Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) now says that then-President Bill Clinton should have resigned in the wake of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. One wonders if she would have made such a demand if she was in the Senate in 1988, or if Hillary had been elected last year. Her assertion is nonetheless the most prominent example of liberal revisionism about the Clintons.
Gillibrand is also making headlines by proposing an overhaul of way the Senate handles harassment claims. She is courageously going to bat for women in the past and in the future. What about the present? Well, it’s a little complicated. Gillibrand says that she believes the groping allegations of Al Franken’s first accuser (of course, there is a photo) and she is dishing off to charity the $12,500 she accepted from Franken’s political action committee.
Gillibrand won’t say, however, whether Franken should resign. The Senate is still the nation’s most exclusive club, and there are certain bridges that may be too far to breach. Gillibrand’s posturing would be more obvious had she not been provided with cover by Club President Mitch McConnell, who reacted to the initial Franken allegation by calling for an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, where ethics complaints go to die.
The House and Senate Ethics Committees are useful to the leadership because they can argue that they are the “appropriate venue” for allegations of wrongdoing, knowing full well the result will be delay until the furor of the moment blows over. Franken understands this. That’s why he asked for an ethics investigation of himself, right behind McConnell.
McConnell won’t say whether Franken should resign, either. One might conclude that he is just being careful. After all, if a Republican faces accusations in the future he doesn’t want to be boxed in. The only problem is that a possible GOP Senator-to-be, Roy Moore in Alabama, already faces similar allegations. McConnell wants him to withdraw from the race. The Chairman of the Senate Republican Senatorial Committee, Cory Gardner (R-CO), not only wants Moore to get out, but says he should be expelled if elected. Like Gillibrand and McConnell, Gardner hasn’t said whether Franken should go.
Of course, anti-Moore hysteria gripped the Republican establishment before any of his accusers came forward. Moore’s real crime is that he bases his political views on his religious beliefs. The prospect of Moore joining the Club creates panic. The Senate leadership’s real constituency is Corporate America, which is firmly in the grip of the cultural Left, which is openly hostile to religiosity.
The allegations against Moore are certainly serious, and I have no idea whether they are true or not. But apparently Franken qualifies for what passes as due process in the Senate while Moore does not. If Republican leaders want to be consistent, which they don’t, they would stay out of the Alabama election and submit the Moore question to the Ethics Committee if he was elected.
As tawdry as it was, Bill Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky was consensual, unlike Franken’s serial groping. Perhaps Gillibrand was moved by Bill Clinton’s entire body of work, which includes an allegation of forcible rape.
At the time, Bill Clinton’s defenders, including Hillary, conflated rape and harassment with infidelity. Their response to impeachment proceedings was to help expose House Republicans who had cheated on their wives. Their biggest scalp was Robert Livingston of Louisiana, who was next in line to become Speaker.
Liberals argued that double standards were perfectly okay because Republicans caught up in sex scandals committed the greater crime of hypocrisy. At least publicly, Republicans still held infidelity to be sinful and wrong. Barney Frank carried no such burden. Sexual abuse, however, is not the same as infidelity. There is no way harassment and rape can be excused. Now liberals are boxed in.
So far, Franken is laying low, seemingly intent on stonewalling, even as more victims come forward. He is following the Bill Clinton playbook, issuing apologies that are not really apologies and obfuscating what actually occurred, all the while knowing that there will always be those, especially in he media, for whom double standards are acceptable.
The Left has politicized everything from the National Football League to how people relate to each other at work. When liberals threw decency and morality out the window, it left room for lots of objectionable behavior. The void had to be filled with something so liberals unleashed the “sexual harassment” juggernaut. It will ultimately consume the Frankens of the world if double standards can be overcome — a big “if.” That is why all the noise and earnestness by the Gillibrands may lead nowhere.
Peter Flaherty is president of the National Legal and Policy Center.
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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.