Home / Robert Farley / Instincts Gone Wrong?

Instincts Gone Wrong?


Along with a lot of Kentuckians, I’ve generally been impressed with Rand Paul’s purely political skills. During his initial campaign, there was grudging acknowledgment that he could probably win in circumstances favorable to insurgent Republicans, but that he had not displayed much in the way of political acumen, and was unlikely to make much of a splash beyond being the Senate’s resident curiosity.  I think that’s largely been proven wrong, as Paul has taken advantage of his platform to increase his visibility without  reducing his viability.

I do wonder about this, however:

Blame is also owed to the media, in [Paul’s] way of looking at it. “I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this,” said Paul, adding: “He took advantage of a girl that was 20-years-old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that and that is predatory behavior.”

Excuse me while I choke on my coffee. Those eager to dredge up the past, would be wise to dredge accurately. The suggestion that the media gave Clinton a “pass” suggests that at the time this was happening, the libertarian ophthalmologist was perhaps too busy to read what was in the newspapers.

Half the voting public may now be too young to recall the details, but as a card-carrying member of the media then and now, I can say that my workplace at the time, the Washington Post, was so transfixed by poor Monica Lewinsky that you could hardly go to the water cooler or the cafeteria or the pens-and-notebooks cupboard without being presented by a colleague with some new detail of what might or might not have transpired between the president and his beret-wearing intern. This was true at every other newspaper or magazine. The story consumed every sentient being in the nation’s capital, including dogs, cats, members of Congress and anybody remotely aware of the Starr report and its salacious footnotes, which people read out loud to one another at the breakfast table.

I could be terribly wrong, and revisiting Monica Lewinsky might indeed prove a political winner in 2016 in a way that it did not in, say, 1998.  I’d be pretty goddamned surprised if that were the case, however.


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  • calling all toasters

    What Rand Paul knows and you don’t:
    OJ Simpson went on trial for murdering his wife.
    Billy Ray Cyrus has a daughter who is also in entertainment.
    A WWI vet and house painter, Adolf Hitler, was the mastermind of the Third Reich.
    (NAACP special) Abraham Lincoln was actually a Republican.

    • UserGoogol

      The Achey-Breaky Heart guy has a daughter?

  • Yeah, I also don’t get what positives Grand RuPaul, that mop-topped-fop, expects out of this.

    First thing, anyone who has a digical inter-tube CRT thingy and knows how to use a look-engine like goggle, can see that for well over a year in our MSM, it was all Monica and Bill, ALL of the time!

    And after the story broke, Hillary became a much more sympathetic figure.
    She ‘stood by her man,’ when she could have left.
    She set the example by being stoic in the media whirlwind, since used by wives of other politicians who strayed – like Mrs. Vitter, Mrs. Spitzer, etc.

    Maybe someone else can explain to me what his end game is, besides trying to smear Hillary Clinton, a potential Presidential opponent to that mop-topped-fop.

    • NonyNony

      And after the story broke, Hillary became a much more sympathetic figure.

      Well, to women who are inclined to vote Democratic she did.

      My Republican family members hated her even more after that. Because she didn’t conform to their idea of what a straw-feminist should do when faced with a cheating husband. In their eyes, the fact that she didn’t pull out a knife and pull a Bobbit on him meant she was an even bigger hypocrite than they believed she was previously.

      (Nevermind the fact that many of them were convinced prior to this that she was in a “sham marriage” with the man and that she was actually secretly a lesbian. All of that was thrown out the window when a new accusation was ready to be made.)

      • Thanks, I’d forgotten that part of this charade.

        Say what we will about our Reich-Wingers inflexibility and bigotry, they’re extremely flexible when they’re trying to fill their extreme narratives.

      • Rarely Posts

        To my Republican family-members, it just fed into the view that it was a “sham” marriage and she was just power-hungry. And, I suspect they all remain of the same view: that she’s a power-hungry person willing to do anything for political gain.

        It’s an odd theory because, of course, following Bill Clinton to Arkansas in 1974 wasn’t an obvious route to power. But, it’s what a lot of my conservative family members believed.

