Part 3—We don't exactly believe her: Last Tuesday morning, Michelle Goldberg revealed herself as one of the great woman-haters.
Goldberg is the New York Times' newest hapless columnist. In her column that day, she stooped so low as to say that she actually doesn't "believe the accusers," not even if they're women:
"[W]e can't treat the feminist injunction to 'believe women' as absolute."
Believe it or not, she said that! In fairness, we should probably present Goldberg's fuller statement, in which she reveals that her thought were triggered by the tweet heard round the world.
Dramatic headline included, here's how Goldberg's column began. The tweet in question had come from Chris Hayes, with whom Goldberg has erred in the past:
GOLDBERG (11/14/17): I Believe JuanitaHayes had tweeted out an exciting thought, one he doesn't seem prepared to discuss on his "cable news" program.
On Friday evening the MSNBC host Chris Hayes sent out a tweet that electrified online conservatives: ''As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right's 'what about Bill Clinton' stuff is, it's also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.'' Hayes's tweet inspired stories on Glenn Beck's The Blaze, Breitbart and The Daily Caller, all apparently eager to use the Clinton scandals to derail discussions about Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Alabama who is accused of sexually assaulting minors.
Yet despite the right's evident bad faith, I agree with Hayes. In this #MeToo moment, when we're reassessing decades of male misbehavior and turning open secrets into exposes, we should look clearly at the credible evidence that Juanita Broaddrick told the truth when she accused Clinton of raping her. But revisiting the Clinton scandals in light of today's politics is complicated as well as painful. Democrats are guilty of apologizing for Clinton when they shouldn't have. At the same time, looking back at the smear campaign against the Clintons shows we can't treat the feminist injunction to ''believe women'' as absolute.
That said, we agree with Hayes too, up a point. We'll discuss this matter on Friday, with reference to Lawrence's treacly propaganda from last Monday night.
Goldberg's fuller statement may persuade us that she isn't the world's most heinous misogynist. It's true that she doesn't believe all accusers of President Clinton, but she says she does at least believe one.
She even says she's "haunted" by that accuser. We don't exactly believe that statement, and we think her column was sad.
At the New York Times, it has always been good politics to believe the worst about both Clintons. Along the way, the paper's stars also spent several years inventing claims about Candidate Gore.
This sent Candidate Bush to the White House. Of one belief you can feel certain—pseudoprogressive careerists like Goldberg and Hayes will never discuss such facts.
Triggered by Hayes, Goldberg joined the latest stampede, the one in which the children say we should thrash back through the accusations directed at President Clinton. Again, we don't exactly disagree, as we'll discuss in Part 4.
Goldberg joined the stampede last Tuesday morning. Five days later, Ross Douthat followed, having "skimmed" some yellowing news reports and "leafed" through several books.
In our view, the IQ level of Douthat's column was extremely low. In the main, he said that he's sadly come to think that President Clinton "deserved to be impeached."
Does Douthat know that he was impeached? He never quite made that clear. He principally focused on Monica Lewinsky. Along the way, he clanged several gongs, in passages such as these:
DOUTHAT (11/19/17): [W]ith Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, we know what happened: A president being sued for sexual harassment tried to buy off a mistress-turned-potential-witness with White House favors, and then committed perjury serious enough to merit disbarment. Which also brought forward a compelling allegation from Juanita Broaddrick that the president had raped her.We'll make a sad admission. We've spent much more time than most other folk exploring these old episodes. Despite our painful experience, we're not entirely sure what Douthat means in various parts of those passages.
The longer I spent with these old stories, the more I came back to a question: If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment? Especially when the behavior is part of a longstanding pattern that also may extend to rape?
[The Democrats] had an opportunity, with Al Gore waiting in the wings, to show a predator the door and establish some moral common ground for a polarizing country.
And what they did instead—turning their party into an accessory to Clinton's appetites, shamelessly abandoning feminist principle, smearing victims and blithely ignoring his most credible accuser, all because Republicans funded the investigations and they're prudes and it's all just Sexual McCarthyism—feels in the cold clarity of hindsight like a great act of partisan deformation.
Is Lewinsky the "mistress-turned-potential-witness" Clinton tried to "buy off with White House favors?" If so, was she a "potential witness" in the Paula Jones matter?
We'll be honest. We don't understand what Douthat means—but then again, neither does anyone else who read his excited column. Meanwhile, was Clinton a "predator" in the case of Lewinsky? Did he really "exploit a willing intern" in their sporadic affair, which extended over several years?
It's thrilling to use such exciting language. Also, to describe Lewinsky as Clinton's "most credible accuser," if that's who Douthat is talking about in that somewhat fuzzy passage.
