For starters — the 1980s? That would be when the children of the 60s — the era of the Pill and free love — came of age. They weren’t changing the culture — the culture had changed them.

          Just like those who came of age in the 90s had different views. And the millennials. Each generation reacts to the one before it.

          And especially there is no static, “traditional” system they were overthrowing. The folks of the 60s and 70s had a very different “culture of romance” than those of the 40s and 50s, just as millennials have a different one than the folks from the 80s and 90s.

          The only really way to stop the near constant propositioning of women is by creating some very strict guidelines about when and how men can ask women out and date them

          It’s actually much, much easier. See, I work in a large office. 500+ people in my building. We’ve had roughly a dozen HR issues involving sexual harassment in the last five years, and those involved four people. It seems like 99.9% of our workforce can manage just find without constantly propositioning their colleagues or generating such a problem that it gets elevated to HR.

          In short, the problem is a handful off a**holes. Not women, not men, not “culture of romance”. Just a**holes. Sadly, you can’t get rid of them. Luckily, these days, they’re easier to fire.

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          • There isn’t a static tradition but some elements of romance stay around a lot longer than others. We are still mainly on a men propose/women accept or dispose model even though no sex before marriage is no longer the rule. We had a thread about this. From as far as I can tell, this is going to be the case for a long time no matter how many other things change. I guess my frustration with the current moment is that there are too many people that seemingly want it both ways but you can’t point out all the mutual inconsistencies regarding what people are looking for. You get somebody out for blood that way.

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            • Well, my two cents is — if you’re wanting to date someone, you should probably know them well enough to treat them as an individual, and not apply have to a “cultural norm” to them.

              Certainly before you get to the “proposal” stage

              Again, this gets back to the weird view that there’s “One cool trick” to dealing with dating, as if the the entire opposite sex was just a game where you had to find out the right button mashes to pull of a sick combo.

              Instead of, you know, treating them like individuals.

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    • When this story broke, I did not have the opportunity to talk to you. I was alert to the possibility that this was untoward, but also aware of successful relationships born of such situations.

      It seemed possible that the Clintons were/are poly. At about the same time, Luciano Pavarotti had an affair that became public and his wife said, “Luciano would never leave me for another woman. For a bowl of pasta, maybe, but never for another woman.” What does that say about their marriage.

      I knew I didn’t know what their personal take on his sexual escapades were, but I knew another woman, in the 80’s who had a longish affair with a roommate of mine with the consent and collaboration of her husband. I didn’t understand that. I couldn’t do that. But I knew that it existed, and if one couple can organize their sexual life that way, so can others. If adult parties more intimately involved in the situation don’t object, why should I?

      And so, most of the conservative/Republican protestations of the time seemed to me to have the flavor of “he is not following the One True Sexual Path and must be impeached because of that”. Which did not impress me.

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      • I didn’t care one whit about the adulterous aspect (still don’t consider that any of my business unless the person is actively trying to enact laws to punish it and/or “protect marriage” by harming me and mine), and I had some knock-down drag-outs with Republicans about that at the time. But any time I brought up the workplace situation and how fundamentally creepy that was, to think of the White House as a place where interns couldn’t trust their boss to not have sexual motives, there were plenty of liberals hanging around (as I said, older and/or male) to jump down my throat about it.

        I do believe you would have listened. But you would have been one of the rare exceptions, at the time.

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          • Well, I wasn’t sure what your point was, as a reply to what I said, since none of what I said contradicts it, IMO, so I was just reiterating what I said before while being clearer that I wasn’t necessarily lumping you in to the general frustration I have about it?

            I hope that clears things up but I’m honestly just as puzzled as I was before.

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            • Let me tell you what’s in my heart. I voted for Bill Clinton twice. I did not think he should be impeached. As such, I feel accountable to you in particular to at least explain my thinking at the time.

              I understood the primary complaint to be about Monica and about Bill’s adultery. The Juanita Broaddrick story, if I recall correctly, was hair-raising, except that Broddrick had serious credibility issues.

              To me, adultery is not a “high crime or misdemeanor”. It does not touch his governance, or the manner in which he has held the trust of the public.

              What of the question of Monica’s consent? I watched this closely, for any whisper of something other than consent from Monica, and I saw none.

              I personally know some women who, at that age, engaged in “groupie” behavior, where they sought out sexual encounters with very powerful men, typically with blowjobs. It seemed plausible that Monica might be in that category. Somehow, I feel I need to convey that while this is behavior that really doesn’t work for me, I don’t find it shameful.

              Mix into this the number of highly functional and loving relationships I’ve observed that began from a place of unequal power. For instance, I know of an extremely famous and influential computer science guy who married his grad student. They had a long, and presumably happy marriage. I know other couples from the martial arts realm which began with him being sensei for her. I think such a situation must be handled with extreme care and caution, but I don’t have an absolute rule against them because of this. I knew all of this at the time.

              It was also known at about this time that Bill Clinton was extraordinarily persuasive, particularly one-on-one. The Republican Caucus, after they discovered this, stopped sending Newt Gingrich to the White House by himself, after he came back agreeing to stuff they didn’t like.

              Does that mean he bullied Newt? Coerced him in some way that’s illegitimate? We won’t ever know, nor will we ever know how Bill persuaded Monica. Or maybe Monica was looking for it. Do we need to know that? Or isn’t Monica’s insistence that it was consensual enough?

              In any case, a case of sexual abuse never made it to a level that I thought was serious, nor was it in the charges listed in his impeachment.

              Times are different now, we’re taking the abuse of power more seriously. I would love to see a reduction in such harm. I would love to see the victims of bullying and abuse healed. How do we move forward on that?

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              • Ah, I see better now.

                FWIW, I think part of moving forward is re-examining the past, and listening to those who found it rotten at the time – not so we can justify our past behavior to them (there are things where I find my own past approach rather appalling) – but so we can clarify what was wrong then and apply those lessons to the now.

                There is a way in which it’s far safer and less explosive to pull apart 20-year-old situations involving the POTUS and an intern (especially when it’s done without blaming the intern or denying her lived experiences) than to pull apart such situations in the present with our own friends, neighbors, or colleagues. It’s… well, good practice at being angry, frankly. Because a lot of women don’t have much practice at acting from their anger on these issues – I sure don’t – and it’s probably safer and healthier for all of us if those who are in the same situation as I am, if that anger gets directed at history FIRST, and then once it’s less wild and feral, gets turned to useful change.

                I actually think it will reduce the chances of the kind of mob mentality other people in these threads are so worried about.

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  10. I question whether we are really talking about the same people. I’m 34. I was in high school when the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal went down. Whatever opinion I had at the time was not in any way informed by politics. And it seems to be my generation that is leading the #metoo charge. So I’m not sure that calling *us* hypocrites makes sense. Sure, some may still venerate Bill and if they do while also proudly supporting #metoo, they’ve got some ‘splaining to do. And, yes, there are some folks who were old enough then to have informed opinions on matters and who may have defended him then and now decry others and remain silent on the shift.

    But I’d venture to guess most people pushing #metoo see Clinton as some sort of historical figure whose misdeeds and/or crimes are vague rumors from the past and who only remains in the public consciousness because of his wife. Whether because of the misdeeds/crimes themselves or something else, he did not gain the mythic status that Reagan seemed to among Republicans.

    In short, I see no reason to answer for Bill Clinton supporters because I was never one nor were most of my contemporaries.

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  11. In 1998, Hillary Clinton spearheaded the efforts to cover up and minimize the crimes of her husband.

    The article you cite in support of this instead refutes this: There’s little evidence to support these women’s testimonies about Clinton’s intimidation and silencing, according to PolitiFact, which said the claim that Hillary Clinton “viciously attacked” her husband’s accusers is “mostly false.”

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  12. For me, the most challenging accusation against Clinton is not his “consensual” affair with Monica Lewinsky, but the very-thoroughly-not-consensual … “encounter”? … with Juanita Broaddrick. For purposes of argument, credit Broaddrick’s account, which is substantively similar to a variety of other accounts most people are crediting in other situations these days. It’s not a story of sexual harassment, it’s a story of outright rape.

    Now, Clinton didn’t get impeached on the basis of Broaddrick’s story; he got impeached for perjuring himself during a special counsel investigation that mission-creeped its way from shady real estate deals all the way to how that stain got on that dress. And at the end of the day, the Senate concluded that this wasn’t enough to remove a President from office.

    That was the Senate in the late 1990’s. Query if a Senate in the late 2010’s would make the same political decision. While we may claim politics is more partisan-polarized today than the 1990’s, the vote to either convict or acquit President Clinton of the articles of impeachment against him was significantly partisan.

    Also query if the Senate would have convicted had Juanita Broaddrick’s story been included within the articles of impeachment or at least prominently visible within the political cloud surrounding the impeachment.

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    • There’s a reason Starr dropped the Broaddrick line of inquiry. Now I can very much see her reasoning for doing so, and it’s very believable. But that doesn’t really change the fact that putting forth a witness who has told two contradictory stories under oath doesn’t make for the strongest statement.

      So I don’t see the Senate finding Broaddrick somehow more compelling than Starr himself did. It wasn’t like Starr was known for his sober objectiveness contrasted with the hot-headed Senate.

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    • For me, the most challenging accusation against Clinton is not his “consensual” affair with Monica Lewinsky, but the very-thoroughly-not-consensual … “encounter”? … with Juanita Broaddrick. For purposes of argument, credit Broaddrick’s account, which is substantively similar to a variety of other accounts most people are crediting in other situations these days. It’s not a story of sexual harassment, it’s a story of outright rape.

      This, exactly. I don’t care about the Lewinsky allegations, and I wouldn’t even put the word consensual in quotes. Monica Lewinsky was an adult, and has never claimed any sort of harm from that. (What happened afterward, OTOH…)

      Juanita Broaddrick is something else entirely.

      Note there was actually a story of sexual assault already known at the time of impeachment, Kathleen Willey…except that Willey story was, fairly clearly, bogus. To the point that a friend of hers admitted to committing perjury for her.

      Also query if the Senate would have convicted had Juanita Broaddrick’s story been included within the articles of impeachment or at least prominently visible within the political cloud surrounding the impeachment.

      This does touch on a question that we are running into in other places: What do we do about allegations of powerful people that are outside the statue of limitations? Note we can’t just increase the statue of limitations…that exists for a reason. Legal cases, past a certain point, become very hard to try in court.

      I know, everyone says ‘believe the women’. But we can’t just, as a society, decide we are going to believe every allegation ever made of sexual misconduct.

      Perhaps it is reasonable to believe an allegation made in 1999, where there was plenty of incentive not to say anything…but I’m saying, in the future, we cannot possibly operate that way, where we say ‘If anyone ever says you ever did anything to them, even without them presenting any evidence at all, you have to forever leave public life’.

      But at this point, we’ve either had a lot of evidence, or very clear patterns of abuse that were open secrets, or the accused admitting it. We have yet to have someone point a finger, everyone else look baffled, and the accused say ‘I did not’.

      At that point we…what? If it’s too far back for a trial, we what? If a woman that Al Gore asked out on a date while at Harvard in the 1960s says he raped her, and there is no evidence of this, where exactly do we go from there?

      And, there is, functionally, no way we are ever figuring out the truth of Juanita Broaddrick’s allegations. We can’t figure out what happened in 1978. Hell, we couldn’t have figured it out in 1999 when she made them.

      Bill Clinton has such a pattern of near misconduct and abuse of power that I am maybe willing to believe actual rape. And I don’t think her changing her story means it couldn’t be true, although I do think it is less likely.

