Yesterday I wrote:
One day in the very near future a Republican who has taken the precaution of never having any sexual contact with anyone ever will nevertheless find that's no obstacle to being America's most notorious serial rapist.
I didn't realize the "very near future" would be that evening. Arriving for my appearance with Tucker Carlson, I watched, on the preceding show, Brett Kavanaugh tell Martha MacCallum that he hadn't had sexual intercourse "or anything close to it" in high school or in college. So, just to be precise, Martha made him confirm that he'd been a virgin in high school, and at Yale, and for all I know on the DC Court of Appeals.
And he's still the sex beast that raped America.
A couple of hours later Jimmy Kimmel told late-night viewers that he wouldn't object to Kavanaugh being confirmed for the Supreme Court as long as his penis was cut off in public. One assumes, charitably, that this is a joke, although, upon examination, it doesn't actually have the form of a joke, does it? One might almost think it was designed simply to get a cheer from those who actually would like to chop his penis off.
Also today Bill Cosby was sentenced to three-to-ten years in prison. I note again the difference in treatment extended to his fellow Bill, credibly accused rapist William Jefferson Clinton. No matter who else gets ensnared, #MeToo never extends to him too.
So on Thursday the Senate will hear evidence of what allegedly happened in an upstairs room at an unknown house somewhere near Columbia Country Club, Maryland sometime in the early Eighties. Presumably Judge Kavanaugh will be cross-examined on how close "anything close to it" actually got. This is the pitiful state to which the United States Senate has reduced its "advise and consent" role.
It was different nineteen years ago, when I had the misfortune, briefly, to be living in Washington, DC - just for a few weeks while covering the Clinton impeachment trial. I stayed at the Mayflower Hotel, which my editors kicked up a fuss about until Monica checked in a few doors down the corridor from me and I was the only guy on the inside. Anyway, I wanted to check my recollections of that period, so I looked up the moldering pile of clippings from London's Daily Telegraph, Canada's National Post and the other papers that carried my daily trial diary. Just to set the scene: obviously, nailing Clinton is a lot trickier than Clinton nailing you. The general flavor of the times is caught in this January 22nd 1999 column:
No wonder the Senators have stopped taking notes. For, in this case, words make no sense. Consulting my own notes, I find Clinton attorney Greg Craig's defiant evisceration of the perjury charge: The President "did not deny he had misled his aides"; he said, in fact, he had misled his aides.
So the President wasn't lying about telling the truth; he was telling the truth about lying. If, instead of telling the truth about not telling the truth, he'd lied about lying, then he wouldn't have been telling the truth.
But, just as he'd got that cleared up, Greg complicated things: "He never said that he told them only true things." So the President hadn't lied when he said he'd told the truth because, although he lied, he hadn't exclusively lied, so therefore he was telling the truth about telling the truth, although he'd also have been telling the truth if he'd said he'd lied, and, although he'd have been lying if he said he hadn't lied, he'd have been lying if he said he hadn't told the truth.
The House impeachment managers (including current senator Lindsey Graham) did their best to struggle through all this. But what's startling two decades on is the Democrats' more or less open contempt for the women - the "survivors" (as Senator Blumenthal calls Christine Ford). In 1999, it began with all but one of the Senate Dems moving to end the trial without testimony from Clinton's victims. No, no, no: To hear from these women, to admit them to the precinct of the Senate, would insult the dignity of the world's greatest deliberative body, and we can't have that, can we? From my February 1st trial diary:
Those various Clinton lady friends who testified anonymously in the Paula Jones depositions will not be permitted in the well of the chamber. It'll be a cold day in hell before you hear "Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, meet Jane Doe Number 5" on the Senate floor.
Even Monica could not be admitted:
In public, the Democrats' position is that Monica won't reveal anything new; in private, they worry that, even if she reads out the phone book, just her squealy, girly, giggly girl voice will make the president's conduct way too vivid for public consumption. Of course, his offence pale beside Monica's: Were she to testify, she would threaten the dignity and gravity of this august body.
A week into the trial, Dem senators could barely conceal their boredom. January 23rd.
"We're all sick of this," sneered Minority Whip Harry Reid. "This was jammed down our throats by the House"- a peculiarly vivid image.
So instead Democrats demanded and got strict limitations on the trial. January 30th:
We've always understood that the Framers of the US Constitution created very precise mechanisms that automatically come into play. Instead, they're making it up as they go along: you can have three witnesses, no African-American women, no sex questions, video only, and just for three hours. What clause did that come from? That's not the Framers; that's a frame-up.
