WASHINGTON -- I have been fascinated by Harvey Weinstein's initial response to allegations that he sexually molested women. The Bathrobed Romeo's statement was otherworldly yet weirdly similar to Hillary Clinton's eventual response to the scandal. I say "eventual response" because it took her over a week to comment. Obviously, her lawyers and public relations magicians had to word her response very carefully.
In his statement, Weinstein said, "I came of age in the '60s and '70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different." In this, I am at one with Harvey. I, too, came of age in the 60s and 70s, though no woman has yet stepped forward to say I sexually molested her, much less raped her. He then went on with some brave talk about his intent to "conquer" his "demons."
Ascending to the higher tiers of psychobabble, he said he needs "a place to channel" his "anger." Where might that place be? And get this: As he scurried back to his Hollywood cocoon, he promised: "I'm going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre," the head of the National Rifle Association, "will enjoy his retirement party." He went on to threaten early retirement for President Donald Trump, too. What planet does a Hollywood mogul like him inhabit? By the end of the week, he was out of a job and his company was rumored to be up for sale.
Eight days after the statement was released, Clinton, a beneficiary of his friendship and largesse through her foundation and political campaigns, felt it was safe enough to denounce the fallen genius. In a BBC interview, she said, "This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated anywhere, whether it's in entertainment, politics." Then, she impudently added, "After all, we have someone admitting to being a sexual assaulter in the Oval Office." Like Harvey, she had changed the subject as quickly as possible to Trump. But her statement was a lie. Trump never admitted to sexual assault but to "locker-room talk." When her BBC interviewer mentioned charges against her husband in the 1990s, she lied again, saying, "That has all been litigated." It has not, and Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and other aggrieved women still wait their day in court. The BBC should employ interviewers more familiar with American politics.
I would be happy to volunteer my services in this noble task. After all, I presided over the first great sex scandal in American presidential history, which began with The American Spectator's Troopergate pieces and ended with Bill Clinton's impeachment. I can report that there are some surprising similarities in Weinstein's and Clinton's scandals, though the journalists reporting on Weinstein have been treated much more respectfully than those reporting on Clinton. It took the reporters who exposed Weinstein about 24 hours to gain respect. I am not clear that those exposing Clinton will ever gain respect.
To begin with, both scandals involved Democrats, often the same Democrats. In the White House and on the campaign trail, the Clintons have been supported by their allies in Hollywood and in the media -- one being Weinstein. He is a major figure in Democratic politics, and he and his Hollywood friends -- or ex-friends -- are the Party's generous source of money and star power. In some instances, they even run for office.
Moreover, both scandals were hushed up by what The New York Times calls a "protection racket." In the 90s, the Times called it "Clinton's rapid-response squad." Today's protection racket, the Times tells us, is a "network of aggressive public relations flacks and lawyers who guard the secrets of those who employ them and keep their misdeeds out of public view." After Weinstein's downfall, we shall see whether the protection racket can continue to be as useful to others as it has been to him. My guess is it will in time.
As to the Clintons' "legendary 'rapid response' team," for that is also how the Times admiringly described it in 1998, it is now getting rather long in the tooth. In rendering Gennifer Flowers, Paula Corbin Jones, Broaddrick, Willey and the other victims of Bill Clinton in years past, it was highly effective. There was James Carville, who mocked the ladies for their lower-class origins, Paul Begala and Sidney Blumenthal. There are names from the past, such as Mandy Grunwald, Dee Dee Myers and the indispensable Betsey Wright of bimbo-eruption fame. Finally, there are some stars of the rapid-response team who have not lost their luster, such as George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, the lawyers like David Kendall and the other flacks.
Most of the Clinton team is over the hill. Hillary Clinton's fate in the recent election proved it. She lost to a political neophyte despite all the charges her team hurled at him. We are living through the pathetic last chapter of both her and, as she has described him, "my friend Harvey."