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“Scandalous Matters That Are Real”: If He Shouts ‘Rape’, Donald Trump Should Unseal His Divorce Records

Evidently Donald Trump believes that his campaign can accomplish with an Internet video what Kenneth Starr failed to do with $50 million and a platoon of private detectives and FBI agents: Bring down Bill and Hillary Clinton by dredging through moldy muck. Somehow he doesn’t seem to understand his own vulnerability on scandalous matters that are real rather than invented.

The problem Ken Starr confronted during six years as independent counsel was neither a shortage of resources nor a lack of support from the political media, most of which seemed as eager to ruin Clinton as the right-wing Republican prosecutor. No, the trouble with Whitewater, Travelgate, and Filegate — so dubbed by scandal-addled reporters — was that substantive, plausible evidence of wrongdoing simply didn’t exist. The Lewinsky affair was all too real, but most Americans didn’t believe that sex, or even lying about sex under oath, merited a costly, hypocritical, and rabid investigation, let alone a presidential impeachment.

Aside from Lewinsky, the “Clinton scandals” each ended the same way: Despite all the blaring headlines, ranting editorials, grand jury dramatics, and talk-radio thunder, Starr never prosecuted the President and First Lady because he couldn’t sustain an indictment. The Clintons fully deserved the presumption of innocence that the press, the prosecutors, and the Republicans in Congress refused to afford them.

The hollowness of all those old pseudo-scandals is why the Clintons are still standing — even as ace sex detective Starr is ousted from the presidency of Baylor University in disgrace for covering up sexual assault by members of the school’s football team.

Yet Trump, under the tutelage of Nixon-era dirty trickster Roger Stone, apparently believes that he can resuscitate even the most discredited old tales to smear the Clintons – and especially Hillary, the Democrat he is likely to face in November.

It is typically insolent for Trump – the most dubious character ever to win a presidential nomination in this country – to bring up the failed Whitewater real estate venture. The Clintons lost money on that deal, ripped off by a huckster named James McDougal whose grandiose style of double-dealing was just a small-time, Southern-fried version of a Trump scam. Will the casino mogul still be talking about Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster when he goes to court to defend the con game known as “Trump University”?

Actually, both Trump and Stone know that Whitewater is too arcane. So this sordid pair quickly turned to Starr’s sex files, with a misogynist twist: The sexual accusations against Bill Clinton should be blamed on Hillary. They’re confident that if they shriek “rapist” and “enabler” loudly enough, nobody will realize that their attack has no factual basis.

Only Juanita Broaddrick and Bill Clinton know what, if anything, ever happened between them, and their accounts are directly contradictory – except that Broaddrick has offered at least two versions, under oath, that contradict each other. It is important to recall that Starr immunized Broaddrick and thoroughly investigated her revived rape accusation against Clinton during his impeachment probe in 1998. He found the evidence that she provided “inconclusive,” and didn’t include her case in his impeachment brief. (There are other reasons to wonder whether Broaddrick told the truth that are explored in The Hunting of the President by Gene Lyons and me. Our free e-book,The Hunting Of Hillary, is available here.)

Naturally, Trump is promoting Broaddrick’s additional claim that Hillary Clinton, only weeks after the alleged rape by her husband, sought to intimidate the Arkansas nursing home owner into remaining silent. But as with all of the sensational charges lodged by Broaddrick over the years, it isn’t easy to know what to believe about her charge against Hillary – because, again, she has also said, and may even have sworn, precisely the opposite.

Nearly a year after she testified before the independent counsel, Broaddrick was interviewed on NBC News Dateline by correspondent Lisa Myers. After tearfully describing her alleged encounter with a violent Clinton, she tried to explain why she had denied being raped for almost 20 years and – in a moment that Trump has made relevant again – stated firmly that nobody had ever tried to intimidate her.

From the Dateline transcript of February 24, 1999:

Lisa Myers: Did Bill Clinton or anyone near him ever threaten you, try to intimidate you, do anything to keep you silent?

Juanita Broaddrick: No.

Myers: This has been strictly your choice.

Broaddrick: Yes.

Did Broaddrick ever tell Starr or his investigators about Hillary’s alleged intimidation of her? Having received a grant of immunity against prosecution for perjury, did she tell them that Hillary – also a target of Starr’s broad-ranging investigation – had feloniously tried to “silence” her? Or did she tell the Office of Independent Counsel — as she later told Myers on NBC — that nobody had ever done so?

