Paula Jones, Reconsidered

The New York Times reviews A&E’s “The Clinton Affair” sympathetically. Of course, the Times being the Times, the perspective is often myopic.

“The Clinton Affair,” A&E’s six-part mini-series on the scandals of Bill Clinton’s presidency, lacks a point of view. It is straightforward in style and evenhanded in tone. Strangely, this recommends it.

Strangely. But this observation is astute:

Lewinsky has always been cast as the central female character of Bill Clinton’s scandals, and while that has been hell for her, it has been rather convenient for him. Over two decades, it was easy to forget that the reporting on Clinton’s consensual affair with an intern arose out of an even more damning context: [Paula] Jones’s harassment suit.

That is right. And the Times recognizes that Lewinski was not the key Clinton accuser:

The same cannot be said for Jones, Willey and Broaddrick. In the ’90s, they were dismissed as “bimbos” deployed in service of what Hillary Clinton called the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and with few exceptions, their stories have remained relegated to the margins of respectable conversation.

Why is that? Here, the Times is unhelpful:

In the ’90s, these women’s stories cut directly to the biases of the mainstream media: that sexual harassment and assault were tabloid tales and that publishing anything that seemed to sway a political process was ill advised.

Oh, please. If a Republican president had been accused of rape and sexual harassment, there would have been little else in the “mainstream media.” It is true that Clinton’s accusers ran afoul of “the biases of the mainstream media,” but those biases have nothing to do with unwillingness to “sway a political process.”

The Times is especially taken with Paula Jones:

Paula Jones, in particular, rises. In 1994, she said that Bill Clinton had summoned her to a hotel room and exposed himself when he was the governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee. … Later she filed suit against him for sexual harassment.

The Times doesn’t mention that Clinton settled Jones’s case for $850,000. In the 1990s, that was real money. He also paid a hefty fine for lying under oath in his deposition.

Clinton’s advisers trashed her on television. Carville said this: “If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” George Stephanopoulos compared Jones to Tonya Harding: just another woman seeking cash for telling a tabloid tale. The assessment lingered: In 2016, Vox published an “explainer” dismissing her charges as “probably bunk,” relaying, in part, that her description of Bill Clinton’s penis did not align with those of some anonymous sources.

Vox: “news” for the hopelessly uninformed. Many probably assume that these days, Democratic Party operatives couldn’t get away with the trailer park crack, or the other smears that were directed against Jones, Willey and Broaddrick. But no one who sees how conservative women are treated by Democrats on Twitter would make that assumption.

The Times says that Clinton’s sexual exploitation (they don’t mention the Lolita Express) is being re-evaluated in light of the 21st Century #MeToo phenomenon. But rape has been a serious crime from time immemorial, formerly punished by hanging. Rape was, I think, taken more seriously in the 1990s than it is now. Sexual harassment was illegal then, too. Clinton skated because he was a Democrat, not because of any supposedly benighted attitudes of the times.

The Times concludes with a nice tribute to Paula Jones:

Paula Jones spoke out against the most powerful man in the world, and when his lawyers argued that a sitting president couldn’t be subject to a civil suit, she took them all the way to the Supreme Court and won. In another world, she would be hailed as a feminist icon. But not in this world — not yet.

Not in this world, not ever. Not as long as the Democratic Party controls the press.

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