To dispense with the obvious, Donald Trump’s recently aired commentary about his extra-marital escapades are ill befitting of any serious public figure, much less a prospective President of the United States. But at a time when the moral temperatures of most of the media have tipped boiling point, clear-thinking about Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has been in short supply. Indeed, with the most powerful elected office in the world hanging in the balance, the question we really ought to be asking is whether words Trump actions.
In any political contest, the history of each candidate should rightly be the subject of hardheaded scrutiny. Character matters, and Trump’s record of vulgarity towards women lays bare disturbing insights into both his values and judgement.
But if a secretly recorded tape from eleven years ago and a litany of uncouth remarks since is enough to render The Donald unfit for high office, then Hillary Clinton’s lifetime of moral misdeeds must surely come close.
From a slew of affairs during his time as Arkansas’ Attorney General to pioneering new uses for cigars while scuttling about the Oval Office in his underpants, Bill Clinton’s record as a philandering lothario is well documented. The popular narrative of Hillary’s role is that in spite of these affairs, she’s displayed remarkable strength of character by standing by her husband in the face of worldwide humiliation. But less remarked on is Hillary’s habit of privately threatening and publicly shaming her husband’s conquests.
In 1992, Hillary denounced Gennifer Flowers, a woman who claimed to have had an affair with Bill as ‘some failed cabaret singer who doesn’t even have much of a resume to fall back on’ and ‘trailer trash’ on national television. Years later she labelled Monica Lewinsky a ‘narcissistic loony toon’ and told senior White House staff that ‘we have to destroy her story.’ Former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos says Hillary called these incidents ‘bimbo eruptions’ and that her standard approach involved discrediting jilted lovers through slander and intimidation. While Bill would later admit to both affairs, no apology from Hillary was forthcoming.
Another woman, Juanita Broaddrick, has maintained for years after Bill raped her Hillary threatened her to keep her quiet. A few years later a former civil servant Paula Jones made a similar allegation and settled with the Clintons out of court for the princely sum of $850,000. Of course, these allegations haven’t been proven in a court of law. Yet as the late Christopher Hitchens observed, the former President’s refusals to deny allegations of rape by three women alongside his notorious womanising paints a disconcerting picture to say the very least.
Hillary also lied repeatedly about her leading role in fabricating a financial management scandal in the White House travel office justify firing its longstanding staff and replacing them with Clinton allies. Years after staff were cleared of wrongdoing and reinstated; memos surfaced revealing that Hillary had been the one who ordered White House staffers to concoct the faux scandal to repay favours from a hard-fought election campaign.
Although the list could go much longer, another standout is a tape of Hillary laughing about an alleged rapist she had defended in court who she believed to be guilty walking free despite passing a lie detector test.
A common refrain among some of Hillary’s less vocal supporters is that while Clinton isn’t perfect, the prospect of a Trump Presidency is so unthinkably ghastly that their only option is to become a paid up member of the #ImWithHer fan club. This is an attractive proposition for political bottom feeders who are long on rhetoric and short on principle. But let’s get real. If gloating about women allowing you to treat their bodies like an amusement park should disqualify you from running for President, then sullying your husband’s former lovers in the national media for no reason other than your own political convenience can’t be too far behind.
The hypocrisy is most blatant among the sisterhood of celebrities like Katy Perry, Meryl Streep, Amy Schumer and our very own Julia Gillard who have been vocally enamoured with the idea of Clinton becoming America’s first woman President. But what matters more? Getting a leader of the free world with not one, but two X chromosomes or saving that moniker for someone who doesn’t have a history of deception and throwing other women under the bus whenever expediency permits?
Funnily enough, the most likely explanation behind the chronic underreporting of the trove of skeletons in the Clinton family closet has a lot to do with why a growing portion of the American public holds her in such visceral disdain. Hillary is the embodiment of the political elite that Americans increasingly hold responsible for the despondency and decline that looms across whole swathes of the country. Despite baggage that would have rendered the candidacy of virtually any other politician unthinkable, Hillary was gifted every advantage in her ascendance to the Democratic nomination.
The fact that most broadcasters barely mentioned the coterie of Clinton victims prominently seated in the audience of last Sunday’s debate audience testifies to this ingrained culture of doublethink. Does anyone seriously think a gaggle of Trump’s former prey poised front and centre at the debate would have made anything less than front-page news?
For the left-of-centre media types and the smorgasbord of lobbyists, government contractors and special interests who have a personal stake in the status quo, Hillary Clinton represents a familiar blend of token activism on assorted social injustices and big government largesse. It may look a little more worn this time round, but a Clinton White House Marque II means business as usual.
When Hillary claims that in American life, ‘the deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top’ she is right. Patronage and privilege of the scale that has elevated her to arms reach of the Oval Office is scarcely found outside the heavily reinforced citadels of America’s political elite.
Following seven and a half years of dithering and indecision from Barack Obama, the ideal nominee for both the Republicans and Democrats would have articulated a vision for America that breathed new hope into an American psyche beset by a serious crisis of faith. Instead, they have offered up a choice between a disaster and a catastrophe.
If there’s one slender reed of hope that remains in the Presidential race, it’s that a wholesale rejection of both candidates will prompt a top-down rethink for 2020. Perhaps then the American public, media and its political parties will muster the appetite to entertain a serious contest about competing visions of leadership and government. Touted future contenders like Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Speaker Paul Ryan give hope that such a contest may not be entirely out of sight. But until then, let’s ditch the farce that Hillary Clinton is the last vestige of respectability holding American politics together at the seams. Anything else is just spitting in the wind.