The next reporter to interview her might want to ask those questions.

Meanwhile, perhaps the moment has come when Donald Trump, blustering rape accuser, should respond to the rape accusations lodged against him by his estranged first wife Ivana – in a sworn deposition — during their bitter 1990 divorce, which a New York court eventually granted her on grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment” by Trump. Journalist Harry Hurt III first recounted the ugly details of Trump’s allegedly very violent assault on Ivana –which involved ripping out her patches of her hair as well as sexually violating her – in his book The Last Tycoon.

Although Ivana sought to withdraw her accusation after the Daily Beast reported it last year, Hurt told me there is much more to be learned from the Trump divorce papers, which are under seal. So here is a suggestion for Trump, who still refuses to release his tax returns as American presidential candidates have done routinely for decades.

If he wants to accuse other people of rape and intimidation, Trump should unseal his divorce papers and let voters assess his standing to make those charges. The evidence gathered about Bill Clinton by the independent counsel’s sex probe is public record. If Trump has nothing to hide, he should let the public view the evidence of what he did to his first wife – and then they can judge him accordingly. If he doesn’t have the guts to disclose those scathing documents, then maybe he should shut up about the Clintons’ marriage, which endures.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 27, 2016

May 28, 2016 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ivana Trump | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Kasich Is Sometimes His Own Worst Enemy”: An Amateur, Especially When Talking To And About Women

In a year in which Republican voters have gravitated towards amateurs, John Kasich offers extensive political experience. The Ohio Republican has run two winning gubernatorial campaigns, which followed nine successful congressional campaigns and some state legislative races in one of the nation’s largest states. A rookie he isn’t.

And yet, Kasich has an unfortunate habit of sounding like an amateur, especially when talking to and about women. Slate’s Christina Cauterucci reported today:

At a Watertown, New York, town hall on Friday, John Kasich advised a female college student to steer clear of “parties where there’s a lot of alcohol” to keep from getting raped, assaulted, or sexually harassed.

His comment came after a first-year student from New York’s St. Lawrence University asked the GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor, “What are you going to do in office as president to help me feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment, and rape?”

The governor initially responded by talking about confidential reporting mechanisms and access to rape kits, before telling the young woman, “I’d also give you one bit of advice: Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.”

The problem with such a response should be obvious. If a woman goes to a gathering and gets assaulted, it’s insane to think it’s her fault for having gone to a party where people were drinking. The solution is for men to stop committing sex crimes; encouraging women to make different choices in their social habits badly misses the point.

As news of his comments spread, Kasich turned to Twitter to make clear his belief that “only one person is at fault in a sexual assault, and that’s the assailant.”

In the broader context, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind.

The first is that incidents like these keep coming up on the campaign trail. Remember the time Kasich asked a woman, unprompted, “Have you ever been on a diet?”

In October, a college student tried to ask Kasich a question about undocumented immigrants, but when the young woman raised her hand at a forum, the governor told her, “I don’t have any tickets for, you know, for Taylor Swift or anything.”

According to the report from the college newspaper, the Republican presidential candidate told another young woman at the event, “I’m sure you get invited to all of the parties.”

A few months later, Kasich told a Virginia audience that, during one of his early statehouse races, women “left their kitchens” to support him.

Remember, this guy has literally spent decades on the campaign trail, honing his communications skills with the public.

The other angle is that Kasich hasn’t just made insulting comments about women, the governor has taken a series of policy steps that undermine women’s health options as part of a conservative culture war.

I realize that in the GOP’s 2016 field, Kasich is seen as the “moderate” Republican with broad appeal, but given the circumstances, I’m afraid that probably says more about the govenror’s rivals than his own qualities.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 15, 2016

April 19, 2016 Posted by | John Kasich, Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Just Changing The Optics”: The Republican Abortion Bill Shows They Still Believe Many Women Lie About Rape

In a move being credited to the wisdom of Republican women lawmakers, the House will not be voting on a sweeping 20 week abortion ban that only allowed for rape and incest exceptions if the victims reported their assaults to police. (Because Republicans know just how much women love to lie about rape and incest to get those sweet, sweet abortions!)