        • Rarely Posts

          Just to follow up though: I still don’t think Monica attacks are likely to be effective. First, to the extent a person wants to attack Clinton for being “power hungry”*, there are more effective ways to do it. Second, none of these voters are ever going to vote for Clinton or any establishment Democrat. Some of them could vote for Obama in 2008 (fresh face and the Bush II disaster was still fresh in their minds). But none of these voters were swing-voters in 2012, and none will be swing-voters in 2016, regardless.

          * As opposed to every other Presidential candidate? No, it doesn’t make any sense.

        • JoyfulA

          The last of my Republican family members became a Democrat because of Santorum.

          But I did live next door to a very Republican couple. She became a Democrat to vote for Hillary in 2008 and put out yard signs. He tore out her yard signs and replaced them with GOP yard signs. She replaced his; he replaced hers. And on it went throughout the primary season.

          I rather suspect she’ll become a Democrat in 2016 if Hillary runs.

        • Pat

          I think that the problem is that the Republicans want to talk about a scandalous Democratic President. However, all of the scandals they’ve uncovered for Pres. Obama have petered out (heh). So they’re talking about a real, bona fide Democratic scandal. Too bad it’s 16 years old.

  • NonyNony

    Normally this would be a good place for an “as a liberal I’m terrified and outraged by this idea” joke, but Paul dredging up Lewinsky is already enough of a joke that it doesn’t need to be added to.

    On a serious note – I’d like to have an actual list of reasons why you’d be impressed with Paul’s “purely political skills”. From outside Kentucky he seems to be a clown that constantly sticks his foot in his mouth and then shoves it as deep as he can (possibly this is just a formulation of Pierce’s “5 minute rule” when it comes to the Paul clan). I’d love to see him up on a debate platform during a Republican party primary because who knows what kind of crazy-ass shit would come out of his mouth.

    • Sarcastro The Munificient

      I would be quite surprised if during the 2016 Republican debates, having crazy-ass shit fly out of his mouth distinguishes Rand Paul in any way.

      • NonyNony

        No, but to win the general election you have to make sure you allude to crazy-ass shit in the primary without saying it in a way that causes it to come back to haunt you in the general election.

        George W Bush knew how this game was played. He said a lot of shit during his first primary run, but none of it really came back to haunt him in the general because instead of saying crazy stuff outright, he said crazy stuff in a weird roundabout way that doesn’t make for a good soundbite because first you have to explain to all of the uninitiated what all of the code words mean.

        Paul, on the other hand, just outright says shit like “the Civil Rights Act was a mistake and I wouldn’t have voted for it” (which his crazybase wants to hear), and then has to walk it back with a lot of nuanced waffling that nobody hears.

        This is why I was more worried about Rick Perry before the ’12 GOP primary than anyone else that was likely to run. I thought that there was a shot that he could pull off that “talk around the crazy shit instead of saying it outright” stunt. I figured if anyone could do it, it was him – like W, he didn’t really have to prove his bona fides to the crazybase – they already knew he was “one of them”, and so he could possibly have talked in coded circles that said nothing you could really use to attack him for, while simultaneously letting wafflers in the crazybase know that he was on their side.

        Turns out he couldn’t talk his way out of a wet paper sack, so there was no reason to be worried about him. Still that’s the kind of guy I’m worried about in ’16 – the kind who has nothing to prove to the crazies AND who can keep his own allegiance to teh crazy hidden enough to keep himself safe from attacks while still letting any doubters in the crazybase know he’s got their backs.

        • Pat

          You are one of the first people I’ve read who thought that G.W.Bush was actually in control of the things he said. Or did.

          “And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq.”

          • Ahuitzotl

            Well, he wasn’t actually stupid so much as incurious and incredibly lazy mentally (tho they can look the same sometimes). He could at least follow his handlers instructions when it mattered, even if most of the time his mouth seemed to lead a separate life to his brain.

  • Looks like Republicans intend to run against Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in 2016. Brilliant!

  • Ed K

    I think the move here laying the groundwork for a guilt by association strategy.

