On Outnumbered Overtime this afternoon, I was paired with Democratic operative Zac Petkanas (with whom I get along personally, despite disagreeing with him on virtually everything) to discuss the Alabama Senate race. I haven't been bashful about openly stating my views on Republican nominee Roy Moore, whose accusers I believe and whose defenses I don't buy -- but I'm also unwilling to let partisan Democrats get away with pretending that reflexive support for a deeply morally-compromised politician is unique to this race, or to the GOP. After Petkanas accused President Trump of offering a "full-throated endorsement of a pedophile" and supporting "someone who wants to rape eighth graders." I pushed back against his characterization of Trump's Tuesday statement, and admonished him that we need to be more careful in how we describe the allegations against Moore.
His larger point, however, was that some things ought to rise above normal politics, and that voting for a severely morally-deficient candidate based purely on politics is abhorrent. I don't disagree with that premise, but I decided to follow up and see whether he'd apply the exact same standard if Bill Clinton were to run for public office again. I presented a hypothetical scenario wherein the 42nd president sought and won the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 and faced, say, Ted Cruz in the general election. (I deliberately took Trump -- who has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women -- out of the equation, replacing him in the example with a conservative Republican detested by Democrats but untainted by sexual harassment or misconduct scandal). Simple question: Would Petkanas vote for Bill Clinton, a credibly-accused forcible rapist, in order to defeat Cruz? The key bit of this clip begins around the (2:30) mark, via the Free Beacon's David Rutz:
GB: I understand why you'd be on a high horse, morally, about this because sometimes there are very bright distinctions when it comes to politics. But I would challenge you -- maybe not directly, but a lot of Democrats -- if Bill Clinton were up for election again...let's say he ran for president and were the nominee in 2020. He was credibly accused of forcible rape. Would they vote for him over a Ted Cruz? I think history shows the answer is 'yes.'
ZP: Look, I was 15 years old when Bill Clinton left office. That's the age when Roy Moore goes after most of his girls...
GB: That's a fair shot...
ZP: So I can't speak to that, however I...
GB: Would you vote for Bill Clinton if he ran again?
ZP: I think that all of these women need to be believed, and that we need to hold everybody accountable, whether it's Al Franken or or whether it's John Conyers, or whether it's Bill Clinton, or whether it's Donald Trump.
GB: So you wouldn't vote for Bill Clinton for president against Ted Cruz?
ZP: Would you vote for Donald Trump?
GB: I didn't. Your question. Back to you.
Host: You still didn't answer
ZP: Yeah, I was 15 years old...
GB: That's a dodge.
Pushed further on the point, Petkanas returned to his talking point about believing women, to which I replied that Clinton was accused of forcible rape. "Look, I think that all women need to be believed," he said again. "Like Juanita Broaddrick," I shot back. "I think women need to be believed," he repeated. Segment over. Perhaps Petkanas wasn't willing to say he'd refuse to vote for Bill Clinton because he's an alumnus of the DNC, an outfit that has protected the Clintons forever. Or maybe he dodged the question three times because he (and the entire party apparatus) worked for the Clintons as recently as last year. They cheered and cheered as Bill Clinton endorsed his wife at the convention, knowing full well of the multiple women who've accused him of terrible things over the course of his public life. Petkanas' evasions speak volumes about how these standards, and the accompanying outrage, are wielded inconsistently by partisans when "their guy" or "their issues" are at stake.
Many conservatives suspect that much of the recent and belated anti-Clinton condemnations from the Left are self-serving and convenient. Liberals spent decades apologizing for Bill Clinton and his wife, who helped attack his accusers. Only now, at the nadir or their influence and power, are the Clintons suddenly expendable. If there were real skin in the game, and Democrats were faced with the realistic prospect of ceding some serious power to Republicans, would their (justifiable) high dudgeon about character defects and predatory behavior magically dissipate in the name of politics? And would they engage in the sort of equivocations and justifications for which they're lambasting Moore supporters today? I think Zac Petkanas just gave us our answer.
UPDATE - As Brad Thor points out, Zac's claim that Moore pulled an eighth-grader out of class to ask her out on a date when he was an adult was incorrect. As a point of fact, that girl was 17 -- which doesn't really mitigate the creepiness of the story, but details matter, especially when you're throwing terms like "rape" and "pedophile" around.