DW2To begin: a piece of political and movie miscellany that might have fallen through the cracks in your general knowledge. Did you know that the character of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise was partially inspired by Hillary Clinton who, at the time of The Empire Strikes Back’s principal photography, was First Lady of Arkansas where the film’s Dagobah swamp scenes were shot? It is, I think you’ll agree, a fascinating nugget but mainly because it is also an outright and cruel lie. I also put it to you that if you thought for a moment that this brazen falsehood was true then perhaps it’s because you wanted it to be true. Such is human nature. I wanted it to be true the moment I thought of it and, in some small way, I still hope that it is. I cannot help but feel that there is some resemblance between the master of mind tricks and the tiny green Jedi master.

Politics lends itself to wishful thinking because no other business makes us so prone to fill the gaps in our knowledge with our darkest suspicions. We, the public, feel that we have a right to know those details about our elected officials that would otherwise remain private. If they aren’t going to furnish us with the details of what they keep in their sock drawer (and they so rarely do), we are only too happy to satisfy our ignorance with conjecture, hearsay, and plain old fashioned fiction.

We do this because politicians wield power over us and exposing the reality of their lives (or embroidering the reality with some fabrication) robs them of a little of their magic. We might not want to know every detail of their private lives but, like a bad chat-up line, we do like to whisper: ‘I really want to get to know the real you’. What stops us from doing that is a political class that insists on playing a role. Politicians smile, shake every hand offered to them, and never a cross word is said. They are abstractions of their true selves and, because of that, we distrust the whole shady lot of them.

There is not, as far as I know, a psychological fitness test for potential American presidents. The men and women working in important jobs of the armed services and security details will be heavily vetted. No doubt the person pouring the White House coffee will have a yearly psych-evaluation. Yet nobody profiles the pathological narcissist sipping from the presidential china. The American people, you see, are expected to reject the rotten eggs. Which brings us to today, this week, this month and this election cycle. America’s choice is slowly narrowing to two eggs and no amount of submerging them in water or holding them up to the light will reveal if they are indeed rotten.

The New York Times recently published an article titled ‘Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private’. It was an attempt at political assassination that aimed high but ended up tapping him meekly on the shins. Trump is alleged to have once kissed a Miss Utah on the lips. Another time he asked a model to try on a swimsuit. When she emerged from changing in the bathroom, he is reported to have said ‘Wow!’ Damning stuff, apparently, but it told us little we didn’t already suspect about Trump. He enjoys the company of beautiful women but can be rude to them as well as to others. It is repeatedly said that his misogyny (alleged, of course) makes his judgements questionable and gives him ‘a problem with women’ and, obviously, the same cannot be said of Hillary…

Yet herein lies the stark hypocrisy about this election. Why are the Left so ready to believe every trivial story told about Donald Trump yet are so willing to overlook the oft-repeated allegations about Bill Clinton? Is it simply because the Right believe every bad word written about the former President that those on the Left simply refuse to examine the evidence?

There is, at the very least, a triple standard at work; a bifurcation of morality. Sexual malfeasance comes in three types, it seems to say: the lightweight misogyny of a rich heterosexual man for which Trump is castigated; the accusations of predatory and violent rapes attributed to Clinton and for which he is routinely exonerated; and the drugging and raping of women for which Bill Cosby has been condemned before he has even gone to trial. Rape is a serious issue and, perhaps, there are none more serious. Yet the American public’s capacity for forgiveness — or, at least, occasional willingness to look the other way when it suits them — is at odds with their actions elsewhere. They are willing to damn one man for minor transgressions that seem to border on a simple lack of manners and make a pariah of another man for hugely publicised allegations which, no matter how utterly appalling, are, as yet, unproven in law. It is hard to believe that in the scrutiny of a presidential election, this delusion will be allowed to continue for very much longer. If the Left continues to charge Trump with crimes against women, expect others to look again at Bill Clinton and question his place in the election. The claims are now beginning to appear on the fringes of the election. Trump raised the rape allegations in recent weeks and his campaign ads are now using extracts from a 1999 interview with Juanita Broaddrick who claimed that Clinton raped her in 1978 when he was state’s attourney.

