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Jewish World Review March 8, 1999 /20 Adar 5759

David Corn

David Corn
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A Tale of Two Clintons

(http://www.jewishworldreview.com) IT’S ALMOST AS IF TWO PARALLEL UNIVERSES exist in Washington. As Juanita Broaddrick was on NBC accusing the President of having raped her, the Clintons were hosting a state dinner for Ghana President Jerry Rawlings, where poet/Clintonista Maya Angelou praised the presidents as "two young men who have great hope for their countries."

A sexual fiend? The holder of hope for the only superpower? That’s about as far apart as two notions can be. The gap is never going to be bridged, and it’s doubtful Broaddrick’s tale will ever be fully resolved.

Conservatives embraced her account, eagerly pronouncing her credible. In poise, she was as credible as Anita Hill, the object of conservative wrath, had been during the Clarence Thomas storm. The few who dared to side with Clinton picked at the minor-but-not-insignificant holes in her story (she didn’t remember the date of the alleged rape; she attended a Clinton fundraiser after the incident).

Over at my home base, The Nation, Eric Alterman decried the Broaddrick episode as further proof that "the right-wing slime machine" was poisoning the "American political landscape." As if the messenger were more important than the troubling allegation.

(I guess NBC News is now part of the Scaife monster.)

There was only one reasonable reaction to the interview: It sure could be true.

Broaddrick was on the surface credible; there’s nothing in her account that automatically renders it unbelievable. Yet her allegations were not undeniably confirmed. The existing corroboration shows only that she told people close to her that Clinton had sexually assaulted her, which does not establish her charge as the truth.

Yet her story is not easy to dismiss, and that makes it hard to figure out how to process this data. NOW president Patricia Ireland asked "everyone...to take her charges seriously."

(Conservatives, who like to taunt feminists for going easy on Clinton and not supporting his female accusers, didn’t take a similar stand regarding Anita Hill.)

But what does it mean to take these charges seriously? There’ll be no criminal investigation; the statute of limitations has long past; there is no cause for an independent counsel to probe the matter; there is no campaign in which Clinton can be confronted on this topic. There is no forum in which to consider Broaddrick’s charges—except, sadly, within the yapping-head circus. The possibility that a president committed a heinous criminal act two decades ago is legitimate news, and the allegations deserve a direct reply from Clinton.

(As of this writing, he’d only referred to a lawyer’s statement denying the charge.)

Not that Clinton’s word is to be accepted, but he still owes it to the public to address the matter.

However, given the absence of a Clinton-stained dress in this case, there will be no resolution, none of that cherished "closure" for which opinion leaders and politicians always yearn. The uncertainty will continue, allowing Clinton foes to brand him an evil, psychotic criminal while defenders praise him lavishly as a servant of hope.

As impeachment recedes, the debate over Clinton is only intensifying and his personal legacy is not shaping up very well: He’s a president who was impeached for lying about a sexual affair and accused of raping a woman 14 years before he was elected to the White House.

Only a rash and overly optimistic person would disregard the Broaddrick allegations and wholeheartedly champion the man.

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JWR contributor David Corn is the "Loyal Opposition" columnist at New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

03/04/99: ..and Dumber
03/01/99: Post-Mortem Ad Nauseam
02/25/99: What’s Next?


©1999, NY Press.