It is tradition at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to give a bit of floor time to every living president in the party, and it is also contemporary American political tradition to let a Clinton speak any time there are more than six Democrats together in the same room. For both of these reasons, Bill Clinton was allowed to scold Donald Trump for five minutes at Tuesday night’s DNC.
“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center,” Clinton said of the Trump administration’s failures to protect and support Americans through the pandemic. “Instead it’s a storm center” due to “[Trump’s] determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame.”
But as Stephen Colbert pointed out in his DNC recap, the last person the Democratic Party needs lecturing the American people on becoming conduct in the Oval Office is Clinton, impeached after lying under oath about his sexual encounters with a then 22-year-old intern. And while Clinton’s infidelity, lies, and impeachment are not nearly as egregious as allegedly asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on one’s political opponent, Clinton’s abuse of power, especially with an intern just out of college, is part and parcel of Clinton’s legacy of being deeply gross with women, even if no one can quite prove that he has been criminally shitty to them—not to mention the subsequent scrambling by the Democratic party to minimize that legacy. In addition to Monica Lewinsky, four other women have come forward over the years accusing Clinton of sexual assault or harassment, including Juanita Broaddick, who claims Clinton raped her in 1978. And while these stories have been weaponized by the right, particularly against Hillary Clinton during her 2016 bid for the presidency, it’s also true that they’ve been downplayed by the left, allowing Clinton to deny and deflect responsibility for his interactions with women for the better part of his political career and to this day.
Even as Clinton issued his tirade against Trump, new pictures surfaced in the Daily Mail of Clinton receiving a massage from alleged Jeffery Epstein victim Chauntae Davies, also 22 at the time. And while Davies says that Clinton was a “perfect gentleman” during their encounter, the fact remains that he was an associate of Epstein’s and a guest on the private island where multiple women allege that they were assaulted by Epstein and his guests, though none have made allegations against Clinton. By Clinton’s own admission, Clinton took four trips with Epstein from 2002-2003, though flight logs reportedly put the number at 11.
Limiting Clinton’s air time but allowing him to speak nonetheless speaks volumes about a Democratic Party that pays lip service to progress by throwing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a couple of minutes. It’s a nod to a more progressive agenda possibly to come under a Biden presidency, while simultaneously dog-whistling more of the same—a party that conveniently pretends that Bill Clinton isn’t also a politician whose legacy rests on denying responsibility and shifting the blame. Trotting out Clinton for a token couple of minutes not only gives Republicans the opportunity to relish a Democratic party that refuses to take out its trash, it enables them to claim all liberals are no better than their own “Grab ‘em by the pussy” candidate. It also sends a message to accusers, survivors, and advocates against sexual assault—even the party that promises to make women a priority only makes good on that promise when none of their own men stand accused.