Trump’s appeal is bound to a popular dissatisfaction with the political elite. Some element of that dissatisfaction is with cronyism, the self-interests of those in Washington, and a general realisation that the marketing of a political message is very different to the everyday reality of politics. Few politicians embody that more than Bill Clinton. The term ‘triangulation’, coined by Clinton strategist Dick Morris, means positioning yourself between the issues to broaden your appeal; how a Democrat could steal ideas from the right; a Republican take ideas from the Left. The reality, however, was that Clinton would speak for the poor but then act on behalf of the rich. For example, triangulation accounted for Clinton’s confused drug policy. As Albert W. Alschuler,  in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, explained:

Clinton once voiced concern about the mass incarceration of African American men […] Two weeks after making this statement, Clinton signed legislation restoring the 1-to-100 crack/powder ratio that the United States Sentencing Commission had sought to eliminate. […] Congress’s and the Commission’s actions produced enormous disparities between the sentences of black and white drug offenders, but Clinton declared, “I am not going to let anyone who peddles drugs get the idea that the cost of doing business is going down.”

If you wish to understand the concerns of current Democrats then this is it. Consider too the evidence presented in Christopher Hitchens’s tightly argued polemic No One Left To Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. It makes a very forceful case against the 42nd president and his first lady, especially in the matter of Clinton’s private life. Hitchens was too precise a writer to use a word like ‘rape’ lightly and, as he says, the case against Clinton has never been proven but it should, at least, raise serious concerns.

No forensic or medical or contemporary evidence exists and there were no direct witnesses, even though the number of immediate aftermath witnesses is impressive and their evidence consistent. This does not mean that the matter dissolves into the traditional moral neutrality of “he said, she said.” For one thing, “she” did not wish to say anything. For another—and here again we are in the eerie territory of the Clintonian psyche—“he” has not denied it. I repeat for emphasis; the President of the United States, plausibly accused of rape by a reputable woman whose story has been minutely scrutinized by a skeptical television network, offers no denial.

The argument is more convincing because Hitchens bakes his dish using only the low-hanging facts. He defends the Clintons against the fruiter stuff that was always a long reach made by more excitable critics. Yet that does mean that the sticky parts of the resulting pudding feel even sticker.

The Lewinski scandal remains one of the few windows looking into the Clinton world and quite the insalubrious view it granted. The only verifiable fact we really know of what happened in the White House between the President and his love-struck intern was that presidential residue was left on a blue dress. How that residue transferred from president to dress remains a matter of conjecture or involves, as Clinton’s testimony with Independent Council Ken Starr made clear, some grubby arguments about what constitutes ‘sexual relations’.

Clinton was ultimately found not guilty on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice but it was a notional victory. Clinton had been proven to lie. The only thing saving his reputation was some peculiar sympathy stemming, perhaps, from the deep partisanship that the American political system encourages and a partisanship that still guides much of the media. The website, Mother Jones, recently published a guide to ‘Every Hillary Clinton Conspiracy Theory (So Far)’. The purpose of the article was to highlight the ridiculous world of conspiracy and that it did quite well. Many conspiracies are ridiculous but especially when only the most outlandish are chosen. The article did not raise the well documented objection that the Clintons, once in the White House, were more interested in the business of garnering donations, with many rich donors spending nights at the White House. Hitchens called it the ‘franchising of the Lincoln Bedroom [which] gave way ultimately to the selling of the Oval Office itself’. This is one context for Bernie Sanders’ accusations that Hillary is in the pocket of Wall Street. Also notably absent is the name of notorious paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Court documents have revealed that, when arrested, Epstein had Bill Clinton’s private numbers and that the former president had repeatedly flown on Epstein’s plane (sometimes described as the ‘Lolita Express’). It again hints at something worse than shabby and tawdry. More shameful, perhaps because Epstein served only 13 months for a single charge of ‘soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14’. Try as once sincerely might, it becomes difficult to overlook the evidence pointing to the very evident lack of transparency in high Clintonian circles.