That said, has Lewinsky ever "accused" Clinton of anything? We refuse to waste our time parsing back through this exciting sexy-time story, but hasn't Lewinsky made it clear that she doesn't regard herself as a victim, and that she hasn't ever "accused" The Big He of anything?
Douthat's column was exciting for the peeping Tom crowd, but it was hard to parse. He seems to have been somewhat selective in the books he chose to "leaf" through last week, though it may well be that's he's never heard of some of the volumes he missed.
He also excised one whole element of these accusations—the extent to which this era's various accusations were intertwined with "the smear campaign against the Clintons" to which Goldberg refers.
Goldberg's aware of that crackpot campaign. In the column in which she proclaimed her selective belief, she was even prepared to describe it:
GOLDBERG: The Clinton years, in which epistemological warfare emerged as a key part of the Republican political arsenal, show us why we should be wary of allegations that bubble up from the right-wing press. At the time, the reactionary billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife was bankrolling the Arkansas Project, which David Brock, the former right-wing journalist who played a major role in it, described as a ''multimillion-dollar dirty tricks operation against the Clintons.'' Various figures in conservative media accused Bill Clinton of murder, drug-running and using state troopers as pimps. Brock alleges that right-wing figures funneled money to some of Clinton's accusers.That's all true. It's also true that the existence of that crackpot "right-wing conspiracy" doesn't mean that every accusation against Bill Clinton simply had to be false.
In this environment, it would have been absurd to take accusations of assault and harassment made against Clinton at face value.
An accusation can be true even if it's being pushed by people waist-deep in The Crazy. As she continued, Goldberg—reasoning like a 10-year-old child—explained why she doesn't believe one accuser, but does believe another:
GOLDBERG (continuing directly): On Monday, Caitlin Flanagan, perhaps taking up Hayes's challenge, urged liberals to remember some of what Clinton is said to have done. ''Kathleen Willey said that she met him in the Oval Office for personal and professional advice and that he groped her, rubbed his erect penis on her, and pushed her hand to his crotch,'' Flanagan wrote, recalling the charges Willey first made in 1998. It sounds both familiar and plausible. But Willey also accused the Clintons of having her husband and then her cat killed. Must we believe that, too?Goldberg says she doesn't believe Kathleen Willey. She vastly under-reports the challenges to Willey's credibility, including the time that a blatantly false accusation by Willey almost got a journalist killed.
Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we've heard about Weinstein. She claimed they had plans to meet in a hotel coffee shop, but at the last minute he asked to come up to her hotel room instead, where he raped her. Five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened. It's true that she denied the rape in an affidavit to Paula Jones's lawyers, before changing her story when talking to federal investigators. But her explanation, that she didn't want to go public but couldn't lie to the F.B.I., makes sense. Put simply, I believe her.
Goldberg skipped past much of that. But then, she's trying to assess an entire, crackpot decade in just 800 words.
She ends up saying that she rejects Willey's story because of the craziness concerning the alleged dead cat. Heroically, she proceeds to say that she does believe Broaddrick.
She even says she's "haunted" by Broaddrick. We aren't real sure we believe that.
Is Goldberg haunted by Broaddrick? When Norman Maclean was "haunted by rivers," he wrote an autobiographical novella about it (A River Runs Through It).
Has Goldberg been haunted by Broaddrick all these years? If so, where's the beef? Has Goldberg ever written about the person who has her haunted? Or have we possibly captured Goldberg in a bit of a pose?
People, we're just asking!
Down through the many long years, posing and faking have been endemic among our corporate pseudoliberal journalists. Is Goldberg posing and faking here?
We can't answer that question.
That said, is Goldberg really able to say whether Broaddrick's story is true? We'd have to say that she pretty much isn't. We can think of several "credible" novels in which Broaddrick's claim would either be knowingly false, or would represent an unfair assessment of an actual encounter.
How does Goldberg know what's true? We're inclined to suggest that she doesn't.
Is it possible that Broaddrick's story is accurate? Yes, it certainly is.
It's also possible that it isn't! With that point in mind, we'd also say that people older than ten years old know how to write sentences like these:
I'm inclined to believe Juanita.Grown people, even including upper-end journalists, are willing to traffic in nuance. Under-skilled people like Douthat and Goldberg have produced death all over the world in the past twenty-five years.
On balance, I tend to believe Juanita.
I can't really say that I disbelieve Juanita.
I can't be sure of course.
Having said these things, we'll say it again! We don't exactly disagree with the highly explosive tweet from the morally upright Hayes.
He won't discuss the tweet on his show. On Friday, we'll limn it right here.
Friday: Lawrence's latest fine pose