      But…what does it mean that I think Bill Clinton _might_ be a rapist? Let’s say I assign that 50% odds of being true. What am I supposed to do with that information? I don’t mean that rhetorically, I am literally asking what any of us are supposed to do with that possibility….we can’t get it figured out in court, it’s forever going to be a question mark. Does it matter if I personally think it’s 25%? 75%?

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      • “But…what does it mean that I think Bill Clinton _might_ be a rapist? Let’s say I assign that 50% odds of being true. What am I supposed to do with that information? I don’t mean that rhetorically, I am literally asking what any of us are supposed to do with that possibility….we can’t get it figured out in court, it’s forever going to be a question mark. Does it matter if I personally think it’s 25%? 75%?”

        And this is why I find the whole reckoning with Clinton conversation to just be absurd navel gazing of the kind we liberals do too often. The facts and unknowns of the Broaddrick and Lewinsky cases remain exactly as they were at the time. We made a pragmatic political choice to prevent his removal from office. Any notion that a) It would have been best to force him from office at the time or b) Some sort of retribution can be extracted from Clinton now, is flawed reasoning. Bill Clinton will live out his days as a wealth elder statesman, welcome in board rooms and palace. There will be no do overs. If there were it would likely produce the same result.

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        • The facts and unknowns of the Broaddrick and Lewinsky cases remain exactly as they were at the time. We made a pragmatic political choice to prevent his removal from office.

          While I otherwise agree with your comment, the known facts of the Broaddrick case are not the same as when liberals prevented his removal from office.

          She had not come forward at that time, (In fact, she had been questioned by Ken Starr and testified that had nothing happened.) so no one knew anything about that at all. She didn’t come forward until after the Senate had chosen not to remove Clinton from office.

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        • We made a pragmatic political choice to prevent his removal from office.

          No. Oh, no.

          Remove Bill and we have President Gore, maybe for two terms.

          Gore wasn’t the equiv of Dan Quayle, he would have been fine by liberal standards. Think of him as Clinton without the money+sex scandals.

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      • Here’s what I’m struggling with: can you oppose witch-hunts even if there really is a witch?

        Yeah, I feel like society is just now waking up to the fact that some percentage of the male population are, in fact, witches, and going after them, which needed to happen and I am on board with all that…

        …except, well, we don’t seem to have any rules or standards of evidence or anything, and at some point, this is going to go all pear-shaped because there will be a false accusation or at least an accusation that doesn’t appear to have any evidence.

        Which not only is going to possibly hurt some innocent people, but is going to harm the advances being made.

        I dunno what to do here.

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        • Based on LGM, the Left position is that nearly all males are witches and its perfectly fine that women are out for blood because of the sins of the past. It certainly seems to be the Internet position. The Extreme Right position is that everything is overblown. Most people are trying to muck through things.

          Its the problem that Chip noted in Ms. Devine’s thread, people want contradictory things and we are a nation with hundreds of millions of people. Some want to entirely banish flirtation and romance from the office and others thing we can keep them with modification. Some want clear rules on when men should and should not proposition women and others might be fine with clear rules when not to but keeping it vague on when appropriate to approach.

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          • *deep breath* I know this is a complicated situation and emotions are heightened for everyone, but it’s hard not to hear comments like this one… and to some degree others you’ve made all week … as

            “The problem with all these thousands of women announcing that they are somewhere on the spectrum of forced-to-accept-rape-jokes-in-meetings-through-actual-nonconsensual-touching-through-rape-through-child-molestation is that it makes dating really complicated and inhibits men from being able to ask for dates. Also some people might get unfairly fired who aren’t victims, and that’s a lot more worrying than all the people who were unfairly fired for being victims in the past, because even though I have no actual evidence of a real witch-hunt happening where no one was even having sex and no one was being serially awful, people on the Internet are yelling a lot.”

            I realize that’s NOT what you mean at all, and you’ve said other things that were far more thoughtful.

            But it’s really hard not to read much of what you have to say about this topic in this way.

            The idea that the “internet position” is that it’s perfectly fine that “women are out for blood” – a very violent metaphor that you *keep repeating* – is so out of proportion that it’s becoming creepy.

            Again, I don’t think YOU’RE creepy.

            But you are making it increasingly difficult to discuss these topics in a calm environment. You keep talking about “women” or “the left” or “somebody” being out for blood on nearly every dang post. I’m starting to feel like you think non-men are monstrous figures out of Greek mythology like the freaking Maenads or something.

            Can you tone it down some please??

            Asking both personally *and* as a moderator.

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        • So far, given that all that is flying about is accusations (I don’t know of any lawsuits or criminal charges filed) and investigations, this is largely in the realm of the media. And for the handful of cases I’ve read about, the media seems to have a ‘Once bitten…’* vibe and are working to shore up the accusations with at least some degree of corroborating evidence (people who recall the accuser talking about it when it happened, people who are willing to say that the bad behavior was an open secret, etc.). So maybe corners of the ctrl-left are being overzealous about things (re: Lena Dunham and the ‘Girls’ producer she defended), but the mainstream outfits appear to be more cautious.

          *The bite being from incidents like the Rolling Stone case, etc. Or perhaps they are just not interested in hurting the momentum by elevating a false claim that was transparently so.

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          • So far, given that all that is flying about is accusations (I don’t know of any lawsuits or criminal charges filed) and investigations, this is largely in the realm of the media.

            Weinstein has some lawsuits against him. Someone even filed a class action lawsuit against Weinstein, on behalf of actresses in general. Which I’m pretty sure cannot work because the damage was so varied and random, but it’s an interesting concept.

            But lawsuits are exactly the thing I’m not worried about. We know how to deal with stuff when it ends up in court. Even if there are bad court decisions or things are settled out of court, things end up _documented_ and we can look at them and draw our own conclusions.

            It’s the stuff that never going to end up in any sort of court that worries me. Someone said something, the person denied it, and…then what? Maybe some witnesses come forward to side with one or the other, but they aren’t under oath, they aren’t cross examined, we have no idea of their truthfulness, so that’s not any help.

            And for the handful of cases I’ve read about, the media seems to have a ‘Once bitten…’* vibe and are working to shore up the accusations with at least some degree of corroborating evidence (people who recall the accuser talking about it when it happened, people who are willing to say that the bad behavior was an open secret, etc.).

            So you’re saying that as long as the media remain diligent and none of them sensationalize anything or attempt to use any of this for financial or political gain, we’ll be fine? ;)

            But more seriously, yes, as long as the media stays with ‘open secrets’, or actual documentation, we’ll presumably be fine. The problem is, it’s entirely possible for 90% of the media to follow the rules, and then some part of the ‘media’ lie their ass off and everyone treats them the same.

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      • Here’s what I’m struggling with: can you oppose witch-hunts even if there really is a witch?

        Yes. “Witch-hunt” normally means “lower the rules of evidence, we know he/she/someone is guilty so there’s no point in a trial”.

        The original Salem witch hunts were about people using the process for revenge/economic advantage/power. If you assume there really are witches and they really are a problem, then we still had the process go off the rails and convict/kill a lot of innocent people, and in reality all of them were innocent.

        These accusations we’re seeing were needed and IMHO are welcome. Hopefully there will be less crap for my daughters to deal with when they get older.

        However weaponization of this and it’s corruption for crass purposes should also be expected. “Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill” may have been exactly that given the politics and personalities at work.

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        • Even though I disagree with about specific examples at times, and even though I think freaking out about this at this particular moment is rather premature (and relates to society’s general fears about women and women’s anger)…

          He’s not wrong on the general concept.

          One thing that I find helpful to illustrate the idea is to not look at Salem (or Germany or or or or) but to look at a modern “witch hunt” by McCarthy and his ilk during the 50s.

          Were there Communists in America who (with or without self-awareness) were supporting abysmal regimes elsewhere in the world?
          Yes. (And if you read the ridiculously supportive and naive / self-serving things some of them were saying about Stalin and Mao, you might feel pretty disgusted; I know I do.)
          Does that justify the blacklists, the senate hearings, the exchanges of immunity for names (or worse ways to get names out of people) and the lack of care for any other standard of proof than someone naming you, or the social norm shifting to shame anyone who might have known a Communist at some point in their past or spoke with the wrong accent or whatever?
          No, it doesn’t.

          Now, I’m enough of a realist to think that the odds of white straight men of middle-class or higher standing (whether by birth or from having clawed their way there) being dislodged from their position near the top of the kyriarchy en masse is… about as logical as the dang comfortably middle-class Moral Majority being so freaking sure they’re being persecuted (yes, I live in Co Springs, I have literally heard that verb from people who should know better) when someone wishes them Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. (And yes, Christians are sometimes persecuted in some places but that doesn’t mean ANYTHING you are complaining about random poverty-level retail clerks saying to you with relative politeness is valid, 3-car-household, 300K-house everything-in-your-town-goes-your-way random Moral Majority person… *ahem* sorry).

          Anyway, I don’t think it’s a realistic fear right now. Not that no person in that position will ever be unfairly accused of something and lose a job, but you know what? That happens to people in ALL KINDS of positions fairly often – I certainly have seen it happen to plenty of my friends over the years – and until the subject of sexual harassment, free-speech-for-assholes, etc., comes up, the upper-middle-class culturally-in-the-majority folks don’t really seem to have been concerned. Once it’s them (and their husbands) joining the parade of the unjustly treated, suddenly it’s a problem.

          What worries me most, thinking about witch-hunts on these topics, is that I expect they will be turned not against the powerful, but used as a tool by the powerful to divide the less powerful against each other more than we already are. Not that there aren’t black people, working-class people, gay people, etc., who abuse – but that those are the folks who, whether the accusations are correct *or not*, will lose jobs and not be insta-rehired by someone else, be shamed out of town rather than rallied around, etc. I mean, until, what, the mid-2000s? That’s who the “sexual predators” were, *purportedly*… men of color, LGBTQ people of any gender or race, and so-called white trash. (And no amount of statistics to the contrary convinced people, until the culture itself came to some kind of new consensus. A consensus that still feels pretty shaky to me.)

          I don’t think falling back into that will help anybody I care about.

          I just also don’t think that being afraid of women (and others) speaking up and being angry, or trying to “de-fang the #metoo movement” as I read someone say the other day with apparently no idea of how troubled a metaphor that was…. will help either.

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          • As a more concrete example of what I mean, I know two gay men and a lesbian, all of my mother’s generation who could not *possibly* be more traditional and morally upright in the sexual realm (except that that generation was not ok with their same-sex orientation), exceptionally polite and proper in all aspects of life, exceptionally good friends and coworkers, etc etc etc – who spent their whole lives in the closet except to a few *very* close friends, because they were teachers and being out would have literally gotten them fired. If they didn’t get fired FOR being gay, trumped up reasons would have been found.

            Meanwhile I am friends with multiple gay and lesbian teachers my own age or younger, and only one of them is in that not-safe-to-be-out situation (she lives in a super-conservative town, is actually bi, not gay, and doesn’t want to have to address it at the beginning of her teaching career; she’s not planning to stay closeted forever.) The rest are known and *beloved* by their communities, as is.

            The difference is that *most* people – not all, but *most* people – no longer have the “gay panic” anymore. No longer assume gay people will molest or recruit children any more. No longer find it reasonable to worry about that even though THEY wouldn’t think such a thing, and thus act to alleviate purportedly “reasonable” fears by firing teachers, anymore.

            I’m not so sanguine about American politics that I can feel like there’s no way whatsoever we could end up back there.

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          • Just yesterday, one of Roy Moore’s spokescreatures was talking about how Moore needed to be elected Senator to protect girls from the imaginary rash of trans predators that the Right has conjured up out of nothing to provide a pretext for their latest round of bigotry.

