To paraphrase the immortal words of Daniel Simpson “D-Day” Day, the war’s over — Donald Trump dropped the big one. At least Ruth Marcus thinks so when it comes to the Battle of the Sexes between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Marcus argues that while Trump personifies vulgarity, he has the edge over Hillary when it comes to attacks on women. Trump just makes sexist statements, Marcus argues, but Hillary’s husband Bill preys on them:
“Hillary Clinton has announced that she is letting her husband out to campaign but HE’S DEMONSTRATED A PENCHANT FOR SEXISM, so inappropriate! ” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
He followed up the next day on “Fox and Friends Weekend,” accusing Clinton of playing the “woman’s card” and declaring her husband “fair game because his presidency was really considered to be very troubled, to put it mildly, because of all the things that she’s talking to me about.” Trump, typically delighted with himself, pointed out, “I turned her exact words against her.”
And again, Monday morning. “If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women’s card on me, she’s wrong!”
Well, Bill Clinton has a penchant for something. He had a successful presidency — with an ugly blot. “Sexism” isn’t the precise word for his predatory behavior toward women or his inexcusable relationship with a 22-year-old intern. Yet in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said.
Trump has smeared women because of their looks. Clinton has preyed on them, and in a workplace setting where he was by far the superior. That is uncomfortable for Clinton supporters but it is unavoidably true.
Marcus calls this playing “the Bill card,” and it’s been a long time coming. Hillary attacked Bernie Sanders for his supposed sexism earlier in the year, which led to a lot of spluttering from Team Sanders but not much more. Sanders’ supporters tried defending themselves by telling everyone how much Bernie had done for women and so on, which amounts to a pretty week, “some of my best friends are X” sort of arguments. In fact, Trump did much the same thing earlier in the campaign after getting criticized as sexist for attacks on Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina, although neither candidate actually lost ground in the first place.
Trump has decided to fight fire with fire in this case, but this wasn’t the first opening. Jaws dropped earlier this month when Hillary stated that all rape accusers had a right to be believed and supported. That led to this exchange in New Hampshire, when a woman at a townhall event asked, “But would you say that about Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones? Should we believe them as well?” The three women had openly accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault (harassment in Jones’ case). “Well, I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence,” Clinton replied. However, the first two cases never got adjudicated, and Bill committed perjury in the Jones case — and in all three cases, Hillary publicly scoffed at their claims from the beginning. (There is also the matter of Hillary’s handling of a case with a 12-year-old rape victim, and how she painted the adolescent girl as “emotionally unstable” and had a “tendency to seek out older men” while defending the alleged rapist.)
The only reservation Marcus has in her column is whether Bill is “fair game” for the campaign. While she believes that using Bill as a campaign surrogate is a wise choice for Hillary, Marcus allows that this — plus her knee-jerk accusations of sexism on the campaign trail — does indeed make Bill fair game. But this is different than other spouses, too; Bill is the former President of the United States, and has stayed politically active ever since he left the White House. That’s much different than it would be for, say, Bernie Sanders’ wife, or Carly Fiorina’s husband. Those are non-combatants in the political arena, while Bill has been a gladiator there for almost his entire life. Plus, a large part of the argument for Team Hillary is a return to Bill’s policies, especially when it comes to economics — or at least that’s what they are telling swing-state voters. If Team Hillary runs on Bill’s record, then that makes all of his record fair game.
Whether one likes Trump or not, whether one considers him a vulgarian or not, this is a smart play. However, it might have been more effective closer to the general election. Telegraphing this punch now will reduce its effectiveness for when it might be really needed.