Heaven knows why Rand Paul has chosen this moment to attack Bill Clinton as a sexual predator. I don’t.
It hardly seems like a very relevant topic. The American public did not much like hearing about it in 1998. It is even less interested in looking through the Clintons’ dirty laundry now.
True enough, Bill Clinton was accused of horrifying sexual crimes, but he is not running for office. Accusing him of being a “sexual predator” feels like old news.
Besides, it violates what I have proposed as the Republicans’ Twelfth Commandment: Thou shalt never, ever talk about sex.
Kirsten Powers believes that Rand Paul has made a tactical error. If Paul wants to counter the Democratic charge that Republicans are waging a war on women, is it really a good idea to attack a woman.
In fact, Rand Paul’s charge has drawn a lot more attention to him than it has to Hillary Clinton. When that happens, it is a sure sign that you have misfired.
That does not mean that there’s no method to the madness.
Ask yourself this: if Hillary Clinton were not Bill Clinton’s wife, would she have had the same political career? Would she be the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination?
What makes large numbers of American queasy about Hillary Clinton was not her husband’s behavior, but the way she herself reacted. They do not know what to make of it and do not know what it says about her character.
Under normal circumstances a wife would feel humiliated by the revelation of her husband’s serial indiscretions. Under those circumstances a woman might not walk out of her marriage, but one would not expect her to become her husband’s leading defender.
A woman who is deeply shamed by her husband’s open exposure of her own sexual inadequacies would normally not rush out in public to denounce the “vast right wing conspiracy.”
Reporters dutifully explained that she was anguished, but still, Hillary was acting as though she was a political operative, not a wife.
Recently, the president of France was caught in a romantic dalliance with a woman who was not his live-in lover. The wronged sorta-spouse, Valerie Trierweiler responded by taking too many pills and perhaps even trashing Francois Hollande’s presidential office. She was committed to a psychiatric hospital and, for a week was not allowed any contact with her faithless former paramour.
You might think that she was being overly dramatic. But surely, there is a middle ground between a complete meltdown and acting as though your husband’s indiscretions have absolutely nothing to do with you.
One might say that there is a considerable virtue in spousal loyalty, or in loyalty of any kind. And yet, one suspects that in Hillary’s case it was motivated more by her own ambition than any sense of personal rectitude. If she was willing to sacrifice her dignity on the alter of her ambition, what does that say about her character?
Both Hillary Clinton and Valerie Trierweiler suffered public humiliation. Whose reaction strikes you as more worthy of your respect?
The greatest puzzle about Hillary Clinton is not merely why she rushed out to defend her cheating husband, but why so many people accepted hers as a reasonable reaction.
It’s not about Bill Clinton’s horndogging it up. It’s about Hillary Clinton’s sense of self-respect and dignity. About that, we only know what we see. So, let’s say that it’s about how the world sees Hillary Clinton and how it would see a nation that elected her to the presidency.
A candidate for the presidency should bring with him the prestige he has accumulated in his previous successes. He should bring his dignity and self-respect, to enhance the office he is going to occupy.
Dwight Eisenhower brought the prestige that attended his exceptional military achievements and enhanced national pride for as much. After all, a winning general made America feel like a winning nation.
If a leader has an influence on national character, being led by someone who has achieved great things probably inspires other Americans to work hard to achieve great things.
When, as has been our occasional wont, we elect celebrity presidents, Americans seem less inclined to work hard to achieve and more inclined to feel entitled.
Other presidents have brought their track records of achievement as governors or as leaders in the United States Congress.
Some have taken more than they have brought to the office. John Kennedy was more a celebrity president than a man of considerable accomplishments. He was constantly dogged by the shadow of his far more formidable predecessor.
Being a celebrity, JFK did not command the world’s respect. When Soviet leader Khrushchev decided that JFK was a lightweight he decided to send nuclear missiles to Cuba. When a chastened Kennedy felt that he needed to show that he was a tough as Ike he got America engaged in Vietnam. He entered a conflict that Eisenhower had explicitly avoided.
Barack Obama brought celebrity and charisma to the office of the president. Beyond that, he seems to be lost on the job. He seems to be reasonably popular with the world’s people, but he is neither respected nor feared by other world leaders.
He has produced a power vacuum that other leaders are jockeying to fill.
Has American credibility in the world increased or decreased during the Obama presidency? Did American prestige increase or decrease when foreign policy was being conducted by Hillary Clinton? Am I alone in thinking that the Clinton tenure at the State Department was more show than substance, more preening than achieving?
One can mention the Arab Spring, the war in Syria, the reset with Russia and so on.
Add to the list the disintegration of America’s relations with Germany.
Yesterday, Roger Cohen wrote in the New York Times:
This is as bad a moment as there has been in German-American relations in the postwar years. The poison of the United States surveillance scandal, absent an apology from Washington, continues to seep through a society where the right to personal privacy is a paramount value shaped by history….
A leaked conversation in which Victoria Nuland, the top American diplomat for Europe, used the f-word to sum up her sentiments about the European Union and its efforts at diplomacy in Ukraine infuriated Chancellor Angela Merkel, who through her spokesman called the remarks “absolutely unacceptable.” Merkel still feels angry, betrayed and humiliated by the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping on her cellphone. She recently told one politician close to her that she misses George W. Bush.
The relationship between Europe’s most powerful leader and President Obama is strained. It got off to a bad start and never recovered. Obama was not pleased that Merkel refused his request to speak at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate when he was candidate in 2008; Merkel thought the idea hubristic, Obama was not yet president after all.
A goodly part of this problem occurred when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Do you think that a Hillary presidency would restore American respect around the world? Do you think that it would help repair relationships with allies?
It is altogether possible that Rand Paul, in his poorly aimed attack, was trying to tell the nation that if it elects Hillary Clinton, America’s status in the world community will decline, not merely because of her thin record of real accomplishment but because she is the world’s most prominent cuckquean.
At the same time, it is difficult to see that Rand Paul ’s rather thin record of achievement could restore America’s standing in the eyes of the world, either.