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Bill Clinton: Norms have really changed in terms of what you can do to somebody against their will

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You think I’m exaggerating what he actually said in the headline but I’m not. Direct quote, bro.

The inspiration for this sentiment is Al Franken, one of the most minor celebrity offenders of the #MeToo era. What Clinton has in mind when he mentions doing things to women against their will is, presumably, what Franken was accused of — a butt-squeeze here, a too-friendly “friendly” kiss there, the sort of “Mad Men” behavior that might have been seen as a bit fresh in the workplace in years past but certainly not something that’d cost you a job or a U.S. Senate seat. Norms have changed, it’s true. And if it’s alarming to hear it described in terms of being allowed to do things to women “against their will,” well, that’s the whole point from the #MeToo perspective. You really could do certain things to them against their will in the past and pay no legal or professional consequences. Franken’s toppling was a sort of ritual sacrifice aimed at drawing a new red line: Henceforth, there’s no such thing as “too minor” when it comes to touching a woman without her consent.

All well and good. Except that, coming from this guy, who stands credibly accused of rape by Juanita Broaddrick, hearing him chatter about an era in which it was fine to do certain things to women against their will makes you want to lie down on the floor in the fetal position until the shock from his obliviousness subsides. And not just Broaddrick, of course: There’s also the small matter of what he allegedly did to Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey. You’re left wondering whether he is oblivious or if this is him slyly but deliberately offering his own Weinstein-esque defense to the multitude of sex-related offenses he’s been accused of. Times were different. Just as we’re asked to judge the behavior of other great men of the past by the standards of their times, we must judge the Clenis by the archaic standards of, ah, the 1980s and 90s.

He tosses this into his answer too:

I think that — I will be honest — the Franken case, for me, was a difficult case, a hard case. There may be things I don’t know. But I — maybe I’m just an old-fashioned person, but it seemed to me that there were 29 women on “Saturday Night Live” that put out a statement for him, and that the first and most fantastic story was called, I believe, into question.

No doubt scores of women who worked for Bill Clinton over decades had nothing but professional interactions with him. So what? What does it prove? The idea that unless you’ve harassed everyone you can’t be plausibly believed to have harassed anyone was strange when Franken tried it and it’s strange when Clinton’s trying it by associating himself with the idea.

Exit question: Who thought this book tour with James Patterson was a good idea? Every time you change the channel over the past week, some reporter’s giving Clinton a furrowed brow and asking him about Monica Lewinsky and #MeToo. (Broaddrick remains an Unperson to the media.) Surely Clinton and Patterson have enough celebrity juice between them that they could have moved sales without needing to go on TV to hawk their work. Lord knows neither one needs the money. If need be, Patterson could have done the tour solo and handled a slew of requisite dopey “What was it like to work with Bill Clinton?” questions. It’s inexplicable that Clinton would submit himself to this unless he’s worried that Democrats and the media are about to turn him into an Unperson too, as he’s extremely “unhelpful” to their #MeToo politics, and is forcing himself back into the public eye to remind Americans that he’s still around and relevant. If that was the point of the tour, to try to will himself back to respectability, I think it’s already failed.

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