The problem with the Clintons’ whataboutism circa 2018 is that, unlike the 2016 presidential election, this isn’t a Clinton vs. Trump contest. Both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump can be too amoral for public office, and there’s more than enough bottled-up anger in various women’s movements to target both a problematic old fave and an imminent threat to democracy. Trump’s colossal shortcomings as a leader and repulsiveness as a human being were enough to spare Bill two years ago. In 2018, it’s become clear that a go-along-to-get-along mentality will never keep sexual abusers out of top positions in government. With Trump in the White House and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, feminists have far less to lose.
Now that probable 2020 presidential contender Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has said Bill Clinton should have resigned after his affair with Lewinsky, it’s looking like the mainstream Democratic Party—to say nothing of its burgeoning left wing—may finally be getting around to exiling Bill from its inner sanctum. And yet, any attempt to parse Hillary Clinton’s role in Bill’s evasion of punishment for his offenses inevitably devolves into a vortex of contradictions and co-existing truths. Hillary exhibited atrocious moral, political, and intellectual judgment by staying with Bill after every revelation of his alleged and admitted sexual misconduct.
But also: It would have been unthinkable for the wife of a governor or president to leave her husband while he was in office, and then go on to build a public-facing career in a man’s world. But also: By standing by Bill, Hillary did a grave disservice to Lewinsky, Broaddrick, Paula Jones, and by association, all women hoping for allies as they fought to keep sexual harassers and rapists out of the workplace.