BY: MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
Nothing good has ever come of a brooding late-night rant on social media. It’s often the kind of thing that is exclusive to jilted ex-lovers and sudden revelations that were discovered at the bottom of a bottle. But Donald Trump is a man of a different breed and Twitter storms have become something of a signature for his campaign.
His latest attack against former Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado, came in the form of a series of accusations which began at 3 AM on a Friday night.
Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2016
The tweets were a response to a well-laid trap by Hillary Clinton during the first debate.
“She has a name,” Clinton said on stage, pointing out that Trump had once referred to the Latina pageant winner as, “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”.
In the days that followed, Clinton was praised for having walked her opponent right into his own scandal.
Without being asked to do so, Trump addressed the issue on Fox and Friends; prompting widespread media coverage and the release of a video in which the Manhattan billionaire forces Machado to work out in front of a swarm of reporters.
In retaliation, Trump has promised to bring Bill Clinton’s infidelities into the next debate. He’s also lashed out at Machado who responded to accusations of her involvement in a murder and threats against a Venezuelan judge by saying, “everybody has a past. I’m not a saint girl,” in an interview on CNN.
But rather than focusing on the alleged criminal aspects of Machado’s past, Trump tried to discredit her by drawing attention to a non-existent sex tape using a shorthand version of a strategy the Clintons are intimately familiar with.
If Bill Clinton’s sex life matters at all, it says very little about who Hillary is as a person and far more about how scandal-driven this campaign has been. After all, Hillary ought to be judged on her own merits – not her husband’s actions.
On the other hand, it’s worth noting that while Trump was publicly shaming a beauty pageant finalist for her weight gain, the Clinton ‘war room’ of the 90s was perfecting a political strategy which aggressively targeted women.
Bill Clinton’s former campaign manager, James ‘the Ragin Cajun’ Carville, is often given credit for the warlike strategies which won Bill the White House and were born out of the motto, “let no attack go unanswered, let no opportunity go unexploited.” But many have also given credit for the aggressive tactics employed in the 1992 campaign to Hillary.
Chris Hegedus, who documented the ’92 campaign’s response to several scandals for her film The War Room, told the New York Times that this was Hillary Clinton’s way to, “send a message to Republicans.”
Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch, a government watchdog group, told RealClear Politics:
“Hillary Clinton started what was called the ‘war room.’ …And the purpose of the war room…was to destroy any woman that would challenge Bill Clinton”.
As a lawyer who has made a career and personal hobby out of suing the Clintons, Klayman is hardly a reliable source, but it’s also difficult to believe that someone with Hillary’s political prowess would be benched by the campaign when Bill himself advertised the couple as, “buy one, get one free.”
As multiple women began to come forward, alleging affairs and sexual assault, they became the victims of a strategy which came to be known as ‘nuts or sluts’.
According to a New York Times report, the campaign hired private investigators in an attempt to publically discredit Bill’s accusers by branding them as either crazy or sexual deviants.
Among these women was a singer from Arkansas by the name of Gennifer Flowers who claimed to have had a 12 year affair with Clinton.
In his book, All Too Human, Clinton’s former communications director, George Stephanopoulos, remembers Hillary responding to the Flowers scandal by saying, “We have to destroy her story,” while memos to the campaign from private investigator Jack Palladino outlined a strategy to discredit Flowers by attacking her, “character and veracity until she is destroyed beyond all recognition.”
“Every acquaintance, employer, and past lover should be located and interviewed,” Palladino wrote, “[Flowers] is now a shining icon — telling lies that so far have proved all benefit and no cost — for any other opportunist who may be considering making Clinton a target.”
The nuts and sluts strategy was not only meant to publically humiliate Clinton’s accusers, but also discourage future claims of sexual misconduct. Rex Nelson, former political editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recalled that, “women were called and told they’d make them look like whores if they came forward.”
Despite Palladino’s efforts to avoid another scandal, Clinton was blindsided again after winning the election. This time, Bill was accused of sexually harassing his former employee, Paula Jones, while he served as Governor of Arkansas. The case – which ended in an $850,000 settlement and no admission of guilt – eventually revealed Bill’s infamous affair with Monica Lewinsky, but also saw multiple women come forward claiming sexual assault and even rape.
In an in-depth Buzzfeed feature, one former Clinton employee by the name of Juanita Broaddrick claims Bill raped her in an Arkansas hotel room in 1978. While Broaddrick has told her friends and family about the incident, she claims to have been intimidated into silence in a private encounter with Hillary Clinton.
I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73….it never goes away.
— Juanita Broaddrick (@atensnut) January 6, 2016
As is the case with many Clinton scandals, there is very little evidence that links Hillary Clinton directly to the nuts and sluts strategy and Braodrick’s claims have often been brushed off as partisan slander. As the Buzzfeed feature points out, Broaddrick has made several pro-Trump statements on her social media and has attempted to derail Clinton’s campaigns in the past.
Still, Hillary’s public appearances suggest that she was an active participant in the attempts to publically shame Bill’s accusers having referred to her husband’s infidelities as an eruption of bimbos.
In a 1992 interview with ABC, Hillary spoke of Gennifer Flowers as trailer trash and called her, “some failed cabaret singer who doesn’t even have much of a résumé to fall back on.”
Statements like these can make it difficult for voters to take Clinton’s criticism of Trump seriously. Especially since they were made around the same time that Trump was calling Alicia Machado Miss Piggy.
Clinton, however, seems to have had a change of heart while Trump has continued to attack several women including debate moderators and television hosts who are critical of his campaign.
In an attempt to show her support for the victims of sexual assault, Clinton sent out this tweet early in her campaign:
"To every survivor of sexual assault…You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed. We're with you." —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 14, 2015
Though when asked on the campaign trail whether Juanita Broaddrick deserved to be believed, Clinton responded by saying,
“Well, I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence,” something which Buzzfeed’s Katie J.M. Baker says was never conclusively proven, but remains too uncomfortable for Hillary supporters to discuss.
“[T]he political implications of [Broaddrick’s] claims are too disastrous for liberal politicians and pundits — the people who typically support self-declared rape survivors — to rally around her, especially this close to election day.”
The outraged responses to Donald Trump’s attack on Alicia Machado show that American voters are no longer willing to be fooled by a nuts and sluts strategy. The way we view female sexuality and a woman’s role in society has changed drastically – and for the better – since the 1990s, even if Trump’s opinion hasn’t. But as Baker points out, the fear of a Trump presidency may also be blinding us to his opponent’s questionable past.
cover photo: Clinton Presidential Library