Over at Orcinus, David Neiwert is busily ripping apart the “Bush haters are even more kookoo than Clinton haters” idea that the righties have been echo-chambering lately. David – a former MSNBC writer/producer – argues, persuasively, that the two things are not comparable; the right-wing ownership of cable news and talk radio guarantees that “Clinton-hatred,” no matter how insane it got, was treated with far more respect – and broadcasted far more widely – than it deserved.
I do have a couple of nits to pick with David’s argument, however.
First, David’s list of Clinton-hater charges against Clinton omits the whole Monica thing. But the Monicatastrophe is a major part of the anti-Clinton canon, and really can’t be skipped.
(Digression: Conservatives – in a transparent bit of partisan special-pleading – often say that they don’t object to Clinton having sex with an intern; what they object to is his lying under oath. Personally, I think just the opposite is true. That Clinton would break his marriage vows – and break them, furthermore, with an intern half his age, in a situation in which the power dynamics were so ridiculously unequal – speaks poorly of his character. (What kind of an asshole betrays his wife with an intern? Jesus.)
On the other hand, given the context, I think Clinton’s lie under oath is pretty understandable. First, the lie came up in the context of attempted, blatantly partisan, entrapment, which rather undermines the prosecution’s moral standing to ask questions at all. (It’s hard to feel that lying to a corrupt justice system is that big a sin). Second of all, attempting to cover up a tawdry, assholish affair seems like a reasonable thing to do, given that the alternative was to cause enormous damage to the well-being of the entire Democratic party, not to mention Clinton’s wife and child. End of digression.)
Secondly, regarding Juanita Broaddrick (the woman who claims that Clinton raped her in 1977), David writes:
The charges didn’t “gradually evaporate” – they simply had nowhere to go. From her first interview, it was clear that Broaddrick’s story could not be proven or disproven, and it was years too late for a trial. That’s where Broaddrick’s story stood in 1999, and that’s where it stands now.
Nevertheless, Broaddrick’s claim is stronger than David’s account admits. NBC interviewed several people who saw Broaddrick’s facial bruises in 1977, and who remember Broaddrick telling them that Clinton (who was at the time the Attorney General of Arkansas) had raped her. And NBC’s investigation was able to verify several other aspects of Broaddrick’s story.
It is true that Broaddrick had filed an affidavit denying any sexual contact with Clinton; what David doesn’t mention is that she filed the affidavit to avoid being used as a weapon against Clinton by Paula Jones’ lawyers. Under the circumstances, I think it’s perfectly understandable that Broaddrick chose not to cooperate with Jones’ lawyers, and that hardly proves that she’s “not a reliable witness” in general. (And if having told a lie once – even in understandable circumstances – does make one permanently unreliable as a witness, then why is David so willing to take Bill Clinton’s word?)
As for Broaddrick’s “profit motive,” I have no idea what David’s referring to – and since David doesn’t provide any links or evidence to support his claim, I can’t take it seriously.
There’s a big difference between a court of law and a personal opinion.
For all legal purposes, Bill Clinton is not a rapist. He has never been found guilty of rape in a court of law – he’s never even been charged.
My personal opinion? There’s no way to know for certain. Reading Broaddrick’s NBC interview, I think she tells a credible and realistic story. I don’t know if she’s telling the truth – but in my heart, I suspect she is. Sorry, Clinton-lovers.
UPDATE: Links to the Broaddrick transcript keep on dying, so in case the above link dies, here’s an alternate link.
SECOND UPDATE: Okay, with the help of the discussion in the comments, I’ve figured out what’s bothering me about the inclusion of Broaddrick in David’s post.
You might or might not believe Broaddrick’s story – it’s a question that reasonable people can disagree on. You might even say that it’s impossible to know for certain either way, and I’d agree with you.
But Broaddricks’ story does not belong on a list – to use David’s words – of “afactual rhetorical turds.” To put it on such a list – right after a piece of genuine paranoid nonsense like the “Clinton body count” – implies that taking a woman’s accusation of rape seriously is the equivilent of believing in utter nonsense like the “Clinton body count.”
Needless to say, the two are not at all equivilent. A woman’s story of being raped is not beyond skepticism; but neither should it be dismissed as an “afactual rhetorical turd.” Everyone – and in particular, progressives and liberals – should take accusations of rape seriously. I’m not saying that David doesn’t take rape seriously. I am, however, saying that David was mistaken to lump Broaddrick’s story along with the nonsense that comprised the rest of his “rhetorical turds” list.