Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last weekend, where he took on the Democrats’ “War on Women” narrative. Things got rolling after host David Gregory asked whether Paul thought it was appropriate for “key figures in the Party to be talking about women, women’s health, women’s bodies and the role of the federal government related to those things.”
That’s an odd question to ask in those terms, because it sounds essentially like Gregory is asking Senator Paul if Republicans have any business discussing women’s issues. (The backdrop to the question is presumably Mike Huckabee’s controversial, and deliberately misquoted, remarks to the Republican National Convention.) It’s hard to imagine someone like David Gregory asking the same question of, say, Hillary Clinton with respect to the Democrat Party, which is not going to stop talking about “women, women’s health, women’s bodies, and the role of the federal government related to those things” any time soon. I confess I also have a hard time imagining Mr. Gregory convening a bipartisan roundtable discussion on the urgent need to put a stop to identity politics and get the federal government out of “women’s health” issues – a phrase that must occasionally be parked inside of scare quotes, because we all know it’s often used as a euphemism for a particular procedure that frequently ends in the catastrophic loss of all health for extremely young women.
You don’t see a lot of A-list network news shows where the host asks Democrats if they should keep their traps shut about some hot-button issue. To cut Gregory a little slack, there are no small number of Republicans who think members of their party, especially the male representatives, should avoid talking about women to reduce the danger of STACDS (Sudden Todd Akin Career Death Syndrome.) But since the federal government is very much involved in these issues, and absolutely no one in the Democrat Party has any enthusiasm for reducing their role, that would amount to ceasing all political resistance to a sizable chunk of the State’s agenda, which is unbecoming of a free people. Limiting such discussions to female Republicans only would simultaneously demean male politicians, marginalize female ones (“Let me hand the stage over to my female colleague so she can discuss contraception!”) and make the entire GOP look perpetually on the verge of getting indicted for thoughtcrime. Women are half the electorate. The Republican Party cannot afford to be bullied out of talking to them.
Senator Paul addressed Gregory’s question with a bit of good humor, saying “I try never to have discussions of anatomy unless I’m at a medical conference.” He correctly pointed out that Democrats are the ones who started the “glossy and sometimes dumbed-down debate about there being a ‘War on Women.’” He went on to talk about how well women have been doing, and denied there was an organized campaign being waged by sinister males to keep them down, citing the hefty percentage of women pursuing degrees in law and medicine.
That’s a crucial point, and if he’s going to take point in the “War On Women” counter-offensive, Paul would be well-advised to keep those statistics coming. There are basically three components to the Democrat narrative: (1) Republicans just plain don’t like women, or think they should be forced into “submissive” roles, like it says in that Bible they’re so fond of; (2) The male-dominated GOP is mostly interested in appealing to white male voters, and doesn’t understand the challenges facing women; and (3) insidious and deliberate discrimination keeps women from achieving the success they deserve, exemplified by the often-repeated factoid that women make only so many cents on the dollar compared to men in the same line of work.
The first two points are cultural flashpoints that make Republicans nervous, especially in the post-Akin era. That nervousness is reinforced when they see something like the Huckabee flap spin into a media tornado out of nowhere in a matter of hours, merely because Huckabee used words that are supposedly toxic to Republicans in the course of describing how Democrats think.
But it’s the third point that gives the “War on Women” narrative a foothold in the minds of many reasonable women, because they keep hearing about “studies” that reveal what seems to be empirical evidence of discrimination. In truth, those studies are presented in a deeply misleading way – there isn’t much of a “pay gap” between men and women who approach the same careers in the same way, and the notion that private-sector America is staffed by doddering Good Ol’ Boys who think girls aren’t worth as much pay as a man is difficult to square with the modern reality of boardrooms and human-resources departments. Besides, hasn’t the government been waging a fairly hot war against sexual discrimination for over twenty years now? If there’s still invidious discrimination against women after all that effort, doesn’t the Party of Big Government have some explaining to do?