            So yes, that is exactly what will happen. The thing that’s been protecting powerful predators from suffering consequences for their predations has is not due process, or lacunae in criminal law, or any desire to avoid leaping to judgement, and much more to do with that power.

            And of course, the Red Scare of the ’50s did seem to often be a way to hound gay people, or Jews, or African Americans, and segregationists sure got a whole lot of mileage out of painting opposition to segregation as a Communist plot.

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  13. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about embarrassment. It’s humiliating to admit that you got taken advantage of by a sexual predator. Ditto when you’re taken advantage of by a politician. We hate to admit that we’re dupes. We heard someone’s spiel, and in retrospect we can see the signs that something was wrong, but we didn’t see them at the time, or we ignored them.

    If there’s any way possible, we’ll avoid looking square at that fact. These women who are coming forward are able to say #metoo where they were never able to say #me, because it’s too embarrassing to stand up on your own and admit that you were fooled. We feel shame. The one person who doesn’t feel shame is the guilty person. It’s almost like he doesn’t understand shame, but that’s not true – he’s an expert in recognizing it and using it as a tool of control.

    The rational part of my brain says that if the women who were abused had spoken up at the time, they could have saved the victims who came later. I also think that the pols who defended Clinton for 20 years are coming forward and rethinking things at an awfully convenient time. But there’s an emotional element that can’t be ignored. It’s too much to expect that abused people will tell their stories on your or my schedule. By all means, let’s look at the assumptions that created the world where the predators acted, but as frustrating as it is, we have to let the victims untangle themselves on their own schedule.

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    • This is a nuanced and thoughtful comment, , and I appreciated it a great deal.

      The one caveat that I would add is that many women who are saying #metoo were already saying me, without the hashtag, and many others (some of the same ones) were ashamed, not because they were embarassed to be made fools of, but because they were so very young (or more rarely, so conditioned by other forms of abuse, even as an adult) that they believed the person who hurt them when he said it was their fault. Most abuse of teens and young children happens at the hands of someone they trust – and kids trust in a different, more absolute way, than adult judgment/discernment does.

      I know I believed that it was my fault until I found out (decades later) that my father had done the same thing to my younger sister. Of course I felt crushing guilt about not having protected her, but I also felt shock that he had done it to someone else. The part of me that was able to acknowledge his abuse was very very sure it was my fault, and very very unable to get out of the moment/headspace where those abuses happened to communicate with the rest of my brain so it could learn otherwise.

      And even then she and I colluded to be sure it was just about something else (what he was going through at the time, mostly), and not a habitual issue, until we found out he had molested someone else. Looking back there are, IMO, two reasons for this:
      1) We loved him
      2) We were literally (and, in adult retrospect, reasonably) terrified of him. He’d put people in the hospital before more or less for the sheer pleasure of doing it; he used to brag about having put someone in a coma during a blackout bar fight. It was easier to lie to ourselves than to put each other at risk or admit we were protecting each other at the other person’s expense.

      Neither of those really reduces to shame or embarrassment in my view. And it seemed important to mention because so much abuse, so many of those #metoos, were not workplace harassment, or other situations where shame / being fooled was the problem. There are a great number of other reasons. I mentioned the ones for family violence and trauma-related sexual abuse – but there are many other sets.

      That said I think a lot of what you say is generally applicable, and the shame of being fooled stuff applies to any number of situations that abusers do take copious advantage of.

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    • the pols who defended Clinton for 20 years are coming forward and rethinking things at an awfully convenient time

      Sure, but this is always true, and part of the purpose of activism is to create a convenient time.

      It’s like how Obama suddenly changed positions on gay marriage. He picked an obviously convenient time, BECAUSE of decades of hard work to change attitudes, and his change did a lot of tangible good. Let’s hope this follows the same trajectory.

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  14. Contained in this original fine post, the comment threads and really most of the commentary on this subject of late are two assertions:

    A- Bill Clintons behavior was improper ranging from sleazy to borderline criminal especially by current standards.
    B- Republican investigations and their subsequent impeachment efforts in the 90’s were appropriate, justified and Clinton should have been impeached.

    The conservatives all point at assertion A and the widespread agreement on it then pull out their tow hitch and try and fasten assertion B onto the back end of it. If anyone protests they then claim that these people are denying assertion A.

    Most liberals now, and frankly from what I’ve read most liberals in the 90’s, on the other hand affirm assertion A but deny assertion B. That’s certainly my own position (and perhaps that’s why I think this position represents the majority of liberals position but it also jives with what I’ve seen from our own commentariate and liberal opinion writers for my entire political adult life).

    Finally there’s a small subset of liberals who deny both assertions A and B. The most common cited exhibit being Nina Burleigh with her unforgettable assertion about how she thought women should thank the then President for keeping the Theocrats off their backs and keeping abortion legal.

    Oh and I suppose there’s some tiny fringe of people in the right wing woods who think assertion A is false but B is true but they’re even rarer than true libertarians.

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    • The Pro-(phenomenon) and the Anti-Anti-(phenomenon) people have long been lumped together with each other when it wasn’t fair to do so.

      The “what, you’re saying that the Anti-(phenomenon) people are more offensive to you than (phenomenon)?” is always a fun game to play with the Anti-Antis, of course.

      But, hey. Sometimes the Anti-(phenomenon) people *ARE* more offensive than the (phenomenon). Which shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for (phenomenon), of course. As a matter of fact, it’s offensive that you’d even imply that it’s an excuse for (phenomenon)! Nobody is defending (phenomenon)! It’s just that the Antis are really bad too and nobody is talking about that.

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      • Hmmm I took a bit to pondering to unravel it but I don’t think what you’re describing applies here. I mean sure the GOP leaders who were going after Clinton were hypocritical serial adulterers and child molesters but that wasn’t public knowledge at the time so no one could have been offended by it. I don’t think offensiveness really factored in.

        It was more a “you spent years of investigation time and tens of millions of public money to do an extended fishing expedition in Clintons background and after all that when you came up empty all you could do is entrap an intern into confessing to and entrap Clinton into lying about an tawdry affair and now you want to try and impeach him over it?”
        It may or may not have been offensive but it was dumb. It was dumb then and it’s dumb now. The changing mores around Clinton and Lewinsky’s interaction have shifted (for the better I’d agree) but the core dumbness of the GOP’s impeachment charge hasn’t changed and they got shellacked by the public for it. Now, again, we see (particularly with Douthats piece in the NYT) that trailer hitch coming out as they try and couple the two subjects together as if they can somehow retroactively undo how the Clinton affair turned out for them.

        Clinton was problematic to sleezy to potentially a rapist depending on if we’re using the 90’s understanding or todays (and what we know today vs what was known then) but it seems to me that regardless of what knowledge or which eras moral understanding we bring to the table the GOP’s anti Clinton crusade was an idiotic waste of time. That, it seems, is timeless.

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    • FWIW, if it isn’t clear, I affirm A and deny B. But I also affirm C, which goes something like:
      C – Clinton’s behavior, once disclosed, was absolutely inappropriate and anywhere other than the Presidency should have resulted in the CEO being fired or otherwise put out to pasture. So he should have resigned.

      Do I expect him to have? Did I have any realistic hope he would, especially back then?

      No.

      But I still think he should have.

      Gore would have been an annoying, not entirely ethical, and entirely acceptable Democratic president at the time.

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      • Hm, now that I think about it, I also affirm something… like… not exactly this but close to this:

        D – I have the right to be retroactively still pissed off that power over others insulates people from the consequences of their apparently bad actions, and to rant about Bill Clinton being an asshole / the reason I lost respect for Democrats. And to think that people worrying that my or others’ expression of that anger will lead to people who shouldn’t be getting fired, or witchhunts, or whatever other ghosts are in the closet, is at best overblown and at worst just another manifestation of the kyriarchy. Cultural anger is not always bad. Sometimes it’s part of making stuff better.

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  15. Monica didn’t see herself as a victim until the media, HRC, etc put her life in a blender. Without that she and Bill would have had a breakup and presumably she would have been fine.

    Monica was a very young, very naive, 22 year old and might (amazingly) have expected Bill to marry her. My problem with taking Monica more seriously is this also happens where power isn’t on the table. Bill was at the top of the pyramid for power, charisma, and fame. He attracted what I’ll call “groupies” even before he was President, just like a high level athlete or musician.

    Society has problems with power imbalances in relationships because of the potential for abuse, but as far as I can tell, here it was just a “potential”. The bottom line for Monica is she consented to everything, not because she was afraid of Bill’s power but because she was attracted to it. Legally she was an adult with the right to be stupid.

    However, Bill was impeached for lying under oath to a judge and not consensual sex. The problem with Bill wasn’t Monica, it was Paula Jones and others. Quite likely the powerful man who was willing to ask his subordinates for a blow job asked someone who wasn’t as willing as Monica.

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    • The difference between Harvey Weinstein and, say, Mick Jagger. Both have engaged in sexual behavior, enabled by their power and celebrity, that we have every right to deplore. As far as we know, however (big caveat–we don’t know these people), Jagger did it with people who wanted to do it with him.

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      • Jagger also didn’t (again, as far as we know) create an atmosphere where wanting to do it with him, or being willing to pretend you did, was a path to career success, and objecting to it would get you blacklisted forever. That’s a slightly separate thing, although it obviously overlaps.

        I think the environmental aspects of these situations are extremely important.

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  16. It is always so interesting to see a hand tipped so wildly, but for the record:

    1. It is absolutely amazing to see a writer chalking up the entirety of the response to rampant sexual abuse scandals – like the one that consumed the Catholic Church, which the author specifically mentions – to “politics.” As if it were simply impossible to imagine that maybe, just maybe, there is something inherently offensive about the sexual abuse of children, nevermind about an institution that preaches its moral authority also having spent decades aiding and abetting the molestation of children.

    2. Speaking of politics, it is a hell of a thing to see the author insist that it is everybody else who is guilty of playing politics when he implicitly acknowledges throughout his piece that he holds the Clintons to a higher standard than he does literally anybody else, and particularly those on his own side of the political fence.

    3. Finally, what on earth is this, “Unlike Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK, who are all justly paying for their actions…” supposed to mean exactly? How are these men “justly paying for their actions” exactly beyond being slowed in their future earning capacity? They haven’t been charged or jailed. They haven’t paid restitution to their victims. They’ve barely shown substantive remorse, beyond half-hearted attempts to extricate themselves from consequence. That this would be considered just payment is an awfully big part of the overall problem.

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    • I get the feeling you were attempting to be civil with this comment, but for the record you didn’t manage it. (You left it behind in the first sentence, in fact.)

      Which is a vexing thing because there’s plenty of important argument in there, but as it is it’d be hard for the author to respond to your criticisms without also responding to the barely-veiled hostility mixed in with them.

      And that never ends up somewhere good.

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        • I don’t think that was a good choice of example given the reaction you had may be fairly typical (and there are some other reasons), but concluding that Mike is intending to say that you personally are only offended by that particular situation because of politics is probably the least charitable reading you could give what he said… (Fwiw, what you just said, “it’s awfully tough to be civil when…” etc., was, IMO, acceptably civil and a fair call-out, despite its lack of charitableness.)

          Regardless, civility is required.

