BY FROMA HARROP
Whenever charges of sexual misconduct shoot through the air, an arrow or three hit Bill Clinton. That’s inevitable, given his history of philandering capped by the notorious Oval Office tryst with Monica Lewinsky.
What was not inevitable, but surprising, is the crush of liberals swallowing whole a fishy story that Clinton raped a woman.
In a New York Times column titled “I Believe Juanita,” Michelle Goldberg writes, “We should look clearly at the credible evidence that Juanita Broaddrick told the truth when she accused Clinton of raping her.”
She goes on to cite no credible evidence. Nor does she point to a source that does.
In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan asserts that Broaddrick “very credibly accused” Clinton of a sex crime. Did she? All Flanagan offers is a retelling of Broaddrick’s version of events. That is not enough.
The demand that any woman’s claim of rape be automatically believed can have tragic consequences. How many black men have been lynched on false charges of raping white women?
Make no mistake. Any charge of rape must be seriously investigated. Prosecuting sex crimes does pose a special set of difficulties. It doesn’t follow, however, that the woman’s statement is beyond scrutiny.
We cannot know for sure whether Clinton physically attacked Broaddrick. We do know that independent counsel Ken Starr included her claims in his microscopic investigation of Clinton’s sexual transgressions. His report deemed the findings on the Broaddrick case to be “inconclusive.”
Why would that be? Here are some reasons:
Broaddrick had submitted an affidavit calling her story of sexual assault “untrue.” She later recanted. Appearing on “Dateline” in 1999, Broaddrick couldn’t remember the month of the alleged violent assault.
In The Hunting of the President, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons describe the concerns over Broaddrick’s witnesses. Two were sisters enraged that Clinton had commuted the death sentence of their father’s convicted killer. A third was the man with whom Broaddrick was having an affair at the time, a man she later married.
Another woman insisted she had seen her friend’s swollen lip and torn pantyhose the day of the alleged crime. But Broaddrick’s then-husband said he had not noticed an injury. Nor did he recall her telling him about the incident as she said she had.
More surprising than the casual acceptance of a questionable rape charge against Clinton are liberals using the occasion to declare that Clinton should have resigned from the presidency over the Lewinsky affair. Can’t they tell the difference between rape and marital infidelity?
If Democrats want to do a “reckoning” over Clinton’s sexual conduct, they do have material to work with. Few doubt that Clinton behaved at times in a piggish manner. And his conduct with Lewinsky was inappropriate and vulgar.
But Lewinsky has said over and over again that their sexual encounter was totally consensual. The gap in age and power may have been large, but Lewinsky was a college graduate in her 20s.
Again, this is adultery, not rape. By the way, why do so many members of the Clinton hanging party choose to believe Juanita but not Monica?
It’s a total rewriting of history to say that Democrats gave Clinton a pass back then. They were furious. But they saw Starr’s investigation as a politically inspired perjury trap to undo the successful Clinton presidency.
Look, if we are entering a new era in which powerful men pay a price for harassing women or abusing their dignity, that’s great progress. But this pileup on Clinton over a dubious accusation of rape is unseemly. Many of Clinton’s tormenters are getting intellectually sloppy, and that could boomerang on what’s otherwise a good cause.
– Froma Harrop’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer