In ancient days, when a group of women came forward with distressing stories about harassment or assault by a powerful, predatory, priapic male they were frequently dismissed with callous, viciously mean-spirited scorn. James Carville, the Lex Luthor brain behind Bill and Hillary Clinton’s ascension from the back roads of Arkansas to the splendours of Pennsylvania Avenue, backhanded Paula Jones’s allegations against Bill Clinton with the memorable snarl “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” That was a savage line even in the 1990s.
The vice-chair of Bill Clinton’s first run for the presidency, Betsey Wright, set up a mini-war room solely dedicated to combatting the hailstorm of rumours about the “Big Dog’s” roving hands and eyes under the deliciously sensitive rubric “Bimbo eruptions.” Such was the then proto-feminist Clintons’ view of troublesome intrusions by “low class” women into their higher ambitions. Maul and dismiss.
It is a testimony to the truth of that old slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby” that noted masseuse and current king of sexist deplorables, Harvey Weinstein, could not, even he, today approach language of such contempt and cruelty towards his victims.
However worthy this scandal is in signalling the march of feminism since the advent of the Clintons into America’s national politics, it is not the reason I note the advance. Rather, it is to turn to another truism, which is that, whenever any scandal of great power and reach storms the headlines of the world, it will invariably — as sure as night follows day, or penance, contrition — have its Clinton angle.
As the number of Weinstein’s prey swelled to a full troop, it was inevitably noted that he was a long-time supporter and extravagant fundraiser for Hillary’s double run at the brass ring. Whenever it was roundup time for the Hollywood elite to pitch in for the sublime cause of putting the first women, and the champion feminist, into the White House, old Harvey exchanged the open bathrobe for the designer tuxedo. At fundraisers too numerous to tally, with Hollywood royalty and Silicon Valley’s plutocrats in attendance, he passed the hat and hymned for Hillary. How could it be otherwise? As duly noted, during the great “Pussy Hat” marches, “Harvey Weinstein mixed in with the sea of pink knit hats, showing his solidarity with women who, ostensibly, felt shamed and marginalized by predatory men in power.”
Now, of course, as Hillary herself made plainly known a bare five days after Weinstein’s repulsive predations were billboarded the world over, she had no part in this. She didn’t know. And Bill certainly couldn’t have known. After all, Hollywood is famously tight-lipped, rumour allergic and gossip-averse. And Harvey’s having a house in the Hamptons next to the Clintons was merely an accident of real estate, not a signal of familiarity and social intimacy.
But still, it is curious that whenever something scandalous and really big consumes a whole nation’s attention, it always intersects with a storyline about the Clintons.
There is no story bigger than the saga on alleged Russian influence in the American presidential campaign. For a whole year now it’s been Trump and the Russians. Did Trump collude with the Kremlin? Did Moscow deviously intervene to sink Hillary? Was Trump a “real” Manchurian candidate? A special counsel has been appointed to investigate the scandal. Congress is holding hearings. The newspapers and panel shows are saturated with the story. Hillary herself, out on the post-campaign trail — even in Canada, Britain and Australia — summons all her rage on the Russians (well, most of it, there is a fragment for James Comey and WikiLeaks).
And yet, as we should have known, in a story this large, this conspiratorial, this serpentine, there would eventually come a day when all that had been speculated would turn on itself, when all the fingers so joyously pointing at Trump would do the 180 and return to Clinton Inc.
The New York Times, The Hill, The Wall Street Journal (to name but a few that are not, to understate things, Trump boosters) have been running blockbuster revelations that link the sale of a uranium company to Russia to a donation to the Clinton Foundation; Bill Clinton accepting extravagant fees to speak to high-level Russians; the Clinton campaign helping to fund the infamous “dossier” compiled against Trump by the British spook who gathered specious info from ex-Russian KGB types.
It is all too long and far too tangled to even bullet-point in a column. It has more threads and weavings than a John le Carre novel. But the upshot is both dazzling and plain: if there is to be a mapping of Russian involvement in American politics, which includes the manipulation of its highest investigative agencies, the FBI and the CIA, the distortion of political information designed to impact the election, leaks, stonewalling and very likely conspiracy, the place to start is not Trump Tower.
I reiterate the maxim, whenever there is a American political super-scandal, always check in with the Clintons.
What Happened is not a book just published: it is a story ripe to be told.