Outside the Right where books such as Roger Stone’s The Clintons War Against Women overstate their case, Bill Clinton has managed to endure as a political figure. His is a peculiar appeal, testament perhaps to the lack of actionable evidence, some quality of the man, or, most likely, a combination of the two. Sympathy towards Clinton has also been driven, to some degree, by the public’s lack of affection for Hillary who, as Hitchens astutely observed:

has the most unappetizing combination of qualities to be met in many days’ march: she is a tyrant and a bully when she can dare to be, and an ingratiating populist when that will serve. […] [She] can in a close contest keep up with her husband for mendacity. Like him, she is not just a liar but a lie; a phoney construct of shreds and patches and hysterical, self-pitying, demagogic improvisations.

Judgements, opinions, perceptions and the muddled rest are all very different, of course, to facts. If we accept, at the very least, the DNA evidence condemning President Clinton, then we begin with some basis of reality. It’s where we go from there that is the problem. Both Left and Right clamour for salacious material but where do we draw the line? ‘The trouble,’ said David Corn in 1996,’ is that too often it prompts a critical reader to ask, Is this stuff for real? Are they that corrupt?’

We are still no closer to be able to answer that question which is really the unspoken issue of this election. Only Richard Nixon, in recent political history, evokes as many doubts as Bill Clinton and, as Clinton looks to have a clear sight of becoming the nation’s First Husband, it is testament to the partisan nature of the contest and how misinformation muddies the water so thoroughly that truths about the two men become indistinguishable from lies.

 

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13 Comments on "Sex, lies & Bill and other dirty words"

  1. David, almost everyone running anything of any size will be to some degree psychopathic, the higher you go the more psychopathic they become, they are not like ordinary people and that is why they can never show their real selves to a public that can’t understand that level of emotional detachment and ruthlessness. The great trick that Donald Trump has pulled off is actually going larger than life and making people believe he is somehow a maverick who is different to the same old politicians, in reality if elected he will settle into the same pattern as every other president, after all he became rich in the current system. I have changed my mind about his prospects against Clinton, I do think he can win now. He is utterly remorseless in his attacks and as I have said before if you shout something loud enough for long enough it eventually becomes the truth (see the EU referendum campaign). Just as Ted Cruz became “Lying” Ted, Hilary Clinton is about to become “Crooked” Hilary. I think Clinton is looking old and tired already and the campaign hasn’t even started for her. On Epstein, he was mates with Prince Andrew as well wasn’t he?, small world at the top.

    • Thanks Rob. Appreciate your reply. I’ve been arguing all along that Trump will win (or, at least, wouldn’t be surprised if he wins) and that’s partly because he’s a master of using those tags. I also think he’s inherently a better politician than Clinton. He has a charm which is undeniable, just a lack of clear policies that hint at what kind of president he would make. Personally, I’m of the belief that he’ll eventually resort to type and become the New York democrat that he’s always been. He’ll disappoint many on the right who vote for him and surprise many on the left who demonize him.

