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Scandal Loves a Clinton


It’s not just men who peddle a misogynist point of view about Hillary Clinton. Peggy Noonan—a frequent contributor to the Journal’s Whitewater volumes—described her as a “squat and grasping woman” and a “highly credentialed rube.” As Hillary geared up for her Senate run, Noonan poured such observations into an obsessive book-length indictment, The Case Against Hillary Clinton (2000). Along the way, she puts several lengthy imaginary speeches in the former First Lady’s mouth (one of them 16 pages long), including a “free associating” monologue with references to “Howard Stern’s penis” and Joey Buttafuoco. By the 2008 campaign, Noonan was warning that Hillary “may be lethal” like “the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction,” and arguing that she “doesn’t have to prove she’s a man. She has to prove she’s a woman.” She rooted for her to beat Barack Obama because a Clinton candidacy “would be easier” for Republicans: “With her cavalcade of scandals, they’d be delighted to go at her.”

Yes, they would! Democrats can only hope that Noonan appears on as many Washington talk shows as humanly possible in 2016: Her scandal­mongering and attacks on Hillary’s sexuality will be the gifts that keep on giving to a Clinton campaign. The talk-show auxiliary, meanwhile, will be in the reliable hands of Rush Limbaugh, who can return to slamming Hillary in the terms he had to deploy against a lower-level target, the Georgetown University law student and women’s-health-care advocate Sandra Fluke, in 2012.

Since the last election, Washington GOP leaders have made a big show of trying to curb the sex talk that drove away those women voters who weren’t already repelled by the party’s wielding of transvaginal probes and its hostility to bills protecting women from violence and unequal pay. “Some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be,” said John Boehner last year. The National Republican Congressional Committee has conducted consciousness-raising tutorials in “messaging against women opponents,” but it’s all been to no avail. Wendy Davis, the Texas gubernatorial candidate, has been reviled as “abortion Barbie.” Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia, defending Todd Akin’s views, told a local chamber of commerce that female rape victims can avoid pregnancy because if they’re “tense and uptight … all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.” Mike Huckabee has chastised women who “cannot control their libido or their reproductive system” for turning to “Uncle Sugar” to provide them with “a prescription each month for birth control.” Chris Christie spent at least $1 million of taxpayers’ money on a report heaping much of the blame for Bridgegate on the emotional “state of mind” of his fired aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, after a ruptured love affair. A new anti-Clinton super-pac for 2016, the Hillary Project, has revived an online game from 2000 that allows you to “virtually slap” her “across the face.”

It’s a measure of how entrenched this ethos has been in the GOP for two decades that not even repeated political defeat can move the party to expunge it. The run of electoral setbacks began with Bill Clinton’s first election in 1992: He won despite the Gennifer Flowers scandal, and he was further aided by backlash to the notorious “family values” Republican convention in Houston where Marilyn Quayle, the wife of the incumbent vice-president, gave a speech in which she argued that “most women do not wish to be liberated from their essential natures as women.” Her husband, Dan, had already attacked the fictional sitcom heroine Murphy Brown, a single working mom, for making an errant “lifestyle choice.”

Once more Clinton sex scandals arrived, the GOP never wavered in its belief that Troopergate, Paula Jones, Willey, Lewinsky, and all the rest would bring the Democrats down. Yet as the Journal kept noting to its shock and amazement, Bill Clinton would “bounce back from the mat” after every presumed knockout blow. He became the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be reelected to a second term and also the only incumbent 20th-century president besides Roosevelt whose party netted House seats (five of them) in a midterm election—and this in 1998, at the height of the impeachment craziness. Clinton further benefited from what the baffled Journal labeled “the Clinton poll paradox”: The hotter the sex scandals got, the higher his poll numbers soared. In a March 1998 Times–CBS News survey, the president’s approval rating reached 73 percent (and Starr’s fell to 11). Yet only a few weeks earlier, when the Lewinsky scandal first broke, the Sunday-morning seers Bill Kristol and George Will had declared the Clinton presidency dead—in Will’s historical wisdom, “deader really than Woodrow Wilson’s was after he had a stroke.” The good news for Democrats is that Kristol, Will, and Noonan—all of whom called the 2012 election wrong too—will still be on hand to declare the next Clinton campaign dead the moment a new round of “bimbo eruptions” is put on the table by Priebus, Drudge, Fox News, the Journal, or anyone else. And the rest will be history repeating itself, yet again.

It’s at this juncture I must add that political predictions are mostly worthless. Let’s not forget, for instance, that a ­Hillary­-versus-Rudy race had been the foregone conclusion in the run-up to 2008. But it’s hard to imagine at this point why, acts of God aside, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t run, or how she could lose. And should any acts of godlessness surface anywhere near the Clinton household, particularly those of the carnal variety, we may well be looking at a ­landslide.


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