If the rape allegations against Bill Clinton are true, Hillary Clinton needs to get on them right now.
What if America’s first female president was married to a sex offender?
This is not a hypothetical question. A multitude of allegations against Clinton have appeared over the years. Among the most prominent:
– Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of exposing himself and propositioning her in a hotel room;
– Juanita Broderick, who accused Clinton of forcing himself on her in a hotel room;
– Eileen Wellstone, who accused Clinton of raping her when she was a student at Oxford; and
– At least two anonymous students who met Clinton at Yale University and the University of Arkansas, respectively, and claim he sexually assaulted them there.
This is just a short list. A longer one can be found here.
Just to be clear: It is not a proven fact that Bill Clinton is guilty of rape. What is incontrovertible is that, statistically speaking, the odds that he raped or sexually violated at least some of these women is uncomfortably high. It’s the first half of the Bill Cosby lesson: The more allegations that exist, the more likely that at least some of them are accurate.
The second half of the Bill Cosby lesson is particularly important here: As evidenced by how the best-selling biography of Bill Cosby is being pulled from shelves because its author refused to mention the sexual assault allegations, people who refuse to investigate these kinds of stories tend to pay a dear price for turning a blind eye.
In terms of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, this matters for two crucial reasons:
- Symbolism matters. This is true for every president – indeed, for every politician – but it is particularly applicable when the mere fact of a particular candidate’s election would constitute a major historic event in its own right. With only two exceptions, every American president has been a white Protestant male; consequently, any president who doesn’t fall within that specific demographic is automatically destined to be viewed as a symbol for the out-group that he or she helped bring into the halls of power. Even if one disagrees with the policies pursued by John Kennedy and Barack Obama (although, as I’ve argued in the past, they were/are both great presidents), neither openly undercut the significance of their election by being married to individuals who actively perpetrated suffering against the minority groups they represented. If Bill Clinton is a sexual criminal, he would diminish the triumph of Hillary Clinton’s election as much as Jackie Kennedy would have done if she had discriminated against Catholics or Michelle Obama would have done if she’d been a racist.
- It would validate rape culture. This is by far the most important point, which is why I’m closing the list with it. Although Americans have made strides in holding rapists accountable for their actions, rape victims are still disproportionately likely to not report what happened to them, often because they suspect their stories won’t be believed or will be dismissed as inconsequential. If America is willing to elevate a suspected rapist to the position of presidential spouse – the spouse, no less, of America’s first female president – it will send the clear message that the act of rape is not an automatic disqualifier for a position that commands respect. If we want to truly eradicate rape culture, it is imperative that we establish this line as one that can never, ever be crossed.
Fortunately, there is a simple three-step process for getting to the bottom of this ugly matter:
- Ask questions.
- Ask questions.
- Ask questions.
It’s as simple as that. When social activists did this to Bill Cosby, more and more victims felt comfortable coming forward, eventually culminating in the release of information proving Cosby’s guilt. If Clinton is innocent, his answers to these questions will satisfy all but the most incorrigibly partisan critics, and the absence of any new credible allegations against him will allow the matter to fade away on its own. If he is guilty, then we need to ask these questions before Hillary Clinton has a chance to sew up a nomination that seems to be hers for the asking, only to either lose in the general election if the media picks up on the story then (think of what would have happened if John Edwards had been nominated in 2008) or, even worse, becomes America’s first female president… only for subsequent research to forever taint the magnitude of that achievement. Hillary Clinton would need to either divorce Bill and demand justice for his victims or, by standing by his side, condone his actions.
There isn’t much time left. If we don’t do this now, it may be too late to do it at all.