Political partisans on both sides have demonstrated recently that they believe accusations of sexual misconduct, but only when it's politically expedient and doesn't hurt their own interests.
Worse, selective support for victims creates the perception that accusations of sexual misconduct are nothing more than political weapons. This enables harassers to prey on women.
The partisan cynicism is breathtaking, obvious, and opportunistic.
On the Right, we are being asked to ignore or disbelieve the many credible accusations of sexual assault and harassment leveled against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and President Trump. Yet the people who dismiss those allegations says it's important, as an overriding principle, to trust women who've accused former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., of sexual misconduct.
Cynicism on the Left is similar, but slightly different. Democratic lawmakers and their allies are keen to go after Trump and other Republicans over accusations of sexual harassment, but there’s a hitch. The Left has spent two decades defending and downplaying Clinton’s many sexual predations and trashing his accusers. The solution to this conundrum, which requires reconciling years of protecting a man who is probably a rapist with a desire to leverage the "Me Too" movement against Republicans, has simply been to disown the Clintons. That is an easy move now, because they are out of power with no realistic chance of regaining it.
This is a cynicism uglier than Sean Hannity's ham-fisted partisan loyalty, than commentator Howard Fineman saying Trump was getting his "freak on" when he invited Clinton's accusers to a presidential debate, and also dismissing similar allegations against Franken.
Throwing the Clintons overboard costs nothing and should be seen as a straining effort by the Left to seem ideologically consistent and morally superior.
Hillary Clinton’s spectacular failure in the 2016 presidential election has left her family’s political influence in shambles. They’ve shuttered the Clinton Global Initiative, and donations to the Clinton Family Foundation have dried up to a trickle. The Democratic National Committee is talking about a total overhaul, and the Bernie Sanders wing of the party is ascendant.
The Clinton star has faded, its usefulness spent. It's safe to attack the clan. It's expedient now, too. The Democratic Party can become yet more left-wing and finally leave the Clintons' many scandals behind. And it can do this while pretending it's on the moral high ground with the Me Too movement, which seeks to raise awareness about systemic sexism and harassment.
So, just 12 months after praising and defending the Clintons, Democratic lawmakers, politicos, and pundits say Bill Clinton should’ve resigned over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, who was a 22-year-old intern at the time.
This calculated cynicism has the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd moaning that “Hillary was a party to demonizing women as liars, bimbos, trailer trash or troubled souls when it seemed clear they were truthful about her philandering husband. She often justified this by thinking of the women as instruments of the right-wing conspiracy.”
Never mind that Dowd is the same person who published a satirical piece in 1998 mocking Lewinsky as a trailer trash bimbo.
This cynicism is not so very different from that of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who last week said Clinton ought to have resigned over the Lewinsky scandal. Gillibrand wrote as recently as last year: “I was lucky enough to receive guidance and mentorship from Hillary during that run, and was truly honored that President Bill Clinton campaigned for me in my first run for Congress in 2006.”
Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias wrote an op-ed under the headline, “Bill Clinton Should Have Resigned.” This is the same Yglesias who wrote in 2007 that, “in a weird way, it was the very trumped-up and trivial nature of the charges against Clinton that made impeachment plausible.”
Journalist Nina Burleigh, who once joked that she’d be “happy to give [Bill Clinton oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal,” wrote this month that the election of Donald Trump has brought attention to the centuries-long indifference “or even tacit (and sometimes open) sanctioning” of sexual harassment, abuse or assault” in major industries.
Burleigh is the same woman who dismissed the allegations against Clinton, except to remark that they excited her; his wandering eye and leering made her feel “incandescent,” and that it was “riveting” to be given the once-over by him.
New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg writes, more than two decades after the fact, one of Clinton's most high-profile victims, Juanita Broaddrick, who claims he raped her, deserves to be believed. And Goldberg writes that Franken should resign over allegations that he sexually harassed a woman during a USO tour in 2006.
But Goldberg is quintessentially cynical in political calculations. “There’s a strong argument against Franken’s resignation," she writes, adding that it is "one not entirely motivated by partisanship, since a Democratic governor would appoint his successor. I would mourn Franken’s departure from the Senate, but I think he should go, and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat. The message to men in power about sexual degradation has to be clear: We will replace you.”
There’s another clear message in that column, which is, rather, that you will be replaced as long as it’s not politically inconvenient for Democrats.
Much of the Me Too movement has been driven by the mantra to "believe women." If certain partisans get their way, that mantra will be amended eventually to say, “Believe women, but only if it helps our side.”