    So Bill’s a predator, and Hilary is his willing accomplice, so how you can vote for this evil bitch… blah, blah, blah. They need to establish the ‘predator’ line, in so many words, first. But the point is to play the ‘how can she possibly have stayed with him, what’s *wrong* with her?’ card against Hilary. Clearly, they think this has legs that the attacks on Bill ultimately did not.

    • Jenna

      Part of the right wing’s view on women is that we are supposed to civilize our men. Hillary didn’t keep him in line, therefore, she failed. It is obviously all her fault(clue: it is ALWAYS a woman’s fault, whatever she actually does will be wrong).

      Never mind that this is horribly insulting to men; I don’t happen to think that men are rough, unmannered brutes that need the civilizing touch of a woman to succeed in society, so I must be the man hater….

      • efgoldman

        …clue: it is ALWAYS a woman’s fault, whatever she actually does will be wrong….

        Yeah, the old “she *provoked* the [atrocity of your choice – beating, rape, whatever]” defense.

  • Todd

    This seems to be a strategy of primary fight purity. “I’m so conservative, I’m still fighting the good fight from 1998, because Reagan!” It keeps his name in the news, with the story not being how truly marginalized he is in the Senate. What does he get done there? Not much.

    But, in a couple-of-week news cycle in Iowa or South Carolina primaries, this sort of stuff will both get him free media and provide a free line or two in a debate. There will be so many tea-bagger crazies running starting in 2015 that he has to distinguish himself in some way other than the NSA stuff, which appears to be his big gun in the Republican universe to date.

  • Nobdy

    I think that the most charitable explanation of the comments is that at this point Clinton is beloved by the media and not constantly condemned for the Lewinsky scandal. It’s almost like there’s a difference between consensual sex with an adult woman and a crime against humanity.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Also, Lewinsky wasn’t 20 and wasn’t an intern at the time of the affair.

    • Mikey

      This is the thing.

      A sizeable number of conservatives think that this is going to be an effective counter-argument to the Repub’s War on Women. “Oh, sure we might be busy passing legislation to make it harder for women to access birth control/legal medical procedures/turn women into incubators with legs while at the same time we’re cutting the [tiny] safety net out from under them, but Hilary Clinton’s husband had consensual sex with a [not at all] naive and unprotected young woman, and Hilary did nothing! Who doesn’t have respect for women now!!”

      And they’re depending on the short memories of Americans, lack of knowledge about this in general, preconceived notions, and the press’s utter inability/lack of interest in properly reporting the facts to make this argument. And history shows that they are probably right.

      Good luck convincing anyone who wasn’t alive AND paying attention AND sympathetic to the Democratic Party that Monica Lewinsky wasn’t a naive 20 year intern at the time the affair occurred.

      • panda

        The last point might be true, but polls show that Clinton has something like 65-70% favorability rating. How does the GOP turns association with probably the most popular public figure out there into a negative, without sounding creepy while going about things that happened 20 years ago?

        • Lee Rudolph

          “Without sounding creepy”? Have you been paying attention to the modern GOP?

          • panda

            Well, that’s the point isn’t it? Mikey thinks that talking about Lewinsky is a good tactic to reach out to the middle of the electorate. I think it’s not, as it requires giving the creeps to people. You seem to agree.

        • djw

          polls show that Clinton has something like 65-70% favorability rating

          No, they really don’t.

          • Just a Rube

            In context, I assume he meant Bill Clinton has a high approval rating, which I’m too lazy to Google, but seems plausible.

            That said, I doubt this particular ploy is meant for the general election as much as it is for the primary. I am much more easily convinced that there is still a massive hatred for Bill Clinton among the sorts of voters Paul will need to win the Republican nomination. Once he has that won, he becomes a major party nominee, and thus obviously reasonable and respectable for media purposes.

            • djw

              I assume he meant Bill Clinton has a high approval rating,

              Quite right; correction withdrawn.

            • panda

              Thanks for the clarification- I did indeed mean Bill.
              I do think that the distinction between the primary and the general election is not as powerful as it used to be. As Mitt learned, in the age of youtube, shit said in republican debates doesn’t stay in republican debates.