  2. Stacey McGill | 29th May 2016 at 7:28 am | Reply

    David,
    Thank you for this, but I find it interesting that you are still unable to criticize Hillary Clinton directly. Any vague misgivings you express are based on what her spouse did or didn’t do. Even in an article that is ostensibly about Bill Clinton, you manage to get a dig in about Donald Trump. Perhaps you are suffering from a Freudian writers’ block that prevents you from mentioning Hillary’s Benghazi screw-up or her (mis)use of a private email server for official State Department business. In the one section in which you came close to a direct criticism, you simply quoted another writer.
    Perhaps the whole point of the article is Bill Clinton’s women problems: then why did you start it with a paragraph about a “brazen falsehood” directed at Hillary? In the past you have claimed that as a satire writer, the truth is not a sine qua non of your pieces: perhaps that is only true when you (extensively) castigate those on the right of the political spectrum…

  3. “this election. Why are the Left so ready to believe every trivial story told about Donald Trump yet are so willing to overlook the oft-repeated allegations about Bill Clinton?”
    What Stacey said. The election at the moment is between Trump and H Clinton, with a side dish of Bernie. The way the polls are moving it’s seems likely to me that H Clinton will be dumped before the Convention – probably on health grounds. However Bernie is unlikely be the candidate, because it’s difficult to see how he can beat Trump.
    Trump so far has not used his big guns – Clinton Foundation, Benghazi, email server, sex stuff – to any great extent, maybe because he’s waiting to see how the FBI play their hand(s), and there is no point in coming down hard while Bernie is still in the race. If nothing else Trump is a great tactician, which he conceals with his moronic bluster and apparently simplistic interviews and speeches: leave the Democrats to tear lumps out of each other as long as possible, and then go for the survivor when known.
    I’ve been watching a lot of Roger Stone on Infowars recently (not my usual viewing!), and a lot of Hillary on Youtube. I know which one I’m inclined to believe!

    • Bob, no sensible debate about the Clintons can include mention of Alex Jones’s ‘Inforwars’ which, amongst other things, promotes a belief in the New World Order and thinks the government is contaminating the earth (hence, their trying to sell vitamins)! Jones was the guy who Jon Ronson meets in his book Them as they (Ronson, does, as I recall) attempt to infiltrate the secret rituals of the Bilderberg group.

      That’s partly the problem with so much criticism of Hillary. It demands too much of a leap of the imagination. Roger Stone’s book, ‘The Clinton’s War on Women’, is like that. I’ve read it and it’s entertaining on every page. Yet it also blurs too many rumours with too many real questions (therefore making it easy for the left to dismiss all the questions). A cloud still hangs over Bill and the rape allegations and I think rightly so. But Stone takes that as his basis to make really outrageous allegations that haven’t been proven, including the Bush family’s connections to the CIA running drugs into Mena, Arkansas. Those allegations have been circling for a while (plenty of background on Youtube) and it might sound convincing but there is a reason it’s not addressed by the mainstream media.

      I’ve written elsewhere why I think Trump will win and become president. I do however think his right wing demagoguery has been an act — a marketing stunt to endear himself to the Republican base. He is probably closer to the New York Democrat he’s always been. His challenge now is to restrain himself and endear himself with a more moderate demographic. I expect him to allude to many of these bigger issues (email and Benghazi, obviously) but not to the point where he himself begins to look disreputable. He is already winning and Hillary is struggling. He doesn’t need to do anything too radical between now and the election.

  4. “A cloud still hangs over Bill and the rape allegations and I think rightly so.”

    But, David, do you think the same cloud hangs over Hillary, to the extent that some of Bill’s victims say it was Hillary who caused more damage to their lives in the long run?

    • Of course I do. I think Hillary has far more questions to answer than Trump. The point is: we should distinguish between what we want to be true and the things that might be true. Roger Stone, for example, makes it too easy for the Clintons. He takes every slight hint of scandal and embroiders it into his huge narrative. The Clintons attract such hatred from the Right that it makes it easy for those on the Left to simply brush it aside because it comes from the Right. There’s so much hypocrisy about the way they condemn Trump but give Bill a pass. I suspect that all the talk about Hillary’s connections to Wall Street are a kind of psychological proxy that the Left use to attack the Clintons because, in some strange way, they feel less comfortable condemning Bill for his other activities. Furthermore, Benghazi and even the email server case are less significant than, say, the activities of the Clinton Foundation and Bill’s record in government. Hasn’t Hillary said that if she wins then Bill gets a job? I just think that if Richard Nixon were about to become ‘First Husband’, a few people might be raising questions about it and those questions would go beyond the usual partisan politics.

