Analysis: As Hillary Attacks on Treatment of Women, Countering with Clintons' History is Fair Game

Posted: Sep 30, 2016 10:20 AM

First things first: Calling a woman "Miss Piggy" while pressuring her to lose weight is mean-spirited -- even if her weight gain constituted a contract violation, and even if demanding that she trim down was entirely justified. Calling a woman of Hispanic ethnicity "Miss Housekeeping" is racially-tinged, to put it charitably, and demeaning. And talking about Bill Clinton's decades-old sexual escapades and misconduct is probably not productive ground on which to be fighting, in the context of a late-stages presidential election. (Making cracks about Mrs. Clinton's health, after having shown advantageous restraint, is definitely not helpful to Trump). All of which is to say that I have no intention of defending Trump's boorish excesses, both alleged and manifest. That being said, however, the media's treatment of Hillary Clinton's latest attack on Trump has been predictable and biased. Various outlets had stories about Alicia Machado in the can, evidently waiting for Clinton to unleash her attack on Trump at the debate, followed up by a slickly-produced campaign video. This is known as "coordination." In a column for CBS News, Will Rahn notes that few outlets have delved into Machado's sordid past, which includes alleged entanglement in a murder, violent threats against a judge, an affair with a drug kingpin, and a sex tape-related break-up with an athlete. If she's effectively being trotted out as a character witness against Trump, news consumers should be given all the facts:

An obscure figure in America less than a week ago, Machado is perhaps the biggest story in politics at the moment. So it’s almost inexplicable that, despite all this coverage, the publications discussing the extraordinary stories of her life are mostly right-wing ones. The most interesting thing about the mainstream articles is what they leave out. There is no discussion at CNN or The New York Times, for instance, about her post-pageant fame as the fiancée of Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu, or how he reportedly called it off after a reality show she was on revealed video of her apparently having sex with a housemate. Likewise, there is little mention of how a Venezuelan judge once alleged on live TV that Machado had threatened to kill him. Or how the Mexican attorney general’s office later said she was the girlfriend of a major narco trafficker, and that she he had a child with him, according to Univision and other outlets. Or how a government witness who reportedly testified about their affair was later shot to death...Additionally, if all the allegations against Machado are true, they would not necessarily undermine her accusations against Trump. People should not sit off in priggish judgment of her life, or assume she’s a liar because she made mistakes when she was younger. But that doesn’t mean that her life, which has been reported on extensively in the Spanish language press, should be sanitized and whitewashed by the press. The political media is not in the beatification business; if it’s out there, readers deserve to know it.

Meanwhile, as Katie mentioned yesterday, the Trump campaign has distributed marching orders to its surrogates, recommending that questions about the GOP nominee's treatment of women be countered with reminders of former President Bill Clinton's conduct, and his wife's complicity in viciously attacking his accusers. Many in the press have reacted by fanning themselves, overwhelmed by the vapors of "beyond the pale" indignation. Look at what these horrible people are saying about the Clintons. Here's one representative tweet from a CBS News correspondent in disseminating the talking points:

Bill Clinton's misdeeds aren't merely limited to "dalliances," such as receiving oral sex in the Oval Office from a very young intern, which he also did. Serious allegations against him include misconduct, harassment, and forcible rape. Blaming Bill's wife for his sins (Rudy Giuliani's recent broadside seems particularly foolish) is unfair. Pointing out that she's tolerated and enabled the sexual objectification and exploitation of women in order to protect her political interests is fair game. As is drawing attention to the role she played in trying to destroy 'unhelpful' women, especially since she's chosen to make Trump's poor treatment of women a central line of attack.  As far as narratives go, going blow-for-blow on infidelity, sexual misconduct and the treatment of women (especially spearheaded by three guys with nine wives among them) doesn't seem strategically smart.  But it's at least preferable to spouting  ludicrous anti-empiricism on polling or peddling bonkers conspiracy theories.  I'll leave you with Rush Limbaugh unhelpfully calling Machado a "porn star bimbo" in the process of more helpfully pleading with Trump to turn the page on this whole chapter:

Yeah, Rush, who could have ever anticipated Trump (a non-conservative whom you -- ahem -- "never" took seriously on immigration) getting easily baited into committing unforced errors by fighting petty, counter-productive battles? Aside from, you know, everyone?

UPDATE - Who's up for a manic, paranoid 3am tweet storm, with fewer than 40 days to go until the election?