Since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, more than one liberal writer has now sought in some way to justify the Left's skepticism of the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault by casting blame on conservatives who pursued dirt on the president.
"I [b]elieve Juanita," wrote Michelle Goldberg in an op-ed for the New York Times this week, referring to Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of rape. But "[w]hat to do with that belief?" she asked.
"Contemplating this history is excruciating in part because of the way it has been weaponized against Hillary Clinton," Goldberg asserted. (Despite professing to believe Broaddrick, she dismisses Broaddrick's claims that Hillary Clinton was personally complicit in an alleged cover-up.) "One of the sick ironies of the 2016 campaign was that it was Hillary who had to pay the political price for Bill’s misdeeds, as they were trotted out to deflect attention from Trump’s well-documented transgressions."
"And now they’re being trotted out again," she lamented. "It’s fair to conclude that because of Broaddrick’s allegations, Bill Clinton no longer has a place in decent society. But we should remember that it’s not simply partisan tribalism that led liberals to doubt her. Discerning what might be true in a blizzard of lies isn’t easy, and the people who spread those lies don’t get to claim the moral high ground. We should err on the side of believing women, but sometimes, that belief will be used against us."
During the Clinton years, Goldberg says, "epistemological warfare emerged as a key part of the Republican political arsenal." Thus "it would have been absurd to take accusations of assault and harassment made against Clinton at face value."
In other words, the devil made them do it. It's the Republicans' fault — not their own fault, and not even the fault of typical partisan tribalism -- that Democrats applied a completely different and, frankly, anti-victim standard to Bill Clinton's accusers.
It would be a lot more productive for liberals who genuinely care about fighting the mistreatment of women to admit that their own political biases unfairly colored their readings of the Clinton accusations, and then move forward from there. But as long as Bill remains alive and well remembered (because there is no sense in which he was ever excluded from "decent society" by anyone), this will remain a serious problem for the feminist movement, and one with which they should reckon in good faith.