Three minutes: Watch Kirsten Gillibrand go from demanding zero tolerance for sexual misconduct to stammering about Bill Clinton

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll reel in amazement that this cynical clown is a top-tier candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020. The clip below picks up with Gillibrand mid-answer, responding after Joy Behar asked her why she called on Al Franken to resign from the Senate over the unproven accusations against him. Because, replies a forceful Gillibrand, as a mother of young boys I don’t want them to approach their interactions with women with the mindset that some misbehavior is okay so long as it’s “minor.” Franken was entitled to a hearing if he wanted one, she adds, but he wasn’t entitled to my silence. Here she is, a young woman senator, advocating passionately for a zero-tolerance approach to male misconduct, even when it involves a friend and colleague. Principle before partisanship. Progressives must set an example, especially when Republicans are looking the other way at the accusations against Trump. The crowd is on her side within seconds.

Then Meghan McCain starts asking questions and Gillibrand runs headfirst into a brick wall. If it’s all about zero tolerance, asks McCain, what do you think about our feminist-in-chief, Hillary Clinton, giving Burns Strider a slap on the wrist when he harassed a woman colleague while working for her 2008 campaign? If it’s all about zero tolerance, why did you campaign with noted miscreant Bill Clinton and not say a word for years about the vastly more serious allegations against him? Gillibrand’s dumbstruck. McCain is hitting a raw nerve by pressing her on this, as Gillibrand angered ClintonWorld a few months ago when she claimed, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, that Bill should have resigned the presidency over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The Clintons and their cronies are powerful enemies for an aspiring Democratic presidential candidate to have. If Gillibrand slams Hillary for the Strider incident or Bill for the 800 or so instances of misconduct he’s been accused of, she’ll intensify the feud. But if she doesn’t slam them, she’ll reveal her “angry mom” shtick of three minutes earlier for the feminist pander that it is.

She’s caught and she knows it. On the Strider incident, she offers lamely that it’s hard to second-guess Hillary’s decision without knowing all of the facts. But Strider himself has admitted to wrongdoing; Clinton’s own campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, has said she’s disappointed in how Clinton handled it. This is an easy opportunity for Gillibrand to show how principled she is about zero tolerance — but she whiffs, because she cares more about being president than about this topic and knows that another jab at Hillary might make that harder. As for Bill, all she can do is stammer something about how “this moment of time we’re in is very different.” And that’s true — culturally, America as a whole is more skeptical of office dalliances between a powerful older man and a less powerful woman subordinate than it used to be. But McCain didn’t ask her about America as a whole. She asked why Gillibrand herself had no issue with Bill Clinton until very, very recently. They posed for a picture together at the 2016 Democratic convention, in fact, almost certainly at Gillibrand’s invitation since making nice with the incoming Clinton administration would have been a smart play for a Democratic senator. When Gillibrand says “this moment of time we’re in is very different,” she needs you to believe that it’s somehow very different from 2016, not 1998.

And in a way, it is very different. In 2018, she has to pretend to care about what Bill Clinton did to Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey while also somehow staying off the Clintons’ enemies list. In 2016, she didn’t need to worry about that. She’s a clown.

One more thing. After McCain is done destroying her in the span of three questions, “Republican” Ana Navarro cuts in to drag Gillibrand off the hot seat and toss her a softball about — what else? — Trump saying something mean. Three clowns on the panel, plus McCain. What an embarrassment.