Kathleen Sebelius participated this week in the new trend that recasts former President Bill Clinton as a sexual predator, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to do the same for Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who stands accused of sexually harassing two women.
Poor, Bill. He can’t catch a break these days, even from fellow Democratic Leadership Council alums.
The former secretary of Health and Human Services said in an interview this week that the Democratic Party and its allies botched their handling of the many, many allegations of sexual misconduct that were brought against Clinton when he was president.
"Not only did people look the other way, but they went after the women who came forward and accused him," Sebelius said in an interview with former Obama adviser David Axelrod. "And so it doubled down on not only bad behavior but abusive behavior. And then people attacked the victims."
“And you can watch that same pattern repeat, and it needs to end. It needs to be over,” she added.
Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the rise of the “MeToo” movement, it has become popular in left-leaning circles to bemoan 20-years-too-late that Bill Clinton wasn’t held to higher ethical standards when he was president. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd jumped on this trend last week. Vox.com’s Matt Yglesias did, too. Even Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., whose political career was built on the backs of the Clintons, has gotten in on the action.
However, Sebelius distinguished herself this week from these bandwagoners by taking it a step further, arguing that Hillary Clinton is also to blame for the misdeeds of the 1990s.
Axelrod asked, “Was that fair criticism of Hillary, that she participated in that effort [to attack the victims]?”
“Absolutely,” Sebelius responded immediately. “I think it’s very fair, and the same criticism would be made today.”
Bold, but hold your applause. Though Sebelius had strong words for the Clintons, whose political usefulness has all but evaporated, she couldn’t bring herself to do the same for Franken, who is a progressive fundraising cash cow.
"Franken has done something different than some of the other males involved," she said. "He first of all admitted behavior and apologized, but immediately asked for an ethics investigation on himself."
Other alleged harassers, she said, "have followed a very different path and it's a path that looks a lot more like what Bill Clinton did."
Sebelius added, “I think that Franken is likely to do some real soul-searching in the meantime.”
Yes, Franken is very brave for requesting an ethics investigation from the same governing body that has a secretive slush fund for hushing up sexual harassment lawsuits.
Also, contra Sebelius’ claim, the Minnesota senator has not apologized for all of his alleged acts of sexual abuse. He has apologized for one thing (posing for a photo in which he pantomimed groping a reporter’s breast) because there’s photographic evidence of wrongdoing. He has casually dismissed the other two allegations, which include forcibly kissing a woman and grabbing another woman's buttocks, with the classic “I don’t recall” defense.
Interestingly enough, while we’re on the subject of the Clintons and their preferred strategies for avoiding consequences for unethical and immoral behavior, “I don’t recall” was a regular favorite in the 1990s.
But Sebelius said these patterns need “to end,” and “it needs to be over," or something.