HILL OF BEANS: Blue Juanita

What was it in the air that made 1991 such an annus mirabilis for man-hating? It wasn't just the Anita Hill brigades, or the "discovery" of political correctness, in the form of Feminist Physics classes and the invention of "date rape."It was also that half the movies that year were about some long-wronged young lady who, 100 minutes into the film, worked up the gumption to lay her hands on a big, military-issue firearm and blast her richly deserving husband or boss or boyfriend all over some parking lot or living room. There was Thelma & Louise, Sleeping with the Enemy... But the worst of these by far was Alan Rudolph's Mortal Thoughts, which had Bruce Willis as the most pathologically violent husband in history. After two hours of drug-and-alcohol-induced flogging of his wife (Glenne Headly) and raping her various friends, not to mention a worldview that made the SS look like the SPCA by comparison, he meets that staple of feminist movie lore, the Tough Cookie (Demi Moore). When Demi and Glenne leave Bruce splattered all over the back of a flatbed pickup (as I seem to remember), they decide not to call the police. Why not? Because as one of them says, "Who would believe us?" To which one wanted to yell at the screen: Everyone! Everyone would believe you.That's why Juanita Broaddrick's explanation to NBC of why she didn't raise her Clinton rape allegation earlier rings a little false to me. She didn't think people would believe her? About the First Goat? You kidding me?So I'm half-inclined to agree with Congressman Chaka Fattah, who said: "For the people, they have two choices: they can believe this young lady, or not believe her." But Chaka is wrong when he says, "For the country, we really only have one choice, which is to move on." How suspiciously similar this sounds to the reaction of Dick Gephardt, who averred: "The American people are ready to move on." One would almost think they were working from talking points. Could that be? Are the Democrats trying to spin a rape?I sure hope not. Because Broaddrick's timing is the only thing that makes one doubt her story. Do you feel any more at ease after presidential lawyer #1 Bob Bennett bragged that the Clintons had obtained a "signed affidavit" from Broaddrick? Over the past five years, a signed affidavit in which a woman claims she did not have sex with the President has generally been proof that she did have sex with the President. Does the denial of presidential lawyer #2 David Kendall reassure you? As Kendall says: "Any allegation that the President assaulted Mrs. Broaddrick more than 20 years ago is absolutely false."Anyone who followed the President's testimony in the Lewinsky case will want to ask: "Did he assault her less than 20 years ago?" "Does 'rape' fit under your definition of 'assault'?" "Does the fact that she was then called 'Mrs. Hickey' rather than 'Mrs. Broaddrick' affect the truth or falsity of your statement?"How about presidential hack #1 Lanny Davis' explanation? "There is no reason," he says, "that any fair-minded person should pay attention to this." Davis is just bullying here, because that's not the way "fair-minded" people work. Fair-minded people pay attention to everything, and weigh the evidence. Saying, "I don't want to know," is the mark of someone who's not fair-minded. And what a staple of Clintonite argumentation this is: to demand "fairness" from people, and then use it against them.But presidential hack #2, Peter Fenn, takes the cake: "We're into sweeps weeks here." Oh, yes! "If it gets good tv ratings, it must be false." Didn't Pascal say that?Then one of the last decent people in the White House, Clinton's close adviser Paul Begala, whose ostentatious moral anguish in the face of the Lewinsky scandal led people to wonder why he didn't resign, resigned. Quietly, and with the explanation that he was going to Georgetown, to do what he "really love[s], do a little teaching, do a little writing." One suspects, though, that what Begala really "really loves" is not to have to defend his boss on rape charges.The timidity of NBC -- which taped its interview in January but didn't run it until now -- once looked like it would work purely in the President's favor. Now it appears to be a double-edged sword. This reflects something bizarre about big American institutions in general -- they'll run any story, as long as it doesn't affect anything. The Wall Street Journal in 1960 sent a team of reporters to West Virginia, where they obtained proof that the Kennedy campaign had used bribe money and vote-rigging to steal the primaries from Hubert Humphrey. But the Journal decided not to run with the series because they "didn't want to affect the election." (But it was the Kennedy corruption that affected the election!) Susan Webber Wright's unwillingness to file contempt charges against the President because she didn't want to interfere in the independent counsel's investigation is another example. (But it was the President's contempt that led to the investigation!) It's like deciding not to throw a penalty flag just because a touchdown has been scored.Something similar happened with NBC. The network was absolutely not gonna run its segment in January, and it needed some pretext to spare itself from the accusation that it was merely favoring the President by holding off. So what did it do? It did more "reporting," interviewing 80 further witnesses and associates of Broaddrick. Andrew Lack of NBC News tried to play Joe Responsible: "When you have a story that was 21 years ago, that involves lots of information and facts and involves serious charges," Lack said, "you need to do a lot of checking, and that's what we were doing."That's too clever by half. Because once you take that approach, you cut yourself off from the excuse that you're only airing Broaddrick's account as a "curiosity." Now to air it becomes a declaration that you stand behind it. Particularly when Lisa Myers says of the White House, "It's very interesting. They deny only the assault," notes the difficulty she had in getting exculpatory information about the President's schedule and concludes, "Over the course of a month, we didn't find a single thing that blew a hole in her story."The upshot? NBC -- not just Juanita Broaddrick -- is accusing the President of rape. What do we do? This is like so many things in the Clinton scandals, where what he gets caught on is not the worst thing he did. I'm beginning to share the Parliament-envy expressed most forcefully by Andrew Sullivan and James Bowman. The Lewinsky affair may not be a high crime/misdemeanor. But there's got to be some outlet for our National Shame.


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