By February 1st senators had further shrunk the parameters:
For House impeachment managers, the next three days are a last chance to come up with something new ...but they have to find the "something new" among all the old stuff, as the Senate has forbidden them from introducing anything new in and of itself. So any smoking gun will have to be found among all the previously discharged firearms the Democrats say are only firing blanks.
"It's too late now to get into Kathleen Willey," snaps Republican moderate John Chafee. Doubtless, in moments of rueful reflection late in the evening, the president feels the same way.
Even with a mere three video witnesses to sit through, Senate Democrats could barely stay awake:
"I went to the movies this afternoon," said Louisiana Democrat John Breaux, staggering out of the Senates deposition-video screening room. "Got my box of popcorn and then all I did was watch Monica, Monica, Monica! And I thought, 'you know what? I've seen that movie before.'"
You wouldn't want to be holed up for the Siege of Leningrad with Mr. Breaux. In American public schools, when a fidgety six-year-old finds it hard to concentrate, they diagnose ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and pump him full of Ritalin. But ADD has nothing on ADD (Attention Deficit Democrats): You could douse the Capitol in Ritalin and you wouldn't keep these boys awake. Perjury, obstruction, witness-tampering, trashing Monica's reputation...Let's face it, it doesn't have the gripping qualities of a Senate appropriations bill with $200 million in funding for the John Breaux Institute of Trial Procedure Studies in Baton Rouge. BlasÃ© is the order of the day, and, as the trial drifts on, Senator Breaux and his fellow Breauxmides are honing their ennui.
You don't have to find the US Senate as risibly self-regarding as I do to think this is a rather odd way to treat a wide range of women - young, old, short, tall, svelte, zaftig - with credible stories of physical assault by the most powerful man in America. Yet in the Clinton era not one of them could catch the Senate's eye. Take the solon of solemnity himself, Dem Klansman Robert C Byrd:
"Sir, it was an honour to be in your presence," Larry King told him a couple of nights back. "Coming up we'll be talking to two of your peers, though a man such as yourself doesn't really have any peers..." Come off it, Larry! Who do you think he is..? Robert Byrd isn't the dean of dignity, he's West Virginia's prince of pork. And a man who votes against hearing Monica testify live on the grounds that it would damage the dignity of the Senate really shouldn't turn up wearing a red bow tie and matching vest. He looked like a busboy at Denny's.
One of the few honest men of the left in Washington that February was Christopher Hitchens. So naturally he wasn't permitted to testify either. From my February 10th column:
I never thought the trial of the President of the United States would dwindle down to... Christopher Hitchens. But, amazingly, it has: Yesterday, in the last few moments before the Senate retired behind closed doors, Republican Arlen Specter introduced a doomed motion to subpoena Mr. Hitchens, Mrs. Hitchens, and any other journalists that White House flack Sidney Blumenthal had peddled his Monica-the-sex-crazed-stalker story to.
That's quite a long list. Through 1998 and early 1999 Clinton and his aides relentlessly trashed Monica and all the rest. On the day of acquittal, I tipped my hat to a few of them:
Hail to the Perp! And farewell, sweet Monica: In the annals of interns, you will stalk forever with all the other "crazy people, uh, troubled people" (Sid Blumenthal.)
Au revoir, Kathleen Willey, you too-merry widow â€“"Are you saying she came on to you, Mr. President?" "Well, she was always very friendly..."
Thank you and good night, Dolly Kyle Browning - prototype Clinton mistress and "an absolute nut" (presidential aide Marsha Scott.)
And good luck to all those broads savvy enough to keep out of the way because "they've got a lot to lose...and what we do is work on getting material on them to try to induce them not to compromise the president" (Clinton loyalist Betsey Wright).
All the above quotes come from testimony to a grand jury comprised mainly of African-Americans, but none of it matters because Ken Starr is (altogether now) "out of control" and we don't want a "sex policeman" prying into people's bedrooms, even though Mr. Starr never went anywhere near Mr. Clinton's bedroom, presumably on the grounds that it's the one room in the White House where you can guarantee there's absolutely no sex to pry into.
To be sure, much has changed in the last two decades. But some things don't: Women who accuse Republicans have to be heard and believed because they're "survivors"; women who accuse Democrats are nuts and stalkers who need never be heard.
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