But before we pat all those kind, considered Republican women on the back for their reasoned withdrawal of support for a bill that would’ve made women file police reports 20 weeks after being assaulted in order to have the option of not being forced to have their rapist’s baby, let’s not forget that all of this is just political posturing. The bill – or even another, less extreme 20 week abortion ban – was unlikely to ever pass the Senate, and President Obama made clear that he would veto it if it did.

So backing off on yet another terrible anti-abortion bill – they tried this in 2011 with the “forcible rape” provisions in the Hyde Amendment renewal – is not a sign that Republicans will be more moderate with their future restrictions on reproductive rights, or that Republican women will be able to temper the radical anti-choice agenda of their party.

It’s great, sure, that Representatives Renee Ellmers and Jackie Walorski took their names off the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and that Ellmers also reportedly lobbied her female colleagues against the legislation. But I don’t believe this was some change of her anti-choice heart: more likely, she simply realized that the bill’s extreme requirements for rape and incest exceptions to the blanket ban wouldn’t exactly go over well with American women.

During a time when sexual assault and the difficulty of reporting it is a central part of the national conversation, forcing women and girls to go to the police before they can access abortion makes Republicans seem even more out of touch with the issues women face than usual. According to RAINN, 68% of sexual assaults aren’t reported to police, and numbers are even harder to come by for incest – where so often the victims are young girls.

Still, Republicans will now get to introduce and support anti-woman legislation, but they’ll have the advantage of appearing less radical than they are because they supposedly have a few “reasonable” women in the party keeping them in check on women’s issues. And any 20-week abortion ban is a bad thing for women, even without “forcible rape” or “reported rape” provisions.

Trotting out a few female Republicans and changing some words in a bill doesn’t change the reality of how the party feels about – or legislates – abortion; it just changes the optics. Republicans still want to deny people access to sex education, they still want to deny women access to contraception, they still want to prevent us from getting abortions and they still want to eliminate the Roe v Wade decision that protects our rights – and they want to do all of this despite the irreparable harm that it will cause American women.

The Republican women who forced House leadership to withdraw this one bill aren’t “reasonable” – they’re just smart enough to know that they need to shroud just how radically anti-woman their party really is. Good luck with that.

 

By: Jessica Valenti, The Guardian, January 22, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Republicans, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Difficult Not To Think About Loss”: Face It; Thanksgiving Is Depressing This Year, And You Don’t Have To Give Thanks

This Thanksgiving, it’s difficult not to think about loss.

For a lot of people, this time of year brings more sadness than cheer – thinking about the kinds of relationships you wish you could have with family or friend, thinking about loved ones that aren’t there. And as injustice prevails in Ferguson, as another young man of color is killed with seeming impunity, as sexual predators are given standing ovations and sexual violence across the US continues to be unearthed, it’s hard to remember how to be thankful. It’s easier to ask what we are supposed to be thankful for at all.

Hard times can bring out the best in people – whether it’s a national tragedy or an individual loss, some of us comfort each other and try to send hope even when it feels like there is none. More than once this year, as people in my life have suffered losses, I’ve sent around this Rumi quote: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

But what if there are just too many wounds? What if we can’t see any light?

Earlier this month I found out that a friend (with whom I’d fallen out of touch) had killed himself. I struggled to reconcile the memories I had of him – equal parts kind and hilarious – with what his last days or weeks must have been like. He was an artist, and I still have one of his paintings – it’s chaotic and beautiful, and I wish I could find some answer in it as to why he is gone. But all I see is paint.

Sometimes it’s all we can do not to let our losses eat us whole.

It’s incredible, really, that those who experience tremendous loss and injustice have the strength to go on fighting. It’s amazing that people – parents – whose children’s lives and futures were stolen from continue on with grace. But I wonder how the rest of us can think to ask them, even for one day a year, to be thankful. To look on the bright side. To be positive.

Whether their wounds are fresh or years old, asking such a thing of hurt people feels a bit selfish – like we don’t want to bear witness to their pain, so we ask them to put a happy face on it. Maybe asking people to think about what they’re grateful for can be a way to help them to move on or be happy despite their hurt – or maybe that’s just what we like to tell ourselves. But doing so requires enough self reflection to be sure it’s about what someone really needs instead of our desires to do something.

