Yesterday Buzzfeed published a lengthy interview with Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who says Bill Clinton raped her back in 1978. That piece prompted some soul searching at Wonkette in a piece titled “Let’s talk about Juanita Broaddrick.” The author of the piece says she tends to believe Broaddrick is telling the truth about Bill Clinton:
I can absolutely see Bill Clinton doing this (then, not now) and not even thinking of it as rape, but thinking of it as dominant, alpha sex. I can see a LOT of men doing that during that time period, before we started telling them in the ’80s, “hey, that is rape, do not do that.” I can see YOUR NICE GRANDPA doing that, back then.
And that point about “YOUR NICE GRANDPA” is really the larger point the author is straining to reach. Just because Clinton was a rapist back then doesn’t make him evil:
In the Buzzfeed piece, Broaddrick’s precocious 13-year-old grandson…says to force sex on a woman means you are an “evil” person. I don’t think this is true. I think you can do something horrible, realize later that it is horrible, be ashamed forever and try to keep it secret and never do it again.
Notice that we’re using the words of a 13-year-old to shift the goal posts here. Yes, Bill is probably a rapist but that doesn’t mean he’s truly evil. Okay, fine. I’ll settle for guilty of a truly heinous crime against a woman. But the author isn’t done yet:
“Rape is about power, not sex.” For those for whom it’s about power, those are the serial rapist guys, and they hate women and want to punish us. But I don’t think that’s in every case. I think good men can rape, and be sorry, and not do it again.
Question: How do we know Bill is sorry? Well, according to this post we can assume he is because he didn’t do it again. I mean, he maybe was out of line with Paula Jones and he did that thing where he grabbed that other woman in the White House…The point is he’s sorry! And good. Good and sorry. But we’re still not done with his rehabilitation:
To sum up, I think Bill Clinton could very well have raped Juanita Broaddrick; that it doesn’t make him an evil man, or irredeemable (I’m Catholic; we’re all forgiven, if we’re sorry, and Broaddrick says Bill Clinton personally called her up to apologize). It doesn’t even necessarily make him a bad feminist — you know, later, once he stops doing that.
Once he stopped doing that. By which she means forcibly raping an acquaintance in a hotel room.
So Bill Clinton was bad for maybe a few minutes many years ago. But sometime shortly after he told his victim to put some ice on her lip, he was sorry. And in being sorry he showed what a good guy he is. Case closed.
The idea that Bill Clinton deserves a pass because he’s sorry is laughable for a couple of reasons. First, as suggested above, what evidence is there that he is sorry? The only evidence suggested in this piece is that he (maybe) didn’t do it again. So basically Wonkette is saying this was a learning experience for Bill. He didn’t really know rape was wrong until he tried it, but since then he has limited himself to milder forms of sexual assault and taking advantage of his position of power over young interns. What a guy!
The second reason this is laughable: Even if Bill is full of decades of (unexpressed) sorrow, why does he get a complete pass for his bad behavior? Granted the statute of limitations to prosecute him has expired but he could still pay a price for his behavior. For instance, people could decide they don’t want a rapist in the White House (again). They could decide that his history of rape and sexual assault deserves a mention whenever he starts talking about…well, about anything. Big companies could decide they don’t want to pay an alleged rapist $250,000 for an hour-long speech. Society could impose a judgment on Bill even if it’s too late for the law to do so.
Wonkette deserves some credit for admitting that it looks very bad for Bill Clinton but they lose most of that immediately by arguing that, despite what he did, he’s a really good guy. That’s not good enough. It’s easy for Bill to be a good guy so long as he doesn’t have to pay any price whatsoever for being a bad guy. If Clinton did what Broaddrick claims (and to be clear, I believe Juanita) he ought to express some remorse and, if nothing else, pay a social price for having committed a heinous crime back in 1978.