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          • It wasn’t just me. He directed his criticism broadly, dismissing out of hand that there was anything more at work than simple point-scoring politics. There is no “charitable” reading possible of this:

            It seems fair to say that for at least 20 years, the Left has been waging a crusade against what they see as sexual hypocrisy on the Right. From the Catholic priest scandal, to closeted gay politicians who were outspoken against same-sex marriage, to family values proponents that were secretly stepping out on their spouses; liberals have taken a certain delight in pointing out how conservatives talk family values but do naughty or downright illegal things in private. Democrats have walked a fine line in how they deal with sexual behavior. They portray themselves as both respectful of what people do behind closed doors, but also being willing to expose that same behavior if it seems hypocritical. To be honest, while this used to bug me as a political move, now that I am a bit older and a lot more cynical, I just chalk it up to politics. Where I still struggle is when considering A) The Left’s permissive attitude towards the bedroom B) Their willingness to expose sexual misbehavior to score political points and C) Their advocacy for the victims of sexual predators. This seems hard to reconcile with the way they have celebrated Bill Clinton.

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            • He’s making a generalization that to me, at least, fairly obviously didn’t include me, or others like me, but was more about a political stance taken generally by media, pundits etc. That is the more charitable reading and it took me less than no effort to make it.

              As someone who, like you, is deeply and personally offended by child abuse and especially child sexual abuse – and someone who seems to have a more complex understanding of the relationship between “the Left” and “the Catholic church” than is portrayed by that paragraph (for starters, I think far more Catholics vote Democrat than Republican)… I *saw that pattern* among the political Left at the time, the using-it-to-score-points-against-small-c-conservative-values thing.

              And I was more pissed off by that baying at political targets even than Mike seems to be, mostly *because* I was deeply offended by the criminal behavior in question (not the abuse alone, but also all the coverups) and I thought the left would have been more able to focus on the problems and less on the sneering at hypocrisy. I mean, I expected the non-Catholic right to look down on Catholics and blame all the liberals and “loosening of mores” (even some rightward Catholics did that one) for the catastrophe of abuse that had been happening for years – because I have very few positive expectations of “the Right” (writ large) in the first place.

              But I thought better of “the Left” (writ large) and was really hurt and alienated that more people with loud voices seemed to enjoy pointing out the contrasts for political gain than to be, truly, offended by what happened.

              So when I see a paragraph like Mike’s, I don’t rush to the conclusion that when he says “the Left” he means every single leftward person who was upset, no.

              Would I personally have collapsed voluntary scandals with child abuse? No.

              Do I personally make an effort not to throw around “the right” or “the left” as I have here, as the OP does? Yes, because people seem to read the generalizations they agree with as nuanced and the ones they don’t as blanket condemnations, so it’s not worth trying to expect charitable readings, for me as a writer.

              But it’s not *impossible* to give it a charitable reading. When you call it impossible, you’re literally assuming I’m lying, I suppose – and yet I don’t take what you said that way either, because I read people charitably.

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              • I endorse ‘s comments here.

                One semantic point I would underline is the use of phrases similar to “the Right” and “the Left.” A very large amount of the time, those phrases are used to described a swath of political actors too large to be painted with a broad brush accurately, by way of calling out morally egregious actions or statements of a small subset within that group and then imputing that behavior to everyone.

                If your comment, your article, or other communication makes use of such a phrase, I’d counsel you to consider carefully what you’re claiming because you’re at risk of rhetorical overreach. That goes for our author, our commenters, me, pretty much anyone.

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              • people seem to read the generalizations they agree with as nuanced and the ones they don’t as blanket condemnations

                Yes, exactly. One of the essay ideas I’ve had in the back of my head for years (don’t worry, none of them are ever actually written) is titled “The Case of the Missing Quantifier.” So many (socio-)political arguments come down to a disagreement over what is or isn’t a fair generalization, and leaving off the quantifier is one of the main ingredients in the stew.

                E.g., I recently watched that dustup between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on Maher’s show, and as far as I could tell, all the heat was just about which kind of Muslims we should have in mind when we talk about “Muslims”.

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  17. Since Mike wrote this, more accusers have come out against Al Franken.
    On top of that, multiple accusers have come out against John Conyers.

    The response to these guys happening at the same time as attacks flying against Moore has a lot of people holding their breaths.

    How important is principle in the first place? Is it just a tool to wield against someone when it’s convenient to do so?

    Buzzfeed has an article about the Conyers thing that really veers into “WHAT THE HECK!” territory when it starts talking about Congress’s Office of Compliance. The two sentences that grabbed my eye:

    In a statement to BuzzFeed News, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was not aware of the settlement.

    And:

    “Speaker Boehner was not aware of this,” Dave Schnittger, a spokesperson for John Boehner, told BuzzFeed News in an email Tuesday. Boehner was the speaker of the House when the settlement was made.

    I don’t know which is worse… the possibility that they’re lying or the possibility that they’re telling the truth.

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    • Vox is coming out strong on the whole “the principle is what’s important” thing.

      Here’s the conclusion:

      Will the first female speaker of the House hear them? Will she listen to one woman who spoke up?

      Last year, Pelosi joked about a flap between Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, repeating Albright’s famous line: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

      Whatever happens next, today Pelosi is that woman.

      Golly.

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        • There are any number of people who agree.

          That said, I think that there are upcoming elections that will be decided on the meta-game of “who also agrees/disagrees that ‘it’s the principle’ is a poor way to frame this?”

          For example, I suspect that how Franken is handled will determine the attitudes of those on the fence in Alabama when it comes to voting for Moore.

          (Yes, I know that there are a lot of differences. I’m not interested in that there are a lot of differences half of much as I am in that how Franken is handled will determine the attitude of those on the fence.)

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    • Why should they be aware? 538(ish) Congressmen plus staff, maybe half of whom have serious ethical issues.

      I say “half” because unlike in industry, getting into trouble doesn’t get you fired, and might even be an advantage for being in office. Further you’ve got the whole “power leads to sex” thing that high level men always have.

      Both Boehner and Pelosi have day jobs, they don’t have the power to do much of anything about these issues, so why should they know or care about every Congressman who cheats on his wife, or sexually harasses his staff?

      Voters get to decide who is in office.

      The only real exception is the police have the power to arrest people for serious crimes from which Congress can’t exclude themselves. The “Office of Compliance” has been compared to a pack of golden retriever puppies. Their job is to look like things are being done while making sure Congress(men) aren’t held accountable for their actions… i.e. to make sure the Police don’t get involved.

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      • Both Boehner and Pelosi have day jobs, they don’t have the power to do much of anything about these issues, so why should they know or care about every Congressman who cheats on his wife, or sexually harasses his staff?

        Well, I’m not asking “hey, is it scary that leadership doesn’t know who is engaging in enthusiastic consensual affairs with his/her peers” but “hey, is it worse that leadership does or that they don’t know who is settling sexual harassment cases with his or her staff for hundreds of thousands of dollars?”

        In any case, I imagine that if they legit didn’t know, it is now the case that leadership sure as hell knows that they’re going to be asked about it on Meet The Press someday.

        I’m not entirely sure that “I had no idea!” will be a sufficient answer, say, a year from now.

        I suppose it might depend on which party the assailant is in, of course.

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        • hey, is it worse that leadership does or that they don’t know who is settling sexual harassment cases with his or her staff for hundreds of thousands of dollars?”

          “Hundreds of thousands of dollars” isn’t even pocket change to Congress. I don’t keep track of every penny or nickel in my spare change bucket here on my desk. The money as a budget item is meaningless… and up until now the ethical issues haven’t been relevant either.

          To be fair it’d be nice if the leaders of Congress know which of their members are the least ethical and are out there sexually harassing their staff and other crimes… but the nature of the beast is they only care about “ethics” if it has electoral (or criminal) consequences.

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          • I must be naïve because my suspicion is that it’s still somewhat scandalous because even though I don’t know exactly how much my household spent on food in the last week and I don’t know how much my household spent on gasoline, I know exactly how much my household spent in sexual harassment settlements.

            For what it’s worth, the number is a number that I, personally, am at ease with.

            I can’t help but think that hundreds of thousands of dollars is hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the number that leadership ought to be at ease with and I suspect that they’ll find that out too.

            I, personally, think that leadership should have pulled the guy aside and said something to the effect of “hey, congressman… we’re thinking that you ought to retire and become a lobbyist.”

            But, hey. Maybe leadership said “what’s a couple hundred thousand dollars?”

            I imagine that we’ll all find out the answer to that question over the next few weeks or so.

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            • …I don’t know exactly how much my household spent on food in the last week and I don’t know how much my household spent on gasoline…

              I don’t know those either, but I can tell you that the #1 line item on our household budget is various insurances (medical, homeowners, liability, auto, etc).

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            • I, personally, think that leadership should have pulled the guy aside and said something to the effect of “hey, congressman… we’re thinking that you ought to retire and become a lobbyist.”

              The way the system is set up, none of the leaders even know that.

              The entire point of the Office of Compliance appears to be ‘pay out victims while making sure that no one ever hears about any of this’.

              Hey, here’s a fun question: The Office of Compliance, along with the settlement, makes a victim sign a non-disclosure agreement.

              Does it ever seem reasonable that the US government should be asking people to sign non-disclosure agreements about elected officials?

              I mean, it probably is constitutional, It’s not that difference from the ‘I will not disclose classified information’ thing people have to sign before getting access to classified information, but it’s about the _behavior of elected officials_ instead of classified information.

              Does it seem reasonable in the slightest that the US government will give people money if they will agree to not say things about elected officials?

              If so, does this apply only to victims? Could the US government go to someone who is running in opposition to the president, and say ‘We know your opposition research dug up the fact he had an affair, but we will give you a million dollars if you don’t talk about it.’?

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              • Does it ever seem reasonable that the US government should be asking people to sign non-disclosure agreements about elected officials?

                Oh, I disagree with the concept in general (i.e. not limited to the US gov). Sunlight deals with filth. These sorts of deals clearly allow predators (and other types of misbehavior) to continue.

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                • Yeah, that’s my point. The US government should not be spending taxpayer money to pay people to ‘not say bad things’ (Especially _true_ bad things) about specific elected officials.

                  I would argue that that is unconstitutional, in fact. I was wavering on it in my original post because ‘paying people not to disclose information’ is basically how ‘jobs that require security clearance’ work, and that are legal…except I think there’s a line in there, somewhere, and I think this clearly crosses it.

                  Paying people to not speak about national security(1) issues with money is acceptable government behavior in my mind, especially as that is usually information that the government has only told the person because they already agreed to those terms anyway. National security, actual national security, is somewhere where we can let the government slightly interfere (In a voluntary manner of the people involved) with the exchange of information.

                  Paying people to not speak about politics with money, especially at the level of specific politicians, is not acceptable government behavior. That is something where we cannot let the government interfere at all with the exchange of information.

                  The first can have somewhat weak first amendment protections, although, again, that ‘weakness’ is entirely voluntary and comprised only of people who agree to be paid off. The latter shouldn’t have the government within 100 feet of it, in any manner at all.

                  I’m not entirely sure where the line is, but just because the middle is vague doesn’t mean the ends shouldn’t be treated different.

                  1) This does not mean we shouldn’t be vigilante to make sure that we aren’t classifying things merely because they are political embarrassing.

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            • “hey, congressman… we’re thinking that you ought to retire and become a lobbyist.”

              After he replies “Fish you”, what then?

              All of these guys have their own power base, their own backers, and they don’t depend on Congressional leadership to get elected. Expecting them to “do the right thing” is hopelessly naive, they’re going to do what’s best for them, including fighting their leadership is need be.

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              • The most they can do (short of expulsion) is stripping them of committee assignments. They have not yet chosen to do so. The last time anyone did was Traficant, and that was en route to expulsion.

                But it is an option at their disposal. It’s an option Republicans will have with Moore, too.