As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family this week, I’m acutely aware of how incredibly lucky I am to have a family that loves me, to have food on the table.

But I’m not thankful, and this year – for reasons much more important than my own – I don’t believe we should ask anyone else to be either. We can be there for each other, and we can comfort each other, but let’s not demand gratefulness from one another in a time of sorrow.

 

By: Jessica Valenti, The Guardian, November 27, 2014

November 27, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Thanksgiving, Violence Against Women | , , | Leave a comment

“Stony Silence”: On Bill Cosby, Hard To Keep The Faith

A few weeks ago, I spent a delightful afternoon and evening with Bill Cosby. I was the emcee of a gala for historically black Claflin University, which is in my home town of Orangeburg, S.C.; Cosby was the headliner. Both of us were donating our time to a worthy cause.

It was just the second time I had met him, so I certainly don’t claim to know him well. It was apparent that he’s having serious problems with his eyesight; a young man was at his side to help him navigate. Otherwise, Cosby was just what you’d expect if you ever watched an episode of his eponymous television show — warm, funny, avuncular, mischievous, wise. He was Cliff Huxtable in winter.

Cosby does his stand-up routine sitting down these days, but he had the audience roaring. I was floored by his talent — the way he spun out multiple threads of narrative until he seemed hopelessly lost in digression, then somehow pulled everything together at the end. He’s still got it.

So was I having a jolly old time with a serial rapist?

It is possible that all the women who accuse Cosby of sexual predation are lying, in the sense that anything not prohibited by the laws of physics is possible. But it doesn’t seem very likely.

I confess that I’m having trouble squaring the allegations with the man I was with that day. I suspect many people may be experiencing the same kind of cognitive dissonance. Cosby has spent his long, groundbreaking career in the entertainment industry being such a good guy. How could he possibly be such a bad guy, too?

I still remember the electrifying night when “I Spy” debuted in 1965. It was the first network television series to feature an African American in a leading role, with Cosby co-starring alongside Robert Culp. They played a couple of secret agents who pretended to be an itinerant tennis pro (Culp) and his trainer (Cosby).

The writers made Cosby’s character the brainy one. “I Spy” never once, to my recollection, dealt head-on with the issue of race. It didn’t have to. Seeing an intelligent, well-spoken black character, with no hint of subservience or buffoonery, was statement enough.

Cosby’s image as a paragon reached its apotheosis nearly two decades later in “The Cosby Show,” which began its eight-year run in 1984. One of the greatest sitcoms in television history, “Cosby” took viewers into the lives of a middle-class African-American family. The cultural references were specific and revelatory — familiar music, historically black colleges, the “code-switching” that upwardly mobile African Americans learned to perform. Oh, and the sweaters.

“The Cosby Show” was a soapbox. Cosby used it to preach universal truths about love and family but also to deliver targeted messages about the value of education for African Americans.

In recent years, his insistence on the theme of black self-empowerment has bordered on the shrill. At times, it seemed to me, he went overboard in “blaming the victim.” But his heart was in the right place.

Or seemed to be.

How am I supposed to reconcile this history with allegations of sexual misconduct and rape that span more than three decades? Five women, including supermodel Janice Dickinson, have come forward in recent days to charge that Cosby lured them on the pretext of mentoring their careers, plied them with alcohol and perhaps some unknown drug and forced them to have sex when they were unable to resist.

A 2005 civil suit by a Philadelphia woman alleging that Cosby sexually assaulted her — and offered her money to keep quiet about the attack — was settled out of court.

It is important to note that Cosby has never been charged with any crime. It is also important to note that statutes of limitations have run out on most, if not all, of the alleged attacks. It may be unfair, but a rape that goes formally unreported for too long is no longer legally considered a rape.

Is it fair to Cosby, then, that his alleged victims come forward now, knowing they will never have to prove anything in court? Cosby’s defenders should be aware that some of the women have spoken publicly before; the difference is that now they’re being listened to.

Cosby’s new sitcom project has been canceled. “The Cosby Show” has been yanked from the rotation on TVLand. I’d like to believe the man I met is incapable of such monstrous acts. But his stony silence makes it hard to keep the faith.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 20, 2014

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Bill Cosby, Rape, Violence Against Women | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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