One point has become clear in the Harvey Weinstein scandal — none of the millions of cash he poured into the Democratic Party went to crisis management training. After several days of silence over the horrendous allegations that emerged about one of their key donors and fundraisers, Democrats finally managed a response — but hardly one that demonstrated any sense of the scope and danger it presents to their party. As Politico notes, it took five days before party leaders could even bring themselves to publicly condemn Weinstein’s actions:
“Michelle and I have been disgusted by the recent reports of Harvey Weinstein,” former President Barack Obama said in a joint statement with his wife on Tuesday evening. “Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status.”
Earlier in the day, Clinton issued a statement: “I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior.”
Other Democrats have sounded similar notes, with Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, saying Tuesday that Weinstein’s “despicable actions violate every standard of acceptable behavior.” Her Senate counterpart, Chuck Schumer of New York, earlier donated Weinstein’s campaign donations to women’s charities.
Speaking of disposing of Weinstein’s contributions, Democrats have even managed to fumble that. Aaron Blake writes at the Washington Post that he finds that exercise “tiresome,” and that Republicans have a fragile claim on the moral high ground after Donald Trump’s candidacy and allegations of sexual harassment that emerged during the campaign. However, there is a right way and a myriad of wrong ways in which to conduct this particular “tiresome” exercise, and Democrats across the board are choosing everything but Door Number One:
But both Clinton and the DNC are doing it wrong. And that’s for one main reason: This story will only get worse and drag on — and on and on.
The DNC’s response is a real head-scratcher. Two of the three groups it chose to donate to — Emily’s List and Emerge America — expressly support Democratic candidates. The third, Higher Heights, is technically nonpartisan, but since it supports African American women running for office, you can bet that the vast majority of that money will help Democrats. …
Clinton’s decision not to donate is probably more justifiable, given that the campaign is over. But she also only took $5,000 from Weinstein in her last campaign, she’s still got $1 million in the bank, and that amount of money is a pittance to the uber-wealthy Clintons. Why not just do what other Democrats are doing and unload it? Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Monday on CNN: “I think any of us who received donations should [donate them to charity] and use it to support the cause of combating sexual harassment.”
Let’s not let Barack Obama off the hook, either. He waited just as long to respond, and offered just as weak a statement as Hillary. His campaign accounts have long shut down, so returning the money is out of the question, but there are other points Obama could explain. For instance, they might want to discuss why any of their other Hollywood pals didn’t warn them about Weinstein when the Obamas allowed Malia to intern with him. Of course, she would have had Secret Service protection and most predators know to avoid targets of equal or greater power, but it seems very strange that no one would have said anything about Weinstein’s “open secret.” Shouldn’t the Obamas have expressed a little anger over that betrayal?
So all of the Democrats’ leaders from the past decade or more have fumbled their crisis response. As I write in my column for The Week, this shows just how much risk Democrats face over the meltdown in Hollywood — especially if it expands, which it almost certainly will do:
It’s a demonstration of stunning political incompetence. More than that, it’s a failure of leadership from the two top leaders in which the Democratic Party invested itself over the last generation. It appears that both Obama and Clinton hoped to skate past a moment of outrage without alienating a formerly powerful Hollywood ally, which demonstrates just how beholden the entire party has become to the entertainment industry for their cash and star power.
That is a big problem for the Democratic Party. If this scandal expands past Weinstein — and there are already suggestions it might — then the next generation of leadership may have to figure out how to compete without the baggage Hollywood carries. Given the party’s competitive collapse over the last eight years, it’s a crisis that requires more alacrity and skill than either Clinton or Obama showed over the last week.
If anyone doubts that we’ll have weeks of this drip-drip-dripping out, pay close attention to the assistant’s role in Cara Delevingne’s account of her encounter with The Harv:
Don’t be surprised when the drip starts happening with other drips, too.
Democrats have hitched their wagons to the arrogant Hollywood moguls and A-list celebrities who continually lecture Americans to adopt their values and way of life. They’ll have a hell of a time unhitching them, even if they do gain some competence for the effort, and there’s not too many other wagons left for their progressive agenda after that.