And that’s where Senator Paul sailed into controversy, because he called the Democrats on the rank hypocrisy of cooking up a “War on Women” narrative after they, with their feminist academic and media allies, labored mightily to give one William Jefferson Blythe Clinton a total and complete pass for sexual harassment, and they’re currently gearing up to escort him right back into the White House. Video courtesy of Newsbusters, which also has a transcript of Paul’s remarks:
“You know, I mean the Democrats, one of their big issues is they’ve concocted and said Republicans are committing a War on Women,” said Senator Paul. “One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn’t prey on young interns in their office. And I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this. He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that. And that is predatory behavior, and it should be, it should be something we shouldn’t want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office.”
“This isn’t having an affair,” Paul continued. “I mean, this isn’t me saying he’s, “Oh, he’s had an affair. We shouldn’t talk to him.” Someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office? I mean, really. And then they have the gall to stand up and say Republicans are having a War on Women?”
When Gregory asked if Bill Clinton’s predatory ways should be held against Hillary during her likely 2016 run, Paul said no, although he allowed “sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other” when it comes to the Clintons. He wanted to make the point that Democrats were hypocritical for giving Bill Clinton a free ticket out of sexual harassment purgatory – a ticket they’re still intent on honoring, to judge from the outraged HOW DARE HE? responses to Senator Paul bringing up an issue the Left considers settled, buried, and airbrushed out of history. (As if they would ever, under any circumstances, be willing to consider the statute of limitations expired on a comparable offense from a Republican.)
Paul also talked about the intense cultural cost of granting Bill Clinton his special dispensation to engage in all the sexual harassment he wants: “I think in my state, you know, people tend to sort of frown upon that. We wouldn’t be, you know, if there were someone in my community who did that, they would be socially… we would disassociate from somebody who would take advantage of a young woman in the workplace.”
For those of you too young to remember the Year of Monica Lewinsky, the feminist movement had just completed a decade-long project to make sexual harassment in the workplace – particularly the abuse of power by male executives to take advantage of female employees – a massive national crusade. The timing of Clinton’s offense was almost comical. Feminists made absolute fools of themselves trying to explain why nothing they said about sexual harassment for the previous ten years applied to a Democrat with good credentials on abortion rights. Clinton got precisely the treatment they portrayed as patriarchal evil of historic proportions for anyone else: no consequences for preying on his young intern, not even the social disdain Rand Paul talked about. The Left insisted that America had to accept Clinton’s behavior, not merely excuse or forgive it.
And why should Hillary Clinton get a pass, or even some sort of perverse sympathy, for her role in all this? She cynically cooperated in Bill Clinton’s defenses against adultery and harassment for her own personal gain. If the Clintons were Republicans, Hillary would be portrayed by feminist-influenced culture as a monster – proof that soulless Republican women were ready to sell out their sisters for the right price, or perhaps a cautionary tale about how even a well-educated woman could become a submissive drone who stood by her wandering husband no matter how often he humiliated her in public. Republican Hillary Clinton would be common pop-culture villain, with thinly veiled clones popping up in movies and TV shows to plot character assassination against victims who tried to speak out against her meal-ticket husband.
Such questions will, of course, be deemed far more trouble than they’re worth, if Hillary Clinton is indeed the Democrat candidate in 2016. Everyone will agree she’s totally blameless for Bill’s adultery; it probably won’t come up at all, unless Bill is clumsy enough to commit some new mayhem that his press courtiers can’t cover up. Was Rand Paul nonetheless firing a warning shot across Democrats’ bow, and letting them know they won’t be able to run the kind of bare-knuckle identity politics they ran in 2012? We may rest assured that opposing teams of consultants will be huddled in their respective bunkers throughout 2016, crafting messages that will appeal to female voters, especially the crucial single-women demographic. Perhaps Senator Paul wanted to make the Democrat planning sessions a bit more interesting.