Elections

Sexual Politics

October 12, 2016

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Sexual Politics

Late last week, the respectable media was shocked, shocked to discover that Donald Trump is a horndog of almost the same caliber as his golf buddy Bill Clinton.

One advantage of being old is that current events become more amusing the more of the past you’ve endured. For example, the sanctimony of Hillary’s run for the White House seems less humorless if you can remember the last Clinton presidency.

The life of the more entertaining Clinton demonstrates that as long as he nods respectfully while Hillary discourses, and then tells her that she’s the real political superstar in the family and that it’s only sexism that has held her back, Bill can partake of the same life of money, power, fame, babes, and golf that Trump has enjoyed.

When Clinton left office in 2001, he was blackballed from joining the prestigious old-money country clubs of Westchester County, in part due to his notorious sexual history and vulgar on-course repartee. In a 1998 article on Vernon Jordan, Bill’s “fixer-without-portfolio,” Newsweek reported:

Jordan first met Clinton during the lawyer’s days at the Urban League. Southerners who love to work a room, both men love to eat, golf, tell stories—and flirt with women. Their mutual fondness for the ladies is a frequent, if crude, topic of conversation. Asked at a party earlier this year what it was he and Clinton talk about on the golf course, Jordan slyly replied: “We talk pu—y.”

So, Bill joined Trump’s nouveau riche golf club with the artificial waterfall, where, as far as I can tell, he’s still a member.

One of the weirder story lines of the campaign is how the main characters keep bringing up the fact that they all belong to the same country club. For instance, Hillary frequently denounces Donald for allegedly stiffing the architect on his bill for designing the clubhouse where Bill has a locker. And yet nobody else in America will ask them about this curious situation.

“One big difference between Donald and Bill when it comes to women is that Trump has exacting visual standards.”

Perhaps this is because golf has fallen utterly out of fashion, except among the ultimate winner class, who love golf as much as ever. Obsessive golfers include the last four presidents, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Bill Murray and Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Bloomberg, and Michael Phelps.

The rest of us Americans, however, find it depressing that we’re getting less and less able to afford golf, a sport that requires enormous tracts of manicured real estate. It’s discouraging to think that golf was once the sport of average American dads. So we tell ourselves that golf is boring and that we find 200-acre golf courses much less appealing than our treadmills and yoga mats.

One big difference between Donald and Bill when it comes to women is that Trump has exacting visual standards—he bought the Miss Universe pageant, helping him get close to Miss Universe-quality models—while Clinton likes all shapes, sizes, and ages.

Primary Colors, Joe Klein’s roman à clef about the power couple Jack and Susan Stanton, begins with the presidential candidate appearing at a dull literacy event at a public library. Except, Governor Stanton then disappears…only to reappear with the flushed and flustered middle-aged librarian.

Much of Bill’s appeal to certain women voters was that even though he was a light drinker (the Arkansas state troopers who pulled over and propositioned women motorists for the governor reported never noticing him the worse for drink), he had permanent beer goggles. Many women appreciated that even though they hadn’t been keeping their looks up like they should, they still had a chance to get with a White House-level alpha male. Granted, they could only expect ten minutes or so of his attention, but that might be enough to foist his Leader of the Free World genes onto some unsuspecting guy to pay to raise.

In contrast, catching Donald’s notoriously critical attention would require, at minimum, way more time at the gym than they’re willing to put in. (That explains Hillary’s otherwise bizarre obsession with Trump fat-shaming former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.)

We are supposed to take Hillary’s feminist ideology ever so seriously, but it’s remarkably useless at explaining the sexual politics of her own marriage.

Of the many weird aspects of the 2016 election, perhaps the strangest is the least mentioned: Despite all the huzzahs about Hillary’s nomination as a triumph for feminism over patriarchy, the reason she is the Democratic nominee is because the Twenty-second Amendment banned her husband from seeking another term.

It’s as if when Congressman Sonny Bono (R-CA) skied into that tree and his widow took over representing Palm Springs in the House, Mary Bono had trumpeted her inheritance as a heroic personal defeat of sexism.

Granted, Hillary has a decent excuse for her delusion that she’s a great natural leader in her own right: She’s been repeatedly lied to about that by the most talented politician of his generation. According to a Time story on Bill Clinton:

He told her she was most talented pol of their generation, the most natural leader, with the best command of the issues, and rather than marry him, she should go to Chicago or New York and get into politics.

This is not to say that Hillary is not intelligent, diligent, and determined. But those are the traits of a staffer rather than a chief executive. In decision-making and leadership capacities she has repeatedly failed. Her incompetence at pushing through health-care reform unleashed the Gingrich revolution, costing the Democrats their four-decade-long majority in the House. President Obama recently made it clear that he views her Libyan war as the biggest mistake of his two terms.

A funny thing about the Clinton marriage is how much it conforms to prefeminist stereotypes. You used to hear the saying “Behind every great man there’s a great woman.” And Bill and Hillary have exactly the traditional male and female traits that made for a good power couple of a charismatic man and a careful woman. They’re like Vladimir and Vera Nabokov, the great novelist and his famously devoted wife, if Vera had been an egomaniac who thought she was the real talent.

Without Hillary, Bill might have been, say, the Arkansas state senate minority leader, a legend of wasted potential to Little Rock insiders (“He could have been the next LBJ”) as he struggles to pay alimony to three ex-wives. Without Bill, Hillary would have been, say, chief of staff to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), but nobody would have ever imagined her as president.


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