Don't stand by him, Hillary

She's a busted flush if she sticks by her husband; her credibility can't be sustained if she sanctions his behaviour
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The Independent Culture
IS IT too much to hope for? Or is Hillary Clinton finally going to do the decent thing and ditch her sexual abuser of a husband? While reports of a trial separation are based firmly on rumour and supposition, we've all seen this pattern before, and not long after an Andrew Morton biography was published, either.

Has Hillary finally realised that she is indeed what she denied herself to be in January1992, before her husband had even become President: "I'm not some little woman standing by her man like Tammy Wynette ..."

Hillary later had to apologise to the now dead country star for that remark. And Tammy Wynette isn't the only woman who deserves an apology from Hillary Clinton. Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle, Lencola Sullivan, Jo Jenkins, Connie Hamzy, Sally Perdue, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Juanita Broaddrick... the long list of women we now know to have been vilified and smeared in the name of the Clintons' joint political career should all be apologised to, not just by Bill but by Hillary as well.

From the beginning, before Bill Clinton even became President, when Hillary defended him over his relationship with the night-club singer Gennifer Flowers, the men and women of America have reasoned that if Bill's serial adultery is all right with his wife, then it's no one else's affair. Further, they have believed that it is right-wing conspiracy, not Bill Clinton's own folly, that is the reason for continual rumours threatening to damage his career.

Speculation about Hillary's motives for sticking by the President is beside the point here. Whether Hillary did it because she's madly in love with him, or because she's madly in love with political power, the result has been the same.

Some of the most significant feminists of the US have been falling over themselves for years to justify Bill Clinton's behaviour, seemingly forgetting that in this way they sanction the worst of all male sexual behaviour. They have closed ranks to sacrifice the lives and reputations of scores of women on the altar of political expediency.

Susan Faludi, author of Backlash, the best-selling book that warned against the slippage of women's rights in America, commented on the Lewinsky affair with a touch of backlash herself.

"If anything, it sounds like she put the moves on him," Faludi declared, seemingly comfortable with the idea that a man should never, ever be expected to resist sex when it's offered to him on a plate.

Even more dismissive of women was the grandmother of second-wave feminism, Betty Friedan, who offered the opinion that Clinton's "enemies are attempting to bring him down through allegations about some dalliance with an intern... Whether it's a fantasy, a set-up or true, I simply don't care."

When the woman who invented sisterhood comes out with remarks like this, it's no wonder that the entire nation felt it was open season on Monica Lewinsky, who has been subject to attacks on her person which suggest that feminism never happened at all.

The most pathetic response came from the queen of pretty feminism, Naomi Wolf, who hasn't commented on the matter, feeling it inappropriate for herself to voice any kind of opinion because her own husband, David Shipley, has close links to the Clinton administration.

Maybe Hillary should have cited Naomi and not Tammy when she was standing by her man in 1992.

The most self-contradictory comment has come from Gloria Steinem, who bizarrely offers the defence of Bill that Hillary is the ultimate feminist trophy wife: "He's married to a woman who's at least his equal, whom he clearly likes and respects."

So, guys, marry a strong and capable woman, then tomcat up and down the country making a mockery of your marriage and your children. It's not how you conduct yourself that matters, it's whose finger you put your ring on.

And the most unbelievably crass and stupid have to be the remarks of the creator of the zipless fuck. Erica Jong remarked that she wants a president who is "alive from the waist down" and then went on to speculate on the Lewinsky relationship with the deathless observation: "Oh! Imagine swallowing the President's semen."

Erica, your trouble has always been that you're alive only from the waist down.

Following Hillary's example, all of these women have stood by their left- leaning man, and for some of the same reasons as Hillary. They want to hang on to his power, rather than forge their own, like the little women they've proved themselves to be. They defend him because he shares some of their political ambitions. But they never stop to ask themselves why. Of course Bill Clinton is pro-choice. It appears that he has packed women off to the abortionist himself. Of course he's in favour of female equality in the workplace. How else would he find mistresses, and how, if these women didn't support themselves, would he be able to make sure they were handily tucked away in discreet hotel rooms?

These feminists, improbably headed by their "First Lady", have somehow managed completely to separate Clinton's political ambitions from his personal behaviour, even though they've all been raised on the idea that "the personal is political". And now, as the revelations keep on coming, they're having to face up to the kind of man they've been blindly defending.

They knew he was a philanderer. They knew he was a liar. They knew he was a cheat. They knew he was a sexual harasser, an office groper, a seducer of women young enough to be his children. Now, as Clinton continues to refuse to deny Juanita Broaddrick's accusations (not that a denial from him is worth the air it's breathed into) that he violently raped her in a hotel room two decades ago, it's beginning to dawn on them that he might be a full- blown, all-out rapist, too.

It is this latest criminal act of infidelity, friends are reported to have said, that is the final straw with Hillary. But still some feminists are unwilling to condemn him. Susan Faludi has commented on this latest allegation: "I'm torn between the twin poles of my total feminist commitment to any woman who's been sexually assaulted and the feeling that I may have gotten on a bandwagon to indict someone who may be innocent. Short of stoning him, what is it that people want to do?"

But isn't this the antithesis of feminist thought? Isn't it bad old blokes who are supposed to believe that men should always be given the benefit of the doubt when women cry rape? It seems to me that far from wanting to stone Bill Clinton, too many people want him to remain as leader of the free world at any cost, and whatever he has done.

That is why Hillary Clinton is a busted flush if she sticks by her husband now. She's always been an odd sort of feminist, carving out a political platform that mainly champions women's rights, on the back of her marriage to a powerful man. By doing this she not only shores him up, but also shores up the idea that the democratic way is for leaders to be men, with supportive women behind them and at least one child, to reassure the public that the country really is run by heterosexuals.

And now that this man stands accused of being the worst kind of heterosexual - a rapist - her credibility as an "international icon for women" - as she has been described - surely cannot be sustained as long as she continues to sanction his behaviour by remaining his wife.

Hillary Clinton is now contemplating doing what she should have done years ago, not just in her marriage but in her career as well. She may strike out on her own and stand in New York for the Senate. She should certainly make this kind of move at last, but she really ought to divest herself of her sleazy husband first. Surely even the citizens of New York aren't so liberal that they wish to be represented by a woman who shares her life with an untried sex offender? And surely, if success is the best revenge, this is the way for her to recover her own dignity, and the dignity of the wayward feminists of America.