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                • There is also the option of admonishment. When Roland Burris perjured himself about his communications with Illinois Governor Blagoyevich about the circumstances surrounding his appointment to Obama’s seat, he got a letter of disaproval. This seems to be the most probable path these things will follow, because the politicians want clean hands and they are not equipped very well Constitutionally are in the public eye to do much more.

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    • On the one hand it could be easy to see a degree of partisan retaliation for the attacks on Moore in all of this.

      On the other hand it’s also part of a national phenomenon, a cultural shift that’s been underway for a long time finally becoming manifest.

      And Pelosi utterly screwed the pooch with an apparent defense of Conyers. “Look, John has been a friend and an ally for many, many years, so this one really hurts. But there are some things we just can’t tolerate in this day and age. What John was accused of, and then using public money to settle it? We’re going to have to take some action here, and rest assured that we will.” How hard was that?

      …Conyers has since resigned his leadership position but not his membership in the House itself.

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      • Oooh, just read an interesting theory on the twitters.

        There’s this:

        When Nancy Pelosi isn't even on your side in a case where the perp is 88 yrs old and in a safe seat, why on earth would you report sexual harassment?— Laura McGann (@lkmcgann) November 26, 2017

        And it had this response:

        Ever stop to consider maybe Pelosi doesnt want more victims coming forward against other Democrats? https://t.co/gE5E5Fn4BR— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) November 27, 2017

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        • She seems to be moving backwards on her initial defense of Conyers, which is better than not doing so. But it’s far too late in the game for my preference, and her initial reaction really does smack of a partisan double standard. Which is particularly galling given that it abdicates some highly advantageous moral high ground.

          This makes me wonder, should the Democrats actually beat the long-despite-everything odds and take back the House in 2018 or 2020, if she would be the best choice to serve once more as Speaker.

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          • As Chip points out above, why should she have to?

            Look at Moore.

            I mean, unless Moore loses.

            But if Moore wins, why in the heck would Pelosi have to step down? How many people out there will have their attitude toward folks on their own side determined by little more than how the other side treats theirs?

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            • Well, you know there is a whole furious debate going on in liberal circles about how to respond to accusations against fellow liberals.
              It isnt the case that liberals are closing ranks to circle the wagons.

              And I haven’t seen anyone make the argument that conservatives are forcing us to behave a certain way.

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              • It isnt the case that liberals are closing ranks to circle the wagons.

                Depends on how the “debate” is resolved…

                …and how widespread the problem is.

                Running for Congress requires a certain level of hubris, arrogance, maybe lack of ethics, etc, and after you’re there you’ve got the whole “power leads to sex” thing. I.e. the act of running for Congress may be something that selects for guys who are going to abuse power this way, certainly having power encourages it.

                It’s possible this is a VERY widespread problem.

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              • Well, you know there is a whole furious debate going on in liberal circles about how to respond to accusations against fellow liberals.

                Yes. There does seem to be one.

                It isnt the case that liberals are closing ranks to circle the wagons.

                Yeah, that’s the problem with there still being a debate. There are people who are more interested in the circular firing squad than in the circular wagon formation.

                And I haven’t seen anyone make the argument that conservatives are forcing us to behave a certain way.

                I haven’t seen anyone make the assertion that you’re defending against.

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            • Are we sure we’re comparing apples to apples?

              The initial Moore accusations came via a pretty thoroughly vetted investigative journalism piece. Not failproof, but many hoops already jumped through. Is that the case with the allegations against Conyers and Franken? The latter I’m pretty sure not but the former I don’t know.

              So given that there is some amount of “process” that needs to play out, looking for at least some of that to happen isn’t unreasonable and comparing situations in different parts of the process isn’t the fairest thing to do.

              Then you have WaPo’s revelations they were targetted by an O’Keefe/Veritas person hoping to poison the waters with a false allegation against Moore. So… yea… that happened, too…

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              • Are we sure we’re comparing apples to apples?

                Who is the “we” in there?

                The people who are deciding what do to about whether to vote for Moore and they’re using stuff like how democratic leadership responds to Franken and Conyers to see how important the principle they’re being pilloried with actually is to the people wielding it?

                Oh, I’m sure they’re not. They’re comparing apples to oranges.

                Well, I’m glad we’ve hammered that out.

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                    • Conyers’ resignation is almost a certainty at this point. But the lawyer’s comment also pretty much ensures that Franken is forced to resign too. At least, that’s how I read the tea leaves.

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                      • Possible. But the obvious answer to the lawyer is that Conyers is in the House which Pelosi leads while Franken is a senator. And Conyers had to legally settle a complaint. So there are obvious differences.

                        But Al should still go and so should Conyers.

                        Edit: Right after i pressed save i saw on Slate that two more women have accused Franken of inappropritate touching which brings the total to 6. Ugg……Al…..go now, it’s only going to get worse.

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                        • greg,

                          Conyers’ lawyer is playing a variation on LBJ’s game of make them deny it. It’s motivated by pure political self-interest, to be sure, but has the unintended (or intended, how would I know) consequence of making Pelosi publicly state why Conyers’ should resign when Franken gets a pass. And if you’re explaining, you’re losing. The practical effect is that it forces the Dems into adopting a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.

                          Personally speaking here, I have some misgivings about forcing Franken to resign given the evidence we have at this point. None of it rises to the level of credibility/detail/egregiousness to convince me it isn’t (for example) part of a political hit on him. Even then, and assuming the accounts are in fact true, I’m still uncertain that a man who admits to the events described and apologizes for them should be forced to resign. But I’m also aware that my conception of what’s right and wrong re: sexual harassment and related consequences ought to be open to revision based on the testimony and views of (in this case) women subject to unfathomable levels of institutional harassment. So in a very important way, which I try to remain hyper-cognizant of, this is not my fight.

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                          • In a better time there should be a level of personal screw ups a person can commit but be allowed to continue to serve if they seem to honestly apologize and commit to being better. We aren’t in a better time.

                            We have a near constant deluge of new serious multiple and often admitted misconduct. This isn’t “told a dirty joke in mixed company once” stuff. How these accusations are dealt with in this crazy ass time will have an effect on how we can deal with them in as we go along. We are better off having a big bright line. There needs to be room for forgiveness but that doesn’t mean offenders should stay in high office.

                            Franken was great as patiently explaining the ACA. He really is talented and skilled at explaining complex and tricky subjects. Conyers is a true civil rights hero. Having both of them out due to their own faulty actions sucks in one way but it is even more important now that most of our norms have been tossed into a blender. In the Trump era of corruption and p***y grabbing it is even more important for someone to do the right thing because it is right. And right things are often hard nuggets to swallow. That is why so many people don’t do them and why partisans to easily avoid them.

                            Even just looking at it in a partisan manner, tossing Al and Conyers allows the D’s to keep going after Moore and Trump for their many and worse sins. Keeping them around muddles the message.

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                            • Even just looking at it in a partisan manner, tossing Al and Conyers allows the D’s to keep going after Moore and Trump for their many and worse sins. Keeping them around muddles the message.

                              Well, that’s the part I get hung up on. I don’t think Franken should be (so to speak) sacrificed to benefit electoral-political fortunes. If he’s tossed, it *should* be because his actions meet a threshhold of unacceptability which demand (morally) his forced dismissal, on those terms alone. I’m not sure they do. (And that leaves aside the connection between Tweeden’s initial claims and ratf***er supreme Roger Stone; the flimsy anonymity of the “buttcupping” and “sloppy kiss” accusers; and so on.)

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                                • A willingness to do it on camera suggests the behavior was pretty common and in his eyes, acceptable.

                                  Notice what the most recent accuser said about his “sloppy kiss”: no one in the audience would have known he was a harasser because she turned her head at the last moment and he ended up sloppy kissing her on the cheek. For my part, that sounds like bullshit. Same goes for at least two of the butt-cupping accusations (imo). Roger Stone tweeted about Tweeden’s initial accusations a day before she went public with them. And on and on. I’m very skeptical.

                                  But we each make our own judgments, yeah?

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                                  • Personally, given the accusatiosn, I’d leave it up to his voters or an ethics committee, although given the last accusation should be on tape — I’d be keen on seeing that tape.

                                    Seems helpful, no?

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                                    • Absolutely. She said (if I’m remembering right) that he came at her with a sloppy “open mouthed” kiss and ended up with his extended tongue on her cheek. Yet she says no one in the audience would have seen it. We need to go to the video.

                                      Btw, I’m not saying the women are lying. If not for the Roger Stone connection (especially given Franken’s role in Session’s recusal which led to Mueller’s appointment which Stone is seething over …) I would be arguing my second point: do a couple of fairly implausible accusations of butt-cupping and now sloppy kissing meet the thresshold for forced resignation from the Senate? I’m dubious that it does, but – as I said earlier – in an important way this isn’t my fight.

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                                      • On a purely tactical level, the governor of Minnesota is a (D) and would replace Franken with a Democrat as well.

                                        I’m not sure that Franken is as talented (or left, for that matter) as “Generic Minnesotan Replacement”. I mean, maybe Franken is really good at what he does, but I don’t know that he’s especially good at anything other than having a surprising amount of name recognition and voting the party line.

                                        His name recognition is now on the way to “toxic” and it should be easy to find someone who will vote as reliably as he does for the seat.

                                        It’s even possible to pretend that this was done out of some respect for women or some crap like that. Make the Democratic Party the party of Women and of believing women. (Which strikes me as likely to pick up more votes in more states than merely Minnesota than it loses.)

                                        While I appreciate that there are other principles at stake, they’re not easily soundbitable and sound a lot like the ones bad actors used to argue against the Rolling Stone story or Mattress Girl or whathaveyou.

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                                        • Sure. But I’m specifically *not* talking about political expediency here. In fact, I’m talking about the opposite: where is the line drawn between an appropriate, enforced punishment and the degree of voracity and egregiousness of the allegations made. I don’t claim to have any idea where that line *should* be (normatively speaking) tho I think Franken’s situation is a good test-case for determining where it in fact will be.

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                                          • Well, a deontology vs. utilitarian conversation will go pretty much the way that all of them go, so I’ll just point out that I’m not certain that the Democratic Leadership has the necessary skill to thread that needle well and they’d be better served to avoid even the appearance of egregiousness than to try to pull the maneuver you’re suggesting.

                                            But that’s a utilitarian position, not a deontological one.

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                                            • Right. But again, in the above comment I’m specifically *not* talking about electoral politics. I’m talking about the nexus between appropriate punishment and the voracity/egregiousness of accusations.

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                                              • I think that you will have no shortage of Senators and Congressmen who agree with you.

                                                But I’ll note that it’s likely that they will be seen as transparently self-serving for holding the position that you are holding principally.

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                                                • {{deep breaths}}

                                                  Jaybird, I think you still don’t understand what I’m saying. My comment, the one we’re talking about, is the expression of indecision and uncertainty, ie., where, if at all, is the line drawn between justified punishment and the credibility/egregiousness of the allegations made? That question has nothing to do with the Senate or electoral politics.

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                                                  • But I am pretty sure that I don’t have the ability to discuss that in a vacuum. (Like, to the point where I’m skeptical of the ability of others to do so.)

                                                    Even if we *COULD*, it involves staking out positions like Steinem’s “One Free Grope” rule and the environment we’re in now is not like what we had in the 90’s and I am almost certain that such a discussion would crater.

                                                    (And, personally, I wasn’t a fan of that rule back then either. It struck me as a way to say “We’re not hypocrites!” when Clinton happened so closely to the Thomas hearings. Which is me looking at the context of the rules as they were being discussed because it is difficult to not look at the context of the rules as they are being discussed.)