    • rea

      Yeah, note how the Paul view of the matter compeltely denies Monica Lewinski any agency. She was an adult, it was consensual, there has never been the slightest hint of evidence that she was in any way pressured into a relationship with Clinton. Another example of how the Republicans don’t really understand this whole concept of “consent,” not simply in cases in which ocnsent is lacking, but in which it is present.

      • Dustin

        Given his extraordinary powerful office and all the charisma and influence attached to it, and her prior position as an underling, it’s fair to argue that the imbalance of power in the relationship works to the disadvantage of the subordinate. Clinton and Lewinsky were not on equal footing, and weren’t two college kids who catch each other’s eye at a coffee shop.

        • I think that’s true in general, but in this specific instance Lewinsky consistently claimed to have initiated the relationship, and even the Starr Report indicates that she was comfortable saying no to him.

          As a matter of course it is a good idea to be skeptical of power imbalances in relationships, and I think it’s a good idea to avoid them as much as possible. But in the specific instance of Clinton’s conduct with Lewinsky it seems to have been consensual and respectful, other than Clinton cutting things off abruptly.

  • ScottC

    If there’s a repeated attempt to use this politically, I think the point would simply be reminding people that the Clintons have been around for decades, as has the political tumult surrounding them. And if in 2016 it seems time for a change (like, if the economy is weak), well, would turning to a Clinton accomplish that? I don’t think harping on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal is the best way to get that across – but I think the “time for a change” message will be one of the strongest the Republicans have in ’16, especially if Clinton is the nominee.

    • Jenna

      I don’t think that Hillary wants to run particularly on her husband’s record, but, I suspect that tying her to her husband’s record won’t help the Rebublicans as much as they think.

      I’m in California. We reelected Governor Brown because a lot of us remember how he actually had a surplus in the budget. That is how proposition 13(a limit on property taxes is a simple way to describe it for those not familiar)got passed. Both my parents voted against it, so the irony of how I have benefitted from that makes me laugh sometimes.

      Anyway, Brown got reelected because of people who remembered. I doubt using Bill’s economic record against Hillary will be terribly effective.

    • Pat

      Well, that’s one way to spin it. However, most people I know, including Republicans, will admit that during Clinton’s presidency they had a lot more money to spend. If the economy is weak, wouldn’t you want to go back to the group that made it roar in the first place?

      Which is why they bring up Monica. Unless you are thoroughly convinced that the Clintons were entirely tainted by sin, you might consider voting for the good old days.

  • Sly

    I could be terribly wrong, and revisiting Monica Lewinsky might indeed prove a political winner in 2016 in a way that it did not in, say, 1998. I’d be pretty goddamned surprised if that were the case, however.

    The only contextual difference is that, in 1998, it was used against a man who committed adultery. In 2016, it would be used against a woman who was the victim of adultery.

    I don’t think it would play well against Hillary Clinton, either. But if it does, I’ll sure as shit know why.

  • Dustin

    This is not remotely a fair criticism, but one reason I don’t want Hillary Clinton to run is because all the political memes from the 90s that will be resurrected. I’m tired of fighting 20th century political battles a decade and a half into the 21st. I don’t want to hear about Lewinsky and Whitewater and who knows what else the Republicans and their Beltway enablers will bring up. But, I don’t any other Democrats with the national profile to rival her.

    • Dustin

      Should be “I don’t know any other Democrats, etc.”

  • Albrecht

    What amazed me is this: Paul–ostensibly–made this remark to try and “prove” that there is no “War on Women” on in the GOP. And in this context he called Lewinsky a “girl”–confirming that not only was the War on but he had joined it and without thinking too! “I didn’t do it–he did it too!” Not even my primary school teacher accepted this excuse.

  • low-tech cyclist

    As long as Rand gets around to realizing this was a misstep (as demonstrated by dropping the matter before too long), everyone will have forgotten all about it by the time campaign season begins in earnest early next year.

    Ed Kilgore, who I’ve got a great deal of respect for, doesn’t take Rand seriously as a Presidential candidate. I think Ed’s wrong on this one.

    • Pat

      My money’s on Scott Walker as the nominee.

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