    • PS. I should add, I’d like to see more discussion about Bill’s last days in office and the pardons he granted. People’s memories seem very short. Clinton left office with many questions left unanswered. Perhaps now is a good time to ask them.

      • “Alex Jones’s ‘Infowars’ which, amongst other things, promotes a belief in the New World Order and thinks the government is contaminating the earth”

        Well, David, does that mean you believe that the governments and transnational institutions are NOT conspiring against their peoples, are NOT colluding with the large corporations, especially banks, to destroy the value of money and rob the masses of their wealth and freedom of thought, are NOT socially engineering in order to destroy traditional values which have held societies together for hundreds of years, and are NOT systematically wrecking the environment of our little blue orb? An interesting point of view, but I have to say it doesn’t agree with observable behaviours. It may not quite be a New World Order with men in pointy hats running the show, but it’s a damn good try.
        I read the frighteningly prophetic 1984 not many years after it was written, and I’m pretty sure Orwell intended it as a warning, not a handbook. So far, not so good!

        • Hmm… Good question but I’m afraid if you put it as starkly as that, I’d have to say that I don’t believe. Alex Jones is part of the circuit of conspiracy nuts who think the Moon landings were faked (and yes, if asked, I’d say that they were real). That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with capitalism and the free market. The market knows no morality, as I keep finding myself writing, which means that we are increasingly victim to the will of multinational corporations. It’s partly why I don’t believe in Brexit which I think would make us even more vulnerable to them. But I don’t believe it organised or deliberate. I’ve already read ‘1984’ (and most of Orwell’s work) and he is really more interested in the psychology of people rather than the psychology of a state. Of course, the psychology of a state can reflect the psychology of people or, rather, the individuals shape the state. Had he been alive today, I think he’d be more interested in advertising, marketing, the media, and celebrity than politics. That’s where the psychology of the masses are most evident. That’s really at the heart of ‘1984’s message; how people are shaped by language and how language shapes thought. Going back to Infowars, I think it’s part of a worrying trend we’re seeing of misinformation become mainstream. It’s hard to establish facts with so many bogus ‘facts’ out there. Alex Jones actually serves the interests of the very people he claims to be fighting because he simply makes it harder to talk about what they’re really doing.

          • Bob Doney | 30th May 2016 at 3:09 pm |

            Thanks for your interesting (and prompt) response, David. I must agree that Alex Jones and his crew are at the bonkers end of the spectrum, but a lot of the issues are well raised. Yes, I too believe Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon!
            I think a lot of the problems with “capitalism” and the “free market” come from not following Adam Smith’s warnings about the behaviour of business, and the need for over-arching regulation and just laws. For example: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” This could be a descripton of Berlaymont!
            One of my main reasons for wishing to leave the EU is because I believe it is constituted to favour multi-nationals against true entrepreneurship and free enterprise. I cannot see what incentive the EU state has to encourage free enterprise and curb corporatism. An independent Britain just might, eventually. I accept there are risks.
            “…Orwell’s work) and he is really more interested in the psychology of people rather than the psychology of a state…”
            I utterly disagree with you here, and specifically with regard to 1984. To me the subject of 1984, and much of his other work, is totalitarianism – the battle between the state and the individual. And the state wins. (Spoiler alert) Smith comes to love Big Brother. Yes, people are shaped by language, and language can be manipulated to prevent sound argument against the interests of the state. Likewise history is corrupted and altered to suit the interests of the state.
            Orwell was political to his fingertips: he didn’t fight for the Spanish republicans because he was interested in psychology, but because he wanted to resist totalitarianism! Even his interest in literature (eg his essay on Dickens) was related to politics, saying that Dickens’ strength was his understanding of people, but his weakness was not believing that things could change. Personally I think he was harsh on Dickens, because of his tireless work in such things as educational reform, but I guess that is another story.
            Anyhow, I accept your friendly rebuke, and perhaps I should watch less nuttery, and focus more on the Youtubery I’ve recently come across of the brothers Hitchens. I didn’t know much about CH, but I’m a great admirer of Mr P H, apart from the God stuff, and share his view of the EU, although not his decision to abstain in the Referendum.
            I still think the bankers are a conspiratorial lot though, and that what is hidden is much greater than what is know …..