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                                                      • Speaking as someone whose fight it arguably may be, I find discussing this sort of thing in a purported vacuum to be a big part of how we have remained for so long in the place where it is seemingly ubiquitous. And not discussing it in a vacuum to be a big part of how those of us who feel like it is our fight are attempting to get out of it.

                                                        YM obviously Vs, but it seemed worth mentioning. Particularly since Jaybird is lucky/unlucky enough to hear me rant about such things on the regular and that may be part of why he was objecting in the first place.

                                                        Bear with me for literally not having the energy or strength to explain that further. I hope it does make some sense but if not, oh well.

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                                                        • I think it’s possible to discuss the relationship between sexual harassment allegations and a resulting punishment without ever mentioning the Senate or electoral politics.

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                                                          • Not if you’re using a senator as your test case it isn’t. Or I mean, it is certainly *possible*. People have been doing that about various senators for years. I just think it makes things worse.

                                                            The tendency to abstract these discussions is a huge part of what’s busted about how the system works. We go from talking about real people whose real experiences are being treated like they don’t matter and have been for decades to centuries, to talking about yes, but let’s have a philosophical *discussion* about this *topic*. And even though I’m really aware it isn’t my fight, and I should take some steps back, I still have a lot to say about it because….

                                                            It’s not you, personally, that I mind, but I’ve heard that same speech so very many times from different men. It wears thin.

                                                            I don’t even want Franken to resign (yet) although I wouldn’t be disappointed or think he was being drastically / dramatically punished (compare him to a kid caught with a key of pot) if he did so. But trying to abstract the situation from what’s actually known to be the case isn’t….

                                                            That’s how the freaking kyriarchy has been keeping its clawhold on the people since the Enlightenment, man. Really longer, at least since St. Thomas Aquinas.

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                                                              • OK.

                                                                To be fair I realize there has to be a balance or you end up giving up on the rule of law.

                                                                I just feel like right now a lot of women are trying to communicate “We’re fed up and we’re not taking this complete disregard of the rule of law anymore and also if you want to just do things by who is loudest, we have plenty to be loud about”

                                                                And instead of being okay with that, a lot of people (IME mostly men) are rushing to make things as clean and tidy and abstracted as possible. Which *isn’t* sweeping everything under the rug, but still feels like it.

                                                                Let us finish being mad, before you start worrying we’re going to turn into the Bacchae, you know? At this point we’re talking about Senators being pressured into resigning and talking heads / CEOs being fired (which latter thing, I would note, happens to non white-guy-talking-heads / CEOs all the darn time, multiple a year, for less cause and with less anxiety). It’s not exactly a Purge.

                                                                I get that you probably get all or most of that. And I appreciate you being willing to take a step back. It just … ugh, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say.

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                                                                • I guess part of my frustration is that if I leave electoral politics out of it I’m left with

                                                                  “I saw photographic evidence which he doesn’t deny, that he thought it was funny to take a picture of someone *while she was sleeping*, with his hands on her boobs.” Or at least one hand. How do you pull awful, humiliating crap like that and even go out in public afterward? I can’t believe the people *party* to it allowed it to happen, let alone Franken doing it. It’s awful.

                                                                  I would *never* do that. If I for some (inebriated) reason thought that was an ok thing to do, I would hope like hell that the people around me would stop me (part of the reason I don’t get inebriated unless there are less inebriated people around whom I trust) – *and* I would never do that to someone even in dubious circumstances, unless they were in a tiny circle of people to whom the term “blanket consent” reasonably applies in both directions. (Basically Jay and about 3 other people, and I would still be horrified later.)

                                                                  I see that as diametrically different from any amount of pre-planned, far more risque behavior that was *agreed on beforehand*. She was *asleep*. Any claims to the contrary have all turned out to be *hoaxes*.

                                                                  So I can’t imagine why, unless you bring politics into it in a very complicated and nuanced way, anyone is wasting any ink on defending Franken in any way whatsoever, or seeing him as a meaningful test case for anything. Because Stone or no Stone, gold-diggers or no gold-diggers, *I saw that photo and he didn’t disagree that he did it*.

                                                                  If you’re looking for a test case for overreactions or not, I’d pick someone who didn’t seem quite so likely to have violated someone’s right to not being groped and photographed in a position of humiliation while she slept. If you make that into your test case for discussing the potential issues, it’s really really confusing as to why. Roger Stone is very much not sufficient reason, IMO.

                                                                  And the fact that people who love you are willing to discuss it with you doesn’t mean the discussions can or can’t be had productively in more general terms. It doesn’t even mean you’re helping them or helping the process…. they could just be willing to help you. (I could be totally wrong about this last part, and probably am, of course. Projecting from how many conversations about these topics I’ve had purely because it seemed like a good idea to try to let someone see my perspective on it, not because it was at all helpful to me personally or because I thought it would change something globally…)

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                                                                  • Maribou,

                                                                    If you think the photo of Franken and Tweeden *alone* (ie., in isolation from any other evidence) suffices to justify his resignation I accept your view. I certainly won’t argue that you’re wrong. But I’d be dishonest if I said it’s disqualifying to me. That may make me part of the problem in your view rather than the solution. And perhaps you’re right. But that’s where I’m at.

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                                                                    • I don’t think it suffices – I said a few times it doesn’t, that I have no particular desire for him to resign – but it requires me to bring in *a lot* of external factors / evidence to disqualify it as sufficing. If all I had was the photo and the word of the woman who was in the photo that she was asleep, and no word of anyone else – including Franken – that she wasn’t asleep, yes, that is 100 percent sufficient in my view for him to resign.

                                                                      It’s not 100 percent sufficient for him to be required to resign, but at that point you are *literally in the realm of politics* because “required to resign” is literally a political concept in *any* context, electoral or otherwise.

                                                                      And I’m not okay with you (or generic you) picking the act of bringing in some evidence as relevant and bringing in other evidence as irrelevant, in the interest of being more abstract, more fair, having a more effective test case.

                                                                      Because if you don’t think that photographic evidence of having groped someone in their sleep should lead anyone with a conscience to resign in shame from public office – not to ruin their entire lives, that’s *not what would happen to Franken* – then I don’t know what to think.

                                                                      Except yeah, that your perspective on this (which is separate from *you*) is part of the problem.

                                                                      And that if you’re willing to concede that it’s not your fight, then insisting publicly on your perspective on this is also part of the problem.

                                                                      FWIW, I don’t necessarily concede that it’s not your fight. But either it isn’t, in which case why are you pursuing it, or it is, in which case why the disclaimers, just be upfront that you feel vested.

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                                                                      • FWIW, I am capable of bringing in enough evidence that I don’t only not think he should resign, I actively don’t want him to.

                                                                        But that requires a crap load of, among other things, senatorial politics.

                                                                        I’d rather have a sincerely contrite (which seems *possible* though not guaranteed) Al Franken making decisions about my body than any number of other senators now in office (and not just GOP senators)…. possibly even an insincerely contrite one. Even on the question of what he did and how bad it is compared to what the rest of them did and how likely it is to ever get ANYTHING like a healthy situation where only people who respect each others’ bodies end up in high political office…. yeah, I probably don’t care about Al Franken except to be personally saddened that someone I thought of as “one of the rare good guys” is just like the vast majority of the rest of them.

                                                                        But that’s…. not the question you were asking at all.

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                                                                      • Except yeah, that your perspective on this (which is separate from *you*) is part of the problem.

                                                                        You don’t think the allegations against Franken rise to the level of requiring his resignation. This whole thread started with me saying I don’t think the allegations against Franken rise to the level of requiring his resignation.

                                                                        Maribou, as I said earlier, I’m OK with you thinking I’m part of the problem. Respectfully, we disagree about some of these issues and the relavent framing and so on. I also disagree with your paraphrases of my own words, in particular since you’re using those incorrect rephrasals as a weapon against me. (eg., never said this wasn’t my fight, I said in one very important way it’s not my fight, and specifically wrt Franken’s fate in the Senate.)

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                                                                        • I didn’t rephrase it inaccurately, it was nearly a direct quote, just not at sufficient length to satisfy you – an objection that is reasonable to me now but was completely opaque to me the first time.

                                                                          My only objection (that seemed worth raising) to your entire line of argument was this comment:

                                                                          But I am pretty sure that I don’t have the ability to discuss that in a vacuum.

                                                                          Sure you do, but I’ll take it!”

                                                                          He *doesn’t*. I *don’t*. (When I tried, you took my best effort at being accurate about my opinion as something entirely different, and a weaponized attack on you, which tells me, yup, I sure don’t). I also think it’s a bad idea for people to try that on in public right now, and that the move to do so among the populace at large (not that you are necessarily *even doing so* which I acknowledged) reflects the generalized anxiety about female anger I referenced in my first couple of comments above.

                                                                          If you’d said, “That isn’t what I was asking for, but I’ll take it!” I would have had zero to say on the matter. Having broached the topic, I’ve had venting / ranting on the topic that I tried to be fairly clear wasn’t only or even mostly about you, in an *effort* to be open about my priors and my framing (which I hadn’t actually discussed wrt Franken before on this site, at all).

                                                                          As it is, you keep claiming the last word in a conversation in which you respectfully offer to agree to disagree.

                                                                          It’s hard for me to know what to do with that other than to think I really shouldn’t have bothered trying in the first place.

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                                                                          • Maribou,

                                                                            Every time I try to gracefully exit agreeing to disagree you make new claims that I haven’t agreed to disagree about. In fact, I just disagree. Eg, here’s your paraphrase of my upthread comment:

                                                                            And that if you’re willing to concede that it’s not your fight, then insisting publicly on your perspective on this is also part of the problem.

                                                                            I didn’t say it’s not my fight. Twice, the only two times the concept was conveyed, I said that in an important way, only one of many ways, Franken’s tenure in the Senate is not my fight. By saying that I still retained the right to eg., express my skepticism of the claims leveled against him. But you seem to be denying me that based on an inaccurate reading of my words. On that point I won’t agree to disagree.

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                                                                            • I just allowed that I misunderstood that part – that it’s reasonable to make the distinction now that I see what you were getting at, but that I completely missed it the first time – in the comment you were *directly* responding to. I read you saying you were being hypervigilant about it, in one very important way, not being your fight, as you saying it wasn’t your fight. I still find it a bit tough to wrap my head around the distinction – how important is that way, relative to these other ways you mention, if you still want to focus on the things you want to focus on? – but I can, *now*, see that you were making that distinction. The way you phrased it the first time wasn’t nearly as clear, and I missed that that part of what you were saying was necessary rather than extra.

                                                                              And you can actually let my claims sit unanswered, particularly when (as most of them were) they’re clearly not especially about you. I just want you to quit telling other people, including me, what they can and can’t, should and shouldn’t, want to discuss in this context.

                                                                              The rest of it is probably just so much froth, mostly occasioned by the fact that it’s almost impossible for me to talk about this at all.

                                                                              Let alone with someone who is going to treat me like an attacker, rather than as someone who has undergone these sorts of abuses – I’m not just exerting imaginative empathy when I say how much worse it is to be assaulted in your sleep than otherwise – who lives her life under the awareness that enormous levels of blatant harassment are something that almost every woman she knows has had to deal with at some point in their lives.

                                                                              Next time, I won’t bother.

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                                                        • Add: and I get that this is difficult stuff to talk about and deal with for everyone involved along various measures. I talk about this stuff constantly with my wife and daughter, so I know the discussions can be had. “In a vacuum” is too extreme, I admit, but it’s also not my phrase. It’s Jaybird’s. My earlier comments express my views/worries arising from the Franken situation.

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                                        • Franken actually is an unusually good Dem Senator judged by his performance in office, which makes the fact that he really ought to resign rather more frustrating than it might otherwise be.

