Monday, October 10, 2016
A rapist in the Oval Office posted by Richard SeymourSay what you like about the second presidential debate, it seems to have struck an extraordinarily delicate nerve with some of the hacks. I say this because, reviewing the gluttonous expanse of instapunditry in respected outlets, there is something that no one appears to want to talk about.
This is the feminist writer Jessica Valenti, in The Guardian:
"That’s why [Trump] trotted out a pre-debate panel of women who have accused Bill Clinton of various offenses".
What offences, feminist Jessica Valenti? To what could you be referring, so obliquely? And why do none of the other reviewers talk about this?
On CNN, former Bill Clinton advisor David Gergen is similarly coy:
"The first was [Trump's] surprise pre-debate appearance with four female accusers of Bill Clinton. While a case can be made for re-hearing their claims of long ago...".
What are those "claims of long ago," former Clinton adviser, David Gergen? What could you be treading so lightly around? Why, again, do other pundits seem to consider it unworthy of comment?
The BBC finally clears things up for us:
"He essentially accused former President Bill Clinton of rape."
WHAT? Rape? Why is everyone so... mealy-mouthed and sleekit about this? What is with the euphemisms and the attempt to relativise them as claims of "long ago"? Is the former president a rapist, or is he not? What are these allegations? The BBC doesn't say, but only goes on to add a solemn, head-shaking Aunty Beeb note of disapprobation:
"It was easily the most tawdry exchange in 56 years of televised presidential debates - one that will likely cast a shadow over US politics for years to come. Mrs Clinton may have emerged the beneficiary, but the nation was the worse for it."
That word 'tawdry' comes up, quite a bit in the reporting. It is a peculiar word to use in a way, since the airily dismissed "panel of women" includes one woman who alleged sexual harassment, and two who allege sexual assault. The implication seems to be that it is tawdry even to discuss such allegations against a former President - a claim that was not made about the discussion of Trump's bragging about sexual assault. Much of the reporting even seems to regard it as a bit silly - a "bizarre last minute ploy," as The Mirror put it.
Certainly, Trump has been plausibly accused of sexual assault, including the rape of a child. Certainly, his behaviour is that of a sociopath. Certainly, he is raising all this in a manipulative way. But doesn't the leaking of the Trump tapes have a clear instrumental logic? And yet it is something we should discuss. Likewise, the allegations of rape against Clinton, are something we should discuss.
Put it like this. Juanita Broaddrick plausibly alleges that she was raped by Bill Clinton. The White House - highly active in smearing or paying off everyone else in the period that these allegations came out - was remarkably reticent about Broaddrick. Clinton himself refused to say anything beyond referring to a lawyer's carefully worded statement. Do we believe survivors? Hillary Clinton, an active participant in her husband's administration, says that we should. But she also says that she doesn't, in this case. Broaddrick, for what it's worth, has also consistently alleged that Hillary Clinton threatened her in the weeks following the rape. Now, is that worth discussing?
If you take liberal principles seriously, if you consider yourself a feminist, the answer has to be 'yes'. Otherwise, how can you expect anyone to take your fully justified attacks on Trump seriously? If you have no respect for the principles underpinning your attack, why should anyone else? And if your loyalty to Clinton undermines your principled opposition to Trump, what comes first: your principles, or your loyalty?