          • Thanks Bob for the interesting comeback. You should be warned never to get me droning on about Orwell which I’m only too happy to do! ;o)

            Of course Orwell was (and his work remains) political but I would say, as he describes it himself in his essay, ‘Why I write’, political in the ‘widest possible sense’. He rarely gets involved in the minutia of political arguments and for all his talk about Socialism, he also identified himself as something of an ‘anarchic Tory’ (a phrase he took from Swift). I think he was actually more interested in the politics of politics (what we might these days call metapolitics); how systems emerge and interact with human beings. He specifically deals with politic when those politics subject the individual to the power of the state. When he talks about Dickens, for example, he notes that Dickens was a ‘moral’ writer and not specifically political (Dickens did not provide solutions to the problems he criticised). That instinct, I think, he shares with Orwell who I don’t see as being interested in politics as an end in itself. Orwell was interested in the Gordon Comstocks of the world: independent spirits broken by the mechanistic and unfeeling age. His essay, ‘The Hanging’, is really the locus classicus of his entire body of work as he plays his small part at the state executes a man. One of the most telling articles (and honest) is the one called ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’ where he describes his education at public school and, at one point, his bed wetting and how the violent methods of the school affected him but, at the same time, stopped his bed wetting. The two examples are political, of course, but really more about the psychology of conditioning and how the individual succumbs to the will of the state.

            So, yes, his novels are about totalitarianism (he said himself that everything serious he wrote since 1936 was ‘against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism’ ) but that does not mean that’s his real subject. If Orwell were really about totalitarianism (Stalinism, Nazism, fascism) then he’d lose much of his significance. That’s why I phrased it the way I did. His interests are more universal and, I think, psychological; more like a grim fascination with the psychosis of nations. It’s why, for example, Room 101 is so powerful. Not because it’s an instrument of the state (none of us will really be subjected to rats etc.) but because it is a means of getting into our heads. I don’t mean that he should be read as a writer who was interested in psychology per se. I mean, rather, he is very aware of how we perceive ourselves, our freedom, our thoughts and thoughts which govern our actions. Orwell would, for example, be interested in how referendum questions are written or how certain colours might influence us. He’d be interested in the power of influence and how masses of people are encouraged to do very bad things thinking they’re doing good (how, for example, the Left wish to censor Trump). He’d be interested in all the habits of mind that we share and he’d taken great delight in unpicking them and revealing our corrupted motives.

            He would, I think, be very interested in the nature of conspiracy in the very same way that he wrote in ‘Boys’ Weeklies’ that ‘all fiction from the novels in the mushroom libraries downwards is censored in the interests of the ruling class’. Totalitarian is just a big example of something that is happening all the time and Orwell was one of the few writers who tried to be truly independent and detached from all that. Yes, he is all about totalitarianism but he is a great writer because he transcends that. No writer has ever got quite so close to recognising how malleable the human spirit is and how easy it is to break.

            Regarding the bothers Hitchens: I’m a Christopher man all the way. Peter sells newspapers, writes the occasional good thing, but can be gloriously wrong more often than he was right, especially where his opinions are coloured by his religious belief which, of course, his brother most definitely did not share. If you’re interested in Orwell, you should check out Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Why Orwell Matters’.

  5. “…. you should check out Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Why Orwell Matters’.”

    Lots to think about there, David. As you suggest I’ll check out CH’s piece.

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