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                            • “In a better time there should be a level of personal screw ups a person can commit but be allowed to continue to serve if they seem to honestly apologize and commit to being better. We aren’t in a better time.”

                              Yes. We are in a time where a Presidential candidate can be caught on tape admitting to sexual assault, win election, and face absolutely zero pressure from his own party to even address the issue.

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                              • We are in a time where a Presidential candidate can be caught on tape admitting to sexual assault, win election, and face absolutely zero pressure from his own party to even address the issue.

                                Easily dismissed as brash “locker room talk”. “Hey, I was just engaging in some light braggadocio!” is a defense that puts Trump’s statement in the same category as Franken’s crudity (with plenty of room for people to say that the comparison between “bragging to a guy” and “touching a woman non-consensually” is not an apt comparison).

                                There are women who have actually accused Trump of assault. Name them and bring *THEM* up. Get *THEM* on camera. Even now, we still know and recognize the names Paula Jones, Juanita Broderick, Kathleen Wiley.

                                Why don’t we have the names of Trump’s accusers on the news every night?

                                These names should be as well-known and as easy to remember as those three names from the 90’s.

                                Jill Harth
                                Summer Zervos

                                Use those rather than the tape. The tape is the rhetorical equivalent of bringing up Monica Lewinsky.

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                                      • On what level are we discussing here?

                                        A moral level?
                                        A tactical level?

                                        Tactically, I think that using Trump’s “locker-room talk” is a bad tactic as it is easily dismissed as bluster.

                                        Morally, I suppose that the best thing for the Republicans to have done in 2016 is nominated someone who would have lost to Hillary Clinton.

                                        Someone like Jeb, maybe.

                                        Unfortunately, the Republicans failed to do the moral thing and instead nominated Trump.

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                                                • It’s weird then that this happened earlier:

                                                  “We are in a time where a Presidential candidate can be caught on tape admitting to sexual assault, win election, and face absolutely zero pressure from his own party to even address the issue.

                                                  Easily dismissed as brash “locker room talk”. “Hey, I was just engaging in some light braggadocio!” is a defense that puts Trump’s statement in the same category as Franken’s crudity (with plenty of room for people to say that the comparison between “bragging to a guy” and “touching a woman non-consensually” is not an apt comparison).

                                                  There are women who have actually accused Trump of assault. Name them and bring *THEM* up. Get *THEM* on camera. Even now, we still know and recognize the names Paula Jones, Juanita Broderick, Kathleen Wiley.

                                                  Why don’t we have the names of Trump’s accusers on the news every night?

                                                  These names should be as well-known and as easy to remember as those three names from the 90’s.

                                                  Jill Harth
                                                  Summer Zervos

                                                  Use those rather than the tape. The tape is the rhetorical equivalent of bringing up Monica Lewinsky.”

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                                                          • Does it help at all to have someone (me, in case that’s not clear) who obviously abhors Trump, say it would be more effective to focus on his assault accusers than on that particular piece of offensiveness?

                                                            I mean, I think there’s plenty of awful to go around either way, so it’s not like you can’t mention the tape – but if I was going to bring up an example of how little the GOP gives a crap, I’d bring up the actual women who were actually harmed first, and the tape as purely corroborative… it actually really bothers me that everyone knows about the tape and most people are oblivious to the growing list of women who are brave enough to put themselves out there as having been assaulted by him.

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                                                            • I referenced the tape because it was Trump’s own words and undermines the Roy Moore defense (“They’re liberals. They don’t hold conservative values. They are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender who want to change our culture.”)

                                                              I’m not saying you’re wrong. I think Jay was crazy wrong to even imply that the fault lies with the Dems.

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                                                              • I strongly disagree that’s what he was implying. Jay is one of those “internal locus of control” people. (Aren’t we all?) He wants the Dems to change tactics because he sees them as reachable and, at least in theory, able to be victorious, if they (really a we) take a different approach.

                                                                That isn’t victim-blaming, it’s … advice-giving. Well-intended. When I pass Jay’s advice on to my fervently anti-Trump cabby, he generally sees it as useful and incorporates it into his future rants.

                                                                I’m not saying Jay goes about it in a particularly effective way, but I think you’re assuming a lot of priors when you read him that aren’t there. At least in this case.

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                                                          • @kazzy Stillwater’s not wrong about that, but I think it also might be … more easy to parse Jaybird on these topics if you keep in your awareness that he’s literally married to someone who was sexually abused in secret as a child and who had 6 months of Trump-triggered flashbacks. He really doesn’t want *anybody* to get away with *anything*, in this particular area.

                                                            That’s not a moderator comment, just one of my dubiously-useful jaybird-translator ones. I thought he didn’t need much translating here, but I obviously also find it very easy to remember his context.

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                                                            • Let’s unpack this a bit. Someone upthread said:
                                                              “In a better time there should be a level of personal screw ups a person can commit but be allowed to continue to serve if they seem to honestly apologize and commit to being better. We aren’t in a better time.”

                                                              I commented on how we are in a time where Trump didn’t even apologize for what he did (only what he said), never committed to being better, and yet is continuing to serve. And he is continuing to serve in part because the leaders of his party have basically remained mum on the subject.

                                                              Jaybird, he who you say wants nobody to get away with it, then launched into criticisms of my and others tactics in a way that pretty clearly seemed to absolve those who are best positioned to stop Trump from getting away with it (the GOP).

                                                              While I do not doubt that your assessment of him is accurate, surely you can see how that assessment is not reflected in his comments here, no?

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                                                              • No. I really don’t see that.

                                                                I disagree a lot with your description/interpretation of what Jaybird said and somewhat with your gloss on what you said (although if that’s what you meant, it makes a lot more sense to me – but that’s not how I read it before I ever saw what Jay said about it).

                                                                If I did, I would have told him to knock it off rather than trying to explain him to you. (Believe me, that has been the case on other occasions.)

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                                                                  • Originally?

                                                                    I read it (no doubt unfairly) as a way of flattening a really complicated discussion by bringing it back around to someone that nearly everyone here agrees is disgusting, Trump. With a side, under conscious thought, frustrated rush reaction of “oh my god, does everyone still think that tape is somehow conclusive after a year of being shown that most people who voted for him really don’t care about the tape and literally don’t hear the same thing I hear when they listen to it? when are we ever going to move on to things people we need to convince might actually take seriously??”

                                                                    And I was annoyed, because what is the point of that first thing, really? and the second thing is more of a cri du coeur than anything personally about you.

                                                                    Now, was that a fair gloss on your comment? No, it was fairly mean, and I was willing to sit on my rude and assume you were trying to get at something that I didn’t see. If you hadn’t asked I probably would never had told you.

                                                                    However, I was also busy and grumpy and didn’t want to do the effort to figure out what you were really meaning to say or to ask you about it in a civil way. So rather than responding to it, or even lingering on it, I moved on to other things.

                                                                    But it also would have taken me some work to get from there to what you just said in your comment above, like, in the “amount of work I have to do to get Jaybird’s more obscure comments” way. I just don’t find him that much more work than the rest of you, oftentimes less work. Which I suppose is good, and isn’t entirely on topic… but sometimes I get frustrated with the whole dynamic of “Jaybird must be saying” these things that he plainly (to me) isn’t saying AT ALL. Because to me he’s in the plain ole middle of the pack, “that’s not what I meant”-ness-wise, most of the time. So when I see you (or someone else) losing their cool at him and ascribing motivations to him that (to me) plainly aren’t there, I get kinda frustrated.

                                                                    Like, does it make sense to have those feels? Sure, I have them about all kinds of people all the time. But then I rein them in and test them against alternate options. Because what they’re actually saying is, generally, more valuable than that kneejerk reaction would suggest.

                                                                    In Jaybird’s case, the advice that he was attempting to offer was not Dem-blaming, it was having-given-up-on-the-entire-GOP-lock-stock-and-barrel, what-do-we-do-now?

                                                                    Entirely possible he should have just read your comment, blinked in irritation a few times, ignored said comment, and moved on. I mean, that’s what I did.

                                                                    I”m personally glad to know what you really meant rather than what your comment sounded like to me, but not necessarily gladder than I would have been to not have you take umbrage at something Jay wasn’t saying and contest it with him.

                                                                    Of course, it is not all about me.

                                                                    Just, since you asked.

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                                                                    • I think I was pretty clearly drawing attention to the moral failing of the GOP.

                                                                      Jay responded by listing a bunch of things I should be doing differently to try to get the GOP to act.

                                                                      I asked if the GOP’s failing was the result of their hand not being forced.

                                                                      He responded by saying the bigger issue was the ineptness of the Dems.

                                                                      So… yea… see what you see.

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                                                                      • You didn’t ask me about the whole thread, you asked me how I read your first comment.

                                                                        I definitely didn’t find that it was clearly pointing out the moral failures of the GOP.

                                                                        This strikes me as “if you didn’t want to know you probably shouldn’t have asked” territory.

                                                                        I will grant I threw in some information about how I saw Jay’s comments, but if you see the GOP as useless and the Dems as potentially functional (which he’s said over and over he does and which I happen to as well, although I am somewhat more cynical than he is), *of course* you are then going to see the Dems’ ineptness as a bigger issue.

                                                                        So to me the whole rest of the thread read as you getting mad at him for saying stuff he didn’t say, and then getting mad at him for saying more stuff he didn’t say.

                                                                        Which I found frustrating.

                                                                        Should probably have stuck to just explaining how I read your first comment.

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                                                                          • Notice my use of question marks.

                                                                            The frustrating thing is that I was talking about X (The moral failing of the GOP in ignoring Trump’s history of sexual assault) and Jaybird wanted to talk about Y (How the Dems could have/ should have gotten us to a place where Trump was held accountable for his sexual assault) and rather than make an explicit pivot from one to the other, he took some weird meandering path. When I sought clarification, he offered further obfuscation.

                                                                            This is not a new pattern.

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                                                                            • I did not find your introduction of X any more explicitly a pivot, or less jarring, than his introduction of Y. (Actually I found it less logical and more jarring, for reasons I think I already described.) I also did not find your clarifying questions to be non-hostile. They read to me as very rhetorical and jumping to conclusions, not as actual questions.

                                                                              I am probably as influenced by previous patterns in my interpretation of this interaction as you are.

                                                                              At this point I’m not sure I’m being helpful to anybody by describing what I saw, but that is as clear as I can be about it.

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                                                                              • Maybe we can poll the commentariat on the clarity of my statements versus his, here or in general. I dare say I think they’ll find in my favor. But, whatevs.

                                                                                The other elephant not being addressed is that Jay is so willing and eager to dole out advice that he never seems to follow himself. Why was his response couched in “you” instead of “we”? If he thinks those names need to be known… what is he doing to make them known?

                                                                                Oh, wait… there I go again… asking hostile questions.

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                                                                                • If you mean the elephant that Stillwater addressed and I agreed to in my very first comment about this, I’m not sure why you think it’s not being addressed.

                                                                                  Part of what he’s doing to make them known is to … write them in his comment.

                                                                                  This is also not the first time he’s repeated those names.

                                                                                  It may be the first time he’s done it here.

                                                                                  He gives me advice he isn’t willing to follow himself all the time, so I am not going to suggest he doesn’t do that. (In fact, I already agreed that he should change his tactics!)

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                                                                                    • I don’t feel at all, for the record, like you are honestly curious about my perspective on this rather than affronted by it.

                                                                                      As for your apology, I don’t expect you to read every comment, just the ones that I @’d you in that you literally replied directly to already.

