Hillary Clinton, like all women, cannot win in the face of male infidelity – and Donald Trump knows it

If the wife stays she’s a doormat or a schemer, or a Lady Macbeth egging on his wicked behaviour. Yet if she leaves and files for divorce she’s a gold-digger who's out to wreck a good family in the courts

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The Independent Online

Perhaps I’m not the only woman who bears a grudging respect for women like Hillary Clinton who stick by their man post-infidelity. Any of us can scream, shout, throw paint, then call the lawyers. Perhaps Hilary did all this in the Nineties when first faced with the stories of Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick.

But I find the stage after the initial shouting most interesting because most of us, when faced with broken trust, will react by breaking, smashing, nulling and voiding everything nice and good in its peripheries. Families will be split, houses sold, furniture fought over, retirement funds obliterated, future Christmases ruined, children put in therapy and perhaps most damaging, decades of harmonious personal history rewritten as a big fat waste of time. Hillary Clinton, for better or worse, is one of those women who could look past the straying dick and see the bigger picture.

Weathering a “Bill Clinton” in one’s life for 44 years requires a level of fortitude that the average mere mortal cannot reckon. They find it weird. Furthermore, many feminists will take a dim view of women who choose to stay. This is what makes Trump’s pre-debate stunt last night so bleakly damning. Hillary Clinton, like all women, cannot win in the face of male infidelity. If the wife stays she’s a doormat, or a schemer, or a Lady Macbeth egging on his wicked behaviour. Yet if she leaves and files for divorce she’s a gold-digger, wrecking a good family over her shallow pride and trying to ruin a good man via the courts. Let’s be honest: whichever way Hillary Clinton had jumped in the Nineties, she would still be seen now through the prism of a man’s penis, White House or no.

Ironically, in contrast to Hillary’s staying power as a wife, three-times-married Donald Trump believes women reach their “check-out” time around the age of 35. Poor decrepit Melania. Trump also believes it’s hard to score “a 10” as a woman in his eyes with small boobs, as well as that when “you’re a star”, shoving an unsolicited rummaging hand into a women’s labia is a job perk. But oddly, it was not the fact that Trump’s attitude to women is that of the most odious bar-fly in a village pub which came under scrutiny last night. Instead, at the pre-debate press call, Trump positioned himself as a defender of women and as a granter of a platform to the unheard.

Donald Trump says 'sexual assault' critics should focus on 'more important things like Isis'

Jones, Willey and Broaddrick all claim to have had non-consensual sexual contact with Bill Clinton. The details of these cases are, as sexual assault accusations tend to be, immensely complex, nuanced and highly difficult to prove. Broaddrick, for example, claims to have been raped by Bill Clinton in 1978, with the story first surfacing in 1992. Broaddrick then denied this allegation in a sworn affidavit, but then some years later recanted her denial. In the Nineties, Bill Clinton vehemently denied Broaddrick’s allegations through his lawyer, David A Kendall.

Last year Hillary Clinton was asked what she would say to Broaddrick, Willey and Jones and replied, “Well, I would say that everyone should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.” Hillary Clinton has no doubt lived with the minute details of these women’s allegations for decades and is highly aware that any public reaction she has will be deemed wrong.

She cannot be defensive, flippant, heartless, non-sisterly, angry, wounded, sympathetic or sorry on her husband’s behalf as this would hint at culpability. She can neither talk coherently on the matter nor bat it away. Trump produced those women last night safe in the knowledge that Clinton could not say anything at all.

But if Hillary Clinton’s thoughts on the matter are opaque, Trump’s insincerity as women’s rights campaigner is very clear. Trump did not invite those women to make an erudite point on rape culture. Trump merely hoped to wrong-foot a woman much smarter and accomplished than himself by parading a load of women who claim to have been shagged by her husband around an hour before the most crucial point in Hillary Clinton’s entire political career.

But it did not severely hamper her. This is what scares men like Trump about bloody difficult women who aren’t “a 10” and just won’t “check out”. They’re made of much, much stronger stuff.