The Gospel According to Paul
FEB. 1, 2014
WASHINGTON — SO how do you make Monica haunt Hillary’s dreams?
That’s what Republicans have been gnawing on, and that’s what not-so-bland Rand Paul was cagey enough to figure out.
Fresh from taunting rival Chris Christie as “the king of bacon,” and declaring their feud “water under the bridge,” Paul turned his slingshot at a bigger target, the Big Dog himself, the gallivanting global statesman who is more popular than he has ever been, the master politician who has had to sell President Obama to America only a few years after he so vituperatively tried to turn off America on the whippersnapper and usurper.
With the passage of time and a cascade of fawning magazine covers, Bill Clinton’s image has evolved, leaving the repellent sexual scandals a pentimento in a new, more magnetic portrait.
The 51-year-old Kentucky ophthalmologist-turned-senator has only been in Congress for three years. But Paul took dead aim at the former president, arguing that Bill’s legacy is brutified by Monica, when Bill wants his legacy to be ratified by Hillary.
Unruffled by the kerfuffle, Paul reiterated to me that he disdains the Democratic “hypocrisy within the party that wants to blame Republicans for somehow not liking women, that somehow we’re this party that has some kind of war going on, and they have as a leader and one of the most prominent fund-raising people in their party still to this very day, a person who seems in some ways to have his own private war on women.”
Paul aimed an asteroid at Planet Hillary on “Meet the Press” last Sunday.
David Gregory asked Paul about the comment of his wife, Kelley, in a Jason Horowitz profile of the senator in Vogue, that Bill Clinton should not be First Spouse, given his “predatory” behavior with Monica Lewinsky.
Paul backed up his wife, telling Gregory that there “is no excuse” for preying on a young intern and that it should affect history’s view of the ex-president. While he said it was “not Hillary’s fault,” he added that with the Clintons, “sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other.”
On Fox News, after the State of the Union, Paul injected the word “violence” into the political bloodstream, noting that the Democratic “standard-bearer seems to be a guy that was committing the workplace kind of violence that we should all be opposed to.”
Senator Claire McCaskill told Andrea Mitchell that she found Paul’s comments “infuriating,” and that he was just “grasping,” trying to show he could be tough in a bid to win the presidential nomination.
But back when McCaskill, now on Team Clinton, was trying to crush Team Clinton and get Barack Obama elected, she said this about Bill: “He’s been a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
Paul brought that up with me, suggesting that if McCaskill were being honest and not partisan, she would still be worried about having her daughter around Bill and that maybe there’s a double standard for the famous.
“In my small town, we would disassociate, we would in some ways socially shun somebody that had an inappropriate affair with someone’s daughter or with a babysitter or something like that,” he said, adding: “There’s no reason why we should give up on having some sort of belief in social standards” and on what’s “appropriate, inappropriate, right, wrong.”
Asked about McCaskill’s assertion that he doesn’t “get” that women want birth control, Paul replied “I’ve never met a Republican who was against birth control or who thought that somehow we would try to prevent women from having birth control.”
Democrats, who were more upset that Hillary Clinton admitted she hadn’t driven a car since 1996 and seemed way out of touch, brushed off Paul with a Clintonian dismissal: That’s old. The chorus was unanimous: Bill Clinton is a Lothario? Really? The Republicans will never regain the White House if they’re going to fight the wars of the ’90s.
Every time Republicans overreached and thought they had killed Clinton Inc., he bounced back and they took a whack. As Bill told Ken Gormley, the author of “The Death of American Virtue,” “I felt they were Wile E. Coyote in the pack, and I was the Road Runner.”
Even the conservative Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal took Paul to task, noting that while the former president’s choice to accept Monica’s advances was “an outrage and a national embarrassment,” it was not “a boss preying on an innocent.”
Privately, veterans of Hillaryworld admired Paul’s savvy appeal to the base. As one noted dryly, “When you’re playing with the hard-core base, there’s no statute of limitations on crazy fooling around with an intern in the Oval Office.”
I agree that Paul’s aim was true. He distracted from the Republicans’ abysmal war on women by pointing at an abysmal moment in feminist history, when feminists betrayed their principles to defend a president who had behaved in a regressive way with women because he had progressive policies on women.
Instead of owning up, Bill Clinton forced his humiliated wife, a feminist icon, and women in his cabinet — Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala — into the dreadful position of defending him when he was lying about his conduct.
Seven years after the feminists tried to bring down a Supreme Court nominee for sexual harassment — but really for his conservative stances — they went into contortions to defend Clinton. Gloria Steinem wrote a Times Op-Ed titled “Why Feminists Support Clinton” that somehow boiled down to “yes means yes.”
Paul told me that he thinks that Hillary is “as much a victim as anybody” in the Monica affair. It is true that Hillary was a victim — a sympathetic role that won her support and a glamorous Vogue cover and laid the foundation for her Senate run. Hillary’s popularity rises whenever she is brushed back by men, whether it’s her own husband or Rick Lazio in the Senate debate or Barack Obama in his “You’re likable enough, Hillary” debate faux pas.
Asked if he could be helping Hillary by shaming her, Paul chuckled and said, “This isn’t something we considered to be a strategy or something.”
It certainly helps him, showing he can take on the Clintons and giving him culture war cred to balance out his libertarian positions.
It is not so simple to cast Hillary as a victim; she was also part of the damage-control team to vouch for her husband and undermine his mistress. White House aides and other Democrats spread the word that Monica was a troubled young woman with stalker tendencies. Sidney Blumenthal, a senior White House adviser, later testified that Hillary told him that “she was distressed that the president was being attacked, in her view, for political motives, for his ministry of a troubled person.”
Monica had to be sacrificed for the greater good of the Clintons and feminist ambitions. Hillary was furious at Bill — stories were leaked that he was sleeping on the couch — but she also had to protect her political investment. If he collapsed, she was done. And she was going up — to the Senate and eventually the Oval Office.