Time Attacks Arrogant 'Pigs' Lying About Sex, Quite Different Than the Monica Outbreak of 1998
Time’s cover this week proclaims "Sex. Lies. Arrogance. What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs." The May 30 cover story by Nancy Gibbs pondered the allegations against Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn:
But both suggest an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust. And both involve men whose long-standing reputations for behaving badly toward women did not derail their rise to power. Which raises the question: How can it be, in this ostensibly enlightened age, when men and women live and work as peers and are schooled regularly in what conduct is acceptable and what is actionable, that anyone with so little judgment, so little honor, could rise to such heights?
This is not now Gibbs wrote of Bill Clinton during the depths of his intern-sex scandal. Clinton wasn’t an arrogant pig, but a miraculous politician who deserved forgiveness. From February 9, 1998:
The threat of the prosecutor was no match for the power of the presidency, and Clinton used it to full advantage. He finally managed a denial as airtight as it could be without getting anatomical. The White House shock troops, led by Hillary, gave ambivalent voters someone else to blame, a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that was trying to destroy the President. And then, best of all, he changed the subject.
Clinton's gritty State of the Union speech reminded voters how well things are going, how much he promised to do for them if they would just give him one more chance. He invited his exhausted audience to take a holiday from Lewinsky and spend a refreshing hour and 12 minutes feeling like a country again. For once the talk on the screen was not of oral sex, but of our lives and fortunes and sacred happiness. He had become all human nature, the best and the worst, standing there naked in a sharp, dark suit, behind the TelePrompTer. That which does not kill him only makes him stronger, and his poll numbers went through the roof. Exactly a week after the sex scandal broke, Clinton achieved the highest approval ratings of his five-year presidency. That may have been a miracle, but it was no accident: Americans are less puritanical and more forgiving than the cartoon version suggests, and this President is never better than in his worst moments.
Notice Gibbs insisted the country was already "exhausted" about two weeks into the scandal, and Clinton would be stonewalling into mid-summer. Gibbs repeated her mouth-breathing adoration of Clinton at the beginning of her story on March 2, 1998:
In the gaudy mansion of Clinton’s mind there are many rooms with heavy doors, workrooms and playrooms, rooms stuffed with trophies, rooms to stash scandals and regrets. He walks lightly amid the ironies of his talents and behavior, just by consigning them to different cubbies of his brain. It’s an almost scary mind, that of a multitasking wizard who plays hearts while he talks on the phone with a head of state, who sits through a dense briefing on chemical weapons intently doing a crossword puzzle, only to take reporters’ questions hours later and repeat whole sections of the briefing word for word.
And so America has watched for a month now as Clinton lives day to day in Monica Lewinsky's long shadow, trying to get on with running the country while keeping her locked up in never-never land.
Gibbs had no time to wonder about Clinton's "judgment" or "honor." That was even true for Time magazine when they didn't care to investigate the claims of Juanita Broaddrick in 1999, when she told NBC that Bill Clinton had raped her in a Little Rock hotel room in 1978. In an issue in which Time spent nine pages championing the Senate campaign of Hillary Clinton, it spent just one page dismissing Broaddrick's horror story. In the March 1, 1999 issue, Adam Cohen concluded:
The White House last week issued a firm denial. "Any allegation that the President assaulted Mrs. Broaddrick more than 20 years ago is absolutely false," said David Kendall, Clinton's personal lawyer. With impeachment over and the statute of limitations on the alleged crime long passed, the story seems unlikely to have much traction. Broaddrick herself says, "I'm just hoping this absolutely goes away in the next week." A weary nation would probably agree.
It's with all this in mind that it sounds a lot stranger this week for Gibbs to protest at this late date gthe "arrogant pigs" and their political enablers:
We know that powerful men can be powerfully reckless, particularly when, like DSK, they stand at the brink of their grandest achievement. They tend to be risk takers or at least assess risk differently — as do narcissists who come to believe that ordinary rules don't apply. They are often surrounded by enablers with a personal or political interest in protecting them to the point of covering up their follies, indiscretions and crimes.
That would pretty well describe Time magazine and the other vaunted bodyguards of the "objective" media elite. Gibbs concluded with a new code, one that was never employed against the Clintons:
What matters is not prudishness — we've left that far behind — but prudence, a sense that public figures should be discouraged from destroying themselves and their families, even if we gawk at the results when they do. And principle: that power is a privilege not to be abused. The cases that involve a lawmaker chasing pages around the cloakroom or a boss cornering a junior employee or a professor pressuring a student for sex all deserve to be taken seriously. And in cases that involve actual violence, they need to be treated like the crimes they are.
Unless of course, the statute of limitations expired and the nation is "weary." The media can't go to an office and get their reputations as guardians of "prudence" back, even if it's better that they hold Strauss-Kahn now to a higher standard, one they should have employed for an American president accused of sexual assault. They couldn't handle the truth then. They didn't want an answer. That's not how journalists are supposed to behave, at least not in their own Woodward and Bernstein dreams. But those two Nixon-crumbling "heroes" were just as guilty of inaction and dismissal as the others.