There are people who touch a hot stove once and learn from experience. There are people who learn the lesson from others and avoid the experience altogether. And there are feminists, who already burned the skin off their fingers, and may want to try it again.
Days after the word broke that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and some other left wing politicians have joined the crowded ranks of noted male personalities who exposed themselves to or encroached upon female associates, Michelle Goldberg, one of the New York Times' stable of feminist writers, had the good sense to suggest they be purged.
But then a few days passed, she reassessed her position, and found it too harsh.
"I adore him as a public figure," she wrote of Franken. "It’s easy to condemn morally worthless men like Trump; it’s much harder to figure out what should happen to men who make valuable political and cultural contributions. ... Those who care about women’s rights shouldn’t be expected to prove it by being willing to hand power to people devoted to taking those rights away."
Her confused little argument comes down to a simple protest that putting her and her friends into this kind of bind is unfair. But at least three things are wrong with it. First, hers is exactly the same case made by the "morally worthless" President Trump in staying with the even more worthless Roy Moore.
Second, who gets to decide who’s "worthless," or whose contributions are "valuable," or what "rights" are worthwhile? Two-thirds of Americans (and of women!) believe that destroying a fetus at or near viability is a "right" no one needs.
Third, finding their heroes tend to be louts around women should be old news for the sisters, going back to Sens. Ted Kennedy, Bob Packwood, Gary Hart, and John Edwards (who fathered a child with a professional groupie while his wife was dying), not to mention Bill Clinton. And fourth, having hurt themselves badly almost twenty years ago by standing up for Clinton, some seem eager enough to repeat the experience, now having been more than forewarned.
The feminists had been on a roll twenty years earlier, riding high since 1992, when the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings led to the election of Bill (and of Hillary) Clinton. The sisters had entertained themselves holding hearings on charges of insensitivity against men in the business world and in the armed forces, but not all that much on themselves. Then came 1998, when Bill was found to have fooled with an intern and credibly accused of groping an aide in the White House, exposing himself to a state worker in Arkansas whose lawsuit was ongoing, and perhaps raped another.
All of the sudden, the feminists' passion for justice derailed. They said very little, and when they did, it was to cast doubt upon Clinton’s accusers, who had far more proof than Anita Hill had ever come up with which had been none at all.
"Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced," writes Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. "Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement…ossified into a partisan operation, and it was willing — eager — to let this friend of the movement enjoy a little droit de seigneur.’
"Organized feminism died when Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, and others vouched for Bill Clinton when he brazenly lied," wrote Maureen Dowd, correctly. It was because it was effectively dead that it was unable to use "Access Hollywood" to derail Donald Trump in last year’s election, in part because Trump was running against Bill Clinton’s wife. Has anyone heard much from the National Organization for Women lately? It was a big deal in the ‘90’s, until it rolled over.
So, do they want to beat this dead equine again?
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."