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Jewish World Review
Sept. 11, 2008
/ 11 Elul 5768
When presidents attack
During the Republican Convention I kept expecting Bill Clinton to take over the headlines any minute by announcing he was checking into a hospital for some medical procedure as he did the last time. During the Democratic Convention, I kept worrying that someone would make Bill Clinton angry and get hurt. But with both conventions safely behind us now and the Obamas and Clintons at least officially friends, one can reflect on the 2008 campaign season and see what lessons we can take away from it. If one recalls the Clinton-Obama war and Bill Clinton meltdowns, one comes to a startling realization: There are no laws in place governing what is and isn't permissible for a citizen's self-defense when the attacker is a president or ex-president.
It was in the final chapter of the primary season soon after Hillary suggested that someone could assassinate Obama and thereby seal the nomination for her that Bill Clinton's last great tantrum occurred, in which he called Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum, "'sleazy' and a 'scumbag' who dished dirt to Ken Starr on the Whitewater controversy years back," as Canada's National Post reported. But this vintage Clinton verbal assault included another increasingly noted pattern of a Clinton meltdown: physical intimidation: "Somewhere in that discourse in which Bill refused to release the [Huffington Post] reporter's hand is buried a sharp attack on Obama as complicit in the recent attack on [Hillary] by a visiting preacher at his former Chicago church."
The refusal to release the reporter's hand is an example of the by now familiar physical component of a Clinton rebuttal. We of course also have the classic finger-wagging in the face, but this year witnessed a new one: When an Obama supporter at a Clinton rally in Ohio in February told Bill that he and Hillary were dividing the Democratic Party, the Secret Service had to physically remove Clinton's elbow from the man's cheekbone, where it had wedged itself:
As shown on a videotape broadcast on MSNBC Monday morning, Clinton repeatedly wagged his finger in [Robert] Holeman's face. At one point…Clinton hit him in the face with his elbow while he was reaching into the crowd…"In fact," said Holeman, "the Secret Service actually took his elbow out of my face is what happened. While he was shaking hands his elbow started to go up and down in my face, that's when the Secret Serviceman realized, 'Wait a minute. I need to move him away from him like that.' So, the Secret Service was all around me. They never moved me. They literally had to move the president…I thought it was just him [reaching] for somebody else, but when the man actually took his elbow out of my face, I kind of figured it was his gesture to say, just sort of move on, get out of my way, or whatever."
Indeed, the Secret Service doesn't follow the Clintons around in order to protect them from us, but to protect us from them. (And them from each other, of course, as when Hillary clocked Bill in the face and threw a lamp at him in December 1998 such that he commanded his security detail to "keep that bitch away from me," and wore cover-up the rest of the week.)
The country previously got a taste of Clinton's violent temper on national TV in 2006 when Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace ventured to ask him the first tough question of his presidency, six years after it ended. Wallace asked Clinton whether he could have done more to get Osama bin Laden. Clinton's reply including repeatedly jabbing Wallace's lap with his index finger. What if Chris Wallace poked him back? Would Secret Service have had to shoot him? Can Bill Clinton really poke at you all day long and there's nothing you can do about it? If Bill Clinton is jamming his elbow into your eye socket, what is legally allowable in defending yourself, if anything? I've been pondering such questions since I first heard the name Juanita Broaddrick. Indeed, if a president or ex-president is raping you, are you allowed to fight him off?
Watching Bill Clinton in action this year, suddenly names like Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and 1982 Miss America Elizabeth Ward Gracen (whose 1983 experience with Clinton was eerily similar to Broaddrick's) took on a less obscure and distant note probably even to the enlightened women who couldn't believe there were women who wouldn't welcome sex with Bill Clinton.
Although Clinton wasn't yet president when he allegedly raped Broaddrick and possibly Gracen (who smartly insists the violent tryst was consensual), a national protocol needs to be established to this effect. For women especially, there should be a self-defense manual specific to presidential violence, so that they know what they are and aren't allowed to do to defend themselves from an attack by a president.
Imagine if Juanita Broaddrick or Miss America had been armed when Bill Clinton was still only acting as Arkansas attorney general, and then governor, while raping them, and therefore had no Secret Service following him around. They could have avoided being raped, and spared the White House the same fate.
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JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a widely published op-ed writer and comedian who blogs at www.JuliaGorin.com She's the author of the just-published "Clintonisms: The Amusing, Confusing, and Even Suspect Musing, of Billary". Comment by clicking here.
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