Fair play can sometimes be a raunchy racket.
In the midst of Hillary Clinton's promising presidential bid, a blast from the past blew through the back door and rattled the joints of the political edifice of Clinton. Juanita Broaddrick, the Arkansas woman who has claimed that in 1978 then-state Attorney General Bill Clinton raped her, said that Hillary Clinton is "not the one" to talk about violence against women and tweeted that she is an "enabler."
As a heckler promptly inserted herself into a Clinton rally, Donald Trump wasted no time posting a heat-seeking ad on Instagram linking her to a gallery of famous sexual predators and deviants, including alleged rapist Bill Cosby, sexter Anthony Weiner and, of course, her own husband.
Except for the latter, these connections are inarguably tenuous. Hillary Clinton's involvement with Weiner is primarily through his wife, Huma Abedin, a close adviser. As for Cosby, the ad shows Clinton in a photograph with the once-brilliant star. How many thousands of others were happy to be caught in the same frame with Cosby, long before anyone knew of his alleged predations?
What does any of this have to do with Clinton? She isn't, after all, a guilty party. Then again, one is judged in part by the company one keeps. The question of character isn't always what did you do but what were you willing to tolerate. Trump's ad-meister smartly associated Clinton with a cast of characters whose values can't be heralded as exemplary.
It's unlikely, however, that anyone's mind will be changed by what is already known. Many younger voters, who may not be as familiar with Clinton history, were shaped by a world that bears little resemblance to their parents', and they may well find such revelations short of earth-shattering or even interesting.
The Trump ad, though obviously dishonest, is nonetheless shrewd. Trump took Clinton's most-shining moment -- her defense of women and her 1995 speech at the U.N.'s Fourth World Conference on Women -- and turned it against her. As the images flick past, we hear then-first lady Clinton's famous words: "Human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all." And then, "Let's keep fighting for opportunity and dignity."
The ad's finale in bold letters is a question posing as a statement: "True Defender of Women's Rights."
This is unfortunate. Clinton was brave to say those things in 1995 in Beijing and she truly has influenced and improved the lives of millions of women around the globe. For these achievements to be tarnished by Trump is unfair and, one might say, Clintonesque. If chickens really do come home to roost, the Clintons can't pretend to be bystanders to the idiom. It is a fact of recent history that women's rights have been selectively defended by Hillary Clinton's vast, left-wing support group, especially when it has come to her husband's extramarital proclivities.
When then-President Clinton had his dalliance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, it was a clear case of sexual harassment by the very definition promoted by feminists. That is: a person in a superior workplace position making (or responding to) sexual overtures toward an employee, regardless of consent. Where were feminists when Lewinsky was scuttled away to a life of lonely infamy?
Similarly, when Paula Jones filed a sexual harassment suit against President Clinton, claiming that he had exposed himself to her in a hotel room when he was governor of Arkansas, the sisterhood dismissed Jones as a political pawn of the right. This was surely true, but it didn't necessarily negate her claim. Isn't the operative feminist principle that the woman is always to be believed? Or is it only certain women?
When Judge Susan Webber Wright rebuffed Jones' claim, she ruled in part that Jones had failed to prove she had suffered damages from her encounter. Nary a peep from the girls' team. Yet, rewinding to the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, feminists had no trouble believing that Anita Hill had suffered distress while working for Thomas a decade earlier because of lewd comments he made in her presence.
Wherever one stands on these histories, a double standard is undeniable. This is what Trump hinted at -- and what Clinton will have to navigate as she seeks to convince voters not only that she deserves to live once again in the White House but that her husband does as well.
Write Kathleen Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org.