I noted – or thought I noted – that Hillary Clinton’s attack on Trump’s “sexist attitudes” petered out when he responded by bringing up Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. How Bill Clinton got away with his blatant sexism and treatment of women in awe of his position still perplexes me. It was a period when a display of “sexual power” by Bill Clinton in the US seemed to be admired by the electorate just as much as Silvio Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga excesses were admired by the electorate in Italy.
I am not sure though that what Bill Clinton got away with as a minor transgressions, can be transformed and utilised by Hillary Clinton as being something positive and to her benefit. In fact, that she was quite as forgiving of his peccadilloes as she was does not reflect that well on her today. It suggests that she also shared his attitudes of the time. It will not be long before his strategic blunders in Somalia and his downright cowardice in Rwanda are compared to her apparent incompetence in Benghazi, Libya.
But today as Bill Cosby finally faces a criminal charge, it occurred to me that there is a commonality of the attitudes exhibited by Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby. They both felt their positions entitled them to certain “perquisites”. No doubt it was, to some extent, an attitude of the times they reigned in, but that does not excuse them. There were very many others of their time, who also reigned as kings of all they surveyed, but who did not succumb to the de facto power they had. They both effectively believed in a form of Droit du Seigneur. Bill Cosby reigned as king of the TV world and all aspiring young women, who felt he could be of some advantage to their careers, were seen by him as “fair game”and part of his right of office. Bill Clinton was king of the White House, and all female groupies, interns and the like caught up in his train, were also seen as “fair game”, and part of his perquisites of office. Neither could (or can) see that they did anything wrong. Hillary Clinton also accepted – perhaps reluctantly and only by default – Bill Clinton’s Droit de Seigneur at that time. Her relatively weak “feminist” credentials are not enhanced by her acceptance of Bill Clinton’s transgressions.
It does not mean that Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton were not likeable. They still are. So was Rolf Harris. But they represent a time that has gone and attitudes that are not defensible – even for their times. They could have chosen – as others chose – not to indulge in the excesses available to them.
I am not sure that Hillary Clinton can get any advantage – except among the already converted – by relying too much on Bill Clinton’s support.