Donald Trump, the man of the bottomless bottom, is making headlines for slurring Hillary Clinton as an “enabler” of her husband’s sexual misbehavior. Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball, who doesn’t shock easily, seemed staggered by it Monday night, insisting he’d never heard such a claim about Clinton before. “It’s beyond indecent,” he said.
It may be beyond indecent, and I accept that Matthews never heard it said before. But calling Clinton an “enabler,” and making similar nasty charges about her supposed responsibility for Bill Clinton’s sexual conduct, have long been staples of Hillary-hate on the right—and some mainstream pundits have dipped a toe in the hate swamp on occasion, too.
With a five-minute Google search I found Roger Stone, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Joe Walsh, and Laura Ingraham making that claim. And back in 2003, Hillary-hater-in-chief Maureen Dowd of The New York Times defended Arnold Schwarzenegger by blaming Clinton for encouraging feminists to ignore her husband’s bad behavior.
“Feminism died,” Dowd raved, “in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones by saying he had merely made clumsy passes, then accepted rejection, so there was no sexual harassment involved.” But Dowd is alone among mainstream journalists in what she’s willing to fling at Hillary Clinton; for the most part, the Clinton-as-enabler slur is confined to the right.
Trump is doing what he’s so good at doing: dragging ugly mutant ideas from the dark, dank swamps of right-wing paranoia and setting them free in the mainstream, where they shock some journalists, disgust most Americans and whip up the GOP base. The GOP front-runner got angry when Clinton accused him of sexism (after he said she’d been “schlonged” by Barack Obama in 2008 and called her mid-debate bathroom break “disgusting.”) Of course, with typical Trump logic, he’s retaliating with one of the most sexist insults to Clinton so far in this campaign. Blaming a woman for her husband’s infidelity takes a special kind of misogyny. It will only worsen his already sizable gender gap at the polls.