You may recall that Hillary’s initial reaction to the New York Times’s publication of the Burns Strider sexual harassment story left a lot to be desired. If you want the full treatment on her tweets, read Allahpundit’s piece. Very briefly, Clinton said she was glad the woman’s story had been heard even though a) it wasn’t heard for a decade because of an NDA and b) Hillary heard the story and still protected her harasser (Burns Strider) while the woman in question was moved to another job.
Last night, when everyone was focused on the SOTU, Hillary offered another explanation. This one appeared on Facebook and is just over 1,500 words long. It sounds as if Hillary has realized this story is hurting her brand:
The most important work of my life has been to support and empower women. I’ve tried to do so here at home, around the world, and in the organizations I’ve run. I started in my twenties, and four decades later I’m nowhere near being done. I’m proud that it’s the work I’m most associated with, and it remains what I’m most dedicated to.
So I very much understand the question I’m being asked as to why I let an employee on my 2008 campaign keep his job despite his inappropriate workplace behavior.
The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.
Clinton then goes on to explain why she felt the steps she took at the time were sufficient:
I didn’t think firing him was the best solution to the problem. He needed to be punished, change his behavior, and understand why his actions were wrong. The young woman needed to be able to thrive and feel safe. I thought both could happen without him losing his job. I believed the punishment was severe and the message to him unambiguous.
Given that he was fired from his next job (for harassing two other women), the message obviously didn’t sink in. And here, Hillary says she wonders what might have happened if she had taken the other road:
That reoccurrence troubles me greatly, and it alone makes clear that the lesson I hoped he had learned while working for me went unheeded. Would he have done better – been better – if I had fired him? Would he have gotten that next job? There is no way I can go back 10 years and know the answers. But you can bet I’m asking myself these questions right now.
I don’t think this is much of a mystery. Burns Strider would not have gotten that job with Correct the Record if Hillary had fired him. But something else is happening here that seems odd. Hillary opened by saying if she could do this over she would fire Strider. But a few paragraphs later, that certainty about the course she should have taken seems to have evaporated. Now she just has unanswered questions about whether firing him back them would have made a difference. A few paragraphs later she returns to the question of what she should have done. It seems as if she’s about to repeat that she should have fired Strider, but at the last moment she veers into criticism of the New York Times instead [emphasis added]:
At the time, I believed the punishment I imposed was severe and fit the offense. Indeed, while we are revisiting whether my decision from a decade ago was harsh enough, many employers would be well served to take actions at least as severe when confronted with problems now – including the very media outlet that broke this story. They recently opted to suspend and reinstate one of their journalists who exhibited similarly inappropriate behavior, rather than terminate him. A decade from now, that decision may not look as tough as it feels today. The norms around sexual harassment will likely have continued to change as swiftly and significantly in the years to come as they have over the years until now.
Hillary is referring to the NY Times decision to suspend Glenn Thrush. But again, she’s already admitted her decision at the time wasn’t good enough. So why is she now trying to turn this on the NY Times? Why can’t she just say, ‘Indeed, my decision was not harsh enough, but…” and then criticize the Times. She’s backsliding away from her own admission. You get the impression what she really wants to do is defend herself rather than apologize. When it comes to asking for a second chance, the discussion becomes very generalized.
No woman should have to endure harassment or assault – at work, at school, or anywhere. And men are now on notice that they will truly be held accountable for their actions. Especially now, we all need to be thinking about the complexities of sexual harassment, and be willing to challenge ourselves to reassess and question our own views.
In other words, everyone’s now on their second chance, both the offenders and the decision-makers. Let’s do our best to make the most of it.
I think Hillary is supposed to be one of the (many) “decision-makers” who got it wrong. This is her way of asking for a second chance without making it too personal.
Why does all this sound so familiar? Possibly because her first explanation for her private email server was, “Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.” This long Facebook response really boils down to a variation on this theme: Looking back, it would have been better if I’d fired Burns Strider but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.