                                                                                      And honestly I probably don’t expect you to have read those, at this point, given your last couple of responses, which isn’t very kind of me nor is it representative of how I usually see you. So I’ll bow out now. I’ll try to adjust my perspective back over the next day or two.

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                                                          • Jay wrongly assumed I was trying to change GOP behavior rather than simply stating a fact.

                                                            It is true that that audio exists and true that the GOP has not called upon him to address the allegations.

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                                      • The GOP leadership did everything in their power to stop Trump from being President short of corrupt the process. Never Trump failed. The voters looked at Trump and he won the election anyway.

                                        What is it that you’d like to see happen now? Trump isn’t going to be shamed into leaving office because he’s totally shameless.

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                                • These names should be as well-known and as easy to remember as those three names from the 90’s.

                                  If you’re making a list of everyone to whom Trump has mean then “easy to remember” won’t be the result.

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                              • No one votes for Trump because they think he’s a nice, decent, ethical guy.

                                Trump’s life (including his sex life) has been a constant public dumpster fire in the tabloids for the last 40 years or so. I’m sure the issue has been publicly aired, explored, and the conclusion was Trump is appalling.

                                Although weirdly in that context I’d say the number of women making claims is pretty low. We’ve got that one who tried to murder a judge and a few others but not the dozens and dozens I’d expect him to have as the unethical Billionaire constantly surrounded by gold diggers.

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                            • Even just looking at it in a partisan manner, tossing Al and Conyers allows the D’s to keep going after Moore and Trump for their many and worse sins.

                              Everything else being equal, I’ll care about this, but everything else won’t be equal. At the ballot box I’ll have a binary choice, and “he plays nice with others” will be pretty far down on the priority list.

                              Weinstein can easily be replaced with someone else who will create movies. Feel free to burn him (or his career) at the stake. I’ll bring marshmallows and consider it a fine lesson for society.

                              The actual choice on the ballot next time will be Trump and some Dem. My top priority is economic growth (in terms of net “good” for society this is where it’s at). If Trump’s policies have produced economic growth and the Dem says those policies are unacceptable, then that’s an easy choice. I’m not going to sacrifice my top priority for my 8th priority.

                              As the importance of the job goes up (and as my personal skin gets pulled into the game) my willingness to sacrifice efficiency based on ethics goes down. The same principle happens in war. Our willingness to tolerate war crimes goes up as the level of risk goes up.

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                        • As an aside, I think Pelosi’s apologetics over the weekend followed by her newly found hard-line regarding Conyers has really hurt the Dems and shows that she’s a) not hip enough to play politics in 2017 and b) should be replaced as leader. Her flip-floppery smells like backtracking CYA politics to me, and if I smell it so do ambitious members of the Dem caucus. (And frankly, given the dark Clintonian cloud hanging over the Dems I think they’d be be better off replacing her anyway.)

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              • Franken thing has reacted with a mix of confirmation/apology and non-denials from Franken, and it came with photographic evidence. So that’s pretty much a done deal.

                The Conyers thing was backed up with a lot of confirmation, but the original documents came through Mike Cernovich, which really, really didn’t help.

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                • Cokie Roberts did the disservice of confirming the Conyers thing on This Week, but I can’t find a clip of the show on YouTube. I can only find clips on sites that I’ve never heard of and may be as morally compromised as Cernovich.

                  If you can stomach watching a clip on a site that may have questionable intentions, here’s the clip that the site Townhall linked to.

                  It’s yet another “oh, yeah, this was an open secret” kinda thing.

                  Here’s the quotation if you don’t want to click on the link:

                  Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him. Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference.

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                  • People knew.
                    Those in the circle new.

                    He was protected because:

                    He had power
                    They wanted something from him
                    He was feared

                    Something changed to upset that equilibrium and now he’s vulnerable. So it always is.

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                  • It’s yet another “oh, yeah, this was an open secret” kinda thing.

                    You know, as some point, I’d like the followup question to start being ‘Hey, is there anyone else here that women here are worried about getting into elevators with?’

                    And, seriously, no one is going to answer that question…but I’d sorta like to see some sort of anonymous surveys in that area.

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                    • How much money has that Congressional office spent buying off victims and how many were there? The first number is a rough measurement of how serious it was… I wouldn’t be shocked if we get into three digits worth of victims.

                      At the moment we’ve got those two Congressmen facing 4-5 accusations each. If Moore wins then maybe you can add another 4-5 although his wouldn’t even be on the ethics office’s radar.

                      “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

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                      • The first number is a rough measurement of how serious it was… I wouldn’t be shocked if we get into three digits worth of victims.

                        I started to disagree with that, it wouldn’t be that many…and then I did the math, and honestly I’d be shocked if there weren’t three digits of victims…I’m just not sure they all got paid off.

                        I mean, a lot of Congress has been there for decades. Assume maybe 10% of the people there behave like this, and they behave inappropriately twice a year.

                        The victims mount up pretty fast, especially when you remember we’re not just counting Congresspeople, but their entire staffs. I am now recalling allegations, I don’t remember the exact specifics, made like a year ago against a Congresswoman’s male chief of staff and how he interacted with women, which struck me as shocking that she would put up with it…but I think we all realize, at this point, that complicity isn’t just restricted to men, even if the behavior mostly is. (Although I suspect we’ll see a few women shake lose by the end.)

                        The only variable we do not know is how many of the victims went ahead and did the complaint process, which itself seems clearly designed to be overly burdensome and time consuming.

                        It is becoming increasingly clear that almost all internal ‘We can work this out between people without getting anyone else involve’ processes are solely designed to protect the powerful within those organizations, and not to solve any problems at all.

                        “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

                        “It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.” -Douglas Adams.

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                        • I started to disagree with that, it wouldn’t be that many…and then I did the math, and honestly I’d be shocked if there weren’t three digits of victims…I’m just not sure they all got paid off.

                          Math can be ugly or beautiful, but it’s always math.

                          Assume maybe 10% of the people there behave like this, and they behave inappropriately twice a year.

                          Assume 10% do it, but only rarely (1%) does it reach the point of the ethics office paying out cash. One bad apple produced 4-5 settlements, not accusations. So 10% means 50 bad apples(*) means 200+ settlements… and 20 thousand or more victims.

                          These are Powerful men, they can do serious favors (read “buy off people with money or other things”), or serious “unfavors”. How many women step forward and trust the system, how many navigate the deliberately hard process, how many can prove wrongdoing. 1% is obviously a handwave… hmm…

                          The ethics office has been around for 20 years. So 10 settlements (or 1000 victims) a year for 50 bad apple Congressmen. That’s 20 times a year per guy…

                          Worrying about getting in the same elevator means way more than twice a year, maybe even a lot more than 20 times a year. I’d like to take this to twice a week, or 100 times a year per Congressman. Increasing the numbers by 5x means we need to decrease that 1% payout rate to 0.2%, and we’re at 100 thousand victims over 20 years so 5k a year.

                          This explains very nicely why Congressional leadership is so resistant to dealing with this seriously and with opening up records.

                          (*)That Congressman being in office for so long cancels itself out. He has always had 534 fellows, that they weren’t the same people doesn’t matter. “50 bad apples” really means “500 tenths of an apple” if he’s been in there 10x as long as average.

                          It is becoming increasingly clear that almost all internal ‘We can work this out between people without getting anyone else involve’ processes are solely designed to protect the powerful within those organizations, and not to solve any problems at all.

                          HR’s job is to protect the company, not you. They’re not useless, if the janitor is a problem then HR’s standard solution of “hire everyone involved” applies. But Weinstein’s HR department will protect Harvey Weinstein. He can fire them, not the reverse.

                          That’s where the system breaks, and I have no clue what to do about Congress.

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                          • 100 thousand victims over 20 years so 5k a year.

                            Note with repeats the number of actual people would be far fewer than this.

                            Some poor soul has a job which forces her to regularly ride with that guy in the elevator.

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                          • That Congressman being in office for so long cancels itself out.

                            Sorta. What I was trying to get to was that, over time, behavior would become worse if nothing happened to them. They start out small, but become more brazen over time when it’s clear nothing has repercussions at all.

                            Likewise, there’s behavior that, decades ago, seemed…well, not ‘reasonable’, but ‘subject to a stern frowning’ back then, but people can’t get away with now…and when that’s combined with getting worse over time because there are no repercussions…

                            I was also thinking this would be in addition to them becoming more powerful, but I guess, objectively speaking, the average amount of power in Congress should remain the same, older members are just more powerful compared to newer ones, so that doesn’t actually make any sense, nevermind.

                            But anyway, I think it’s telling, in some way, that one of the first people to get accused is one of the most powerful and older members, Conyers. (Franken was first, but he got discovered basically because he was a comic in a previous life.)

                            I expect it to continue to skew older.

                            But, on the whole, I’m not really sure the distribution really matters anyway.

                            Incidentally, as an aside, Conyers actually is starting to sound a bit disoriented and I wonder if he’s actually fit for office, even regardless of the allegations. This doesn’t excuse his behavior, which has happened over decades, but at some point I start to wonder if we need to consider ‘Take a competency exam’ as something that politicians traditionally do before each election.

                            Someone who is 88 years old wandering around in their office in their underwear doesn’t sound like sexual harassment…it sounds like they don’t know where they are. Especially when they are reports he’s also been seen in his pajamas.

                            Either way he needs to resign.

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                    • Because we used to be able to just say “Oh, Cernovich. Pfeh.”

                      She confirmed it. Not only did she confirm it, she said that everybody knew.

                      It’s yet another thing that had been covered up and people are only freaking out about now because Normies found out about it.

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                      • I think Cerno could have published this stuff himself and it would have had the same impact, myself. The meaty part of the scandal emerged when Conyers denied everything, even the existence of the (secret) settlements. Which is a sweet irony: the legal obligation to not speak about deals made with his accuser/victims exposed the whole rotten process by which CCers, including himself, are insulated from accountability.

                        If Congress had any balls they’d rescind the NDAs governing both parties statements. Don’t, so won’t.

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                        • Conyers, apparently, has had sources tell reporters that, in January, he’s going to announce that he won’t run for re-election.

                          Which is a steam release valve, I guess. (Hey, if everything blows over by January, you can forget to make that announcement. Let’s face it, we’re going to have at least 120ish news cycles by then.)

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                  • Oh, it’s both possible to believe the allegations (which I did based on the corroboration that was in the original BuzzFeed story), and note that Cernovich is a serial fabulist, conspiracy theorist, and apologist for (and likely perpetrator of) behavior every bit as despicable as Conyers’. This kind of thing matters for credibility, and Cernovich himself had to hand the docs to BuzzFeed because everybody knows what a gross fraud he is.

                    Also, I have always had a weird mental tick that makes me read “Conyers” as “Cornyn” half the time I see it, and this makes a lot of news kind of confusing.

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  18. Every time I think I’m being too cynical, I find I’m not being cynical enough.

    I’d thought the GOP leadership’s “write in candidate” idea was there to prevent Moore from winning. Let me just quote someone else from a different site.

    Roy Moore will win the senate seat in Alabama. Doug Jones’ chances of winning ended when the former assistant to General John Kelly entered the contest as a write in candidate. That was not done to take votes away from Moore. It was intended to give independents and Republicans who could not vote for Moore, another choice instead of voting for Jones. It is working. The write in candidate is at 5% in the latest poll, just around the same amount that Jones has dropped in the polls.

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  19. Matt Lauer reportedly wants a $30 million buy out of his contract. NBC will likely agree, in my view, on condition that Lauer not disclose the names of executives who enabled his behavior over the past couple decades. But maybe NBC will surprise us and reject his offer in order to clean house.

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