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September 18, 2006



Hugo, you had me right up until the end. Please consider deleting your very offensive reference to embracing a Klansman. As a black man, reading that was very jarring. Frankly, it makes you look obtuse and thoughtless. And it completely ruins an excellent essay about Clinton and feminist responses to his contradictory legacy.


Craig, fair enough. Let's just mentally substitute anyone whose views one finds abhorrent.


no one suggests that George W. Bush has been unfaithful to Laura. His professional relationships with the likes of Karen Hughes and Condi Rice suggest that he is quite comfortable with women in positions of power.

Both of those women are mouthpieces of the GOP, kept around to show the appearance of diversity and a support of women and minorities that does not exist in Bush's administration. All they do is regurgitate Bush's agenda (with better grammar). That's not real power.


Hugo, I really still don't get your last remark. Being civil, of course. But posing for an image of you apparently embracing an asshat? Huh?

I wonder if Ann Althouse just hasn't gotten used to one feature of the Internet--that when you talk smack about somebody, they might just show up and have something to say about it. And if you're not an asshat, you might have to own up if you went over the line.

Jonathan Versen("Hugo Zoom")

I tried my damndest to click to enlarge, but everything else got bigger too.


All they do is regurgitate Bush's agenda (with better grammar). That's not real power.

Or, of course, we could consider the possibility that two very intelligent and well-educated women actually, upon mature reflection, agree with the agenda. Or are the experiences and political views of women and minorities so monolithic that they are subject to crude stereotyping of the kind feminism rightly objects to in other places?

Oh I bet you would have your picture taken, Hugo. That's one of the things I love about you, and one of the things that drives me up the wall. I think (and I am borrowing this distinction) there's a difference between hiring someone to fix a tap, and hiring someone as an ambassador/role model/leader/person to represent the full faith and credit of the country. In the first case, I don't care if my plumber is an adulterer, etc. In the second, I do. And I don't think that the public and the private are seperable the way you're trying to separate them. Yes, you can say Clinton did some good things. But taking a picture is an endorsement, which is why Mother Teresa got in so much trouble in Haiti.

Jonathan Versen("Hugo Zoom")

Hi again Hugo, I'm back. I wasn't even looking for more commentary regarding Valenti-vs-Althouse, but I found it, at Orcinus, of all places:

... on the surface, at least, the brouhaha over Jessica's boobs is just a petty bit of self-revelation from the right-wing blogosphere. Certainly, Ann Althouse displays far more about her own character -- or utter lack thereof -- than whatever wares Jessica shows us.

But there is more at stake than meets the eye, because what Althouse is up to, along with her cohorts on the pseudo-libertarian right, is actually attacking and undermining feminism and whatever gains it may have made over the years.

It's a nice post(the above is only about 1/4 of it), and he tries to put it in the larger context of the right trying to pigeonhole the left. You also touch upon this of course, from a slightly different angle. For my part, I don't know enough about Althouse's politics to offer a judgement, although it was pretty clear to me she was trolling for a spike in her site visits.

I'm reminded of how many right-wing talk show hosts often ask guests whom they perceive as liberal to give an example of how their thinking differs from liberal orthodoxy, as if it is somehow incumbent upon them to prove to the host and the audience that a. they're not nuts, and b. that stereotypes the audience may hold about liberalism in general are indeed true.

You ask, "what ought to be the feminist response to Bill Clinton?" I've been mulling it over in my noggin, and it's clear to me that the sullenness or surliness Althouse apparently expects from a young woman who might pose in his presence negatively defines the answer, as one concrete example of what the response should not be.

Forgive my long-windedness. Now it's time for my nap.


My own take on President Clinton was that at least he was a man whose vices I *understood, unlike the present lot. Puritans scare me, whether they be of the left or of the right.

I think many people are offended when others do not conform to their pet notions of how they "ought" to behave (speaking of Jessica here, not the ex-dog-in-chief). The mere fact that she is attractive (well *I* think so, ymmv), posing like she's comfortable being seen, and smiling broadly for a photo with the former leader-of-the-relatively-free-world (ok, she has the skills and reflexes the patriarchy requires of subordinate people, so?) makes her a bad feminist - if you're a puritan.

I'm not a puritan. Bill Clinton was the best of a bad (and getting worse, if you ask me) lot; I voted for him twice, and would do so again. Monica Lewinsky was more grotesquely abused by those who advertised their offense at her victimization (please note absence of scare quotes) than by anybody who had fleshly congress with her person.

No feminist (or fellow-traveller) need ever feel shame for *not being the puritan the puritanical right desires you to be.

Douglas, Friend of Osho

I agree with Christopher Hitchens: it wasn't the sin, it was the cynicism. Both the Clintons benefited from a public broad-mindedness about sex that they didn't extend to others. But the sight of mainstream feminists squirming over the personal being not-so-political for once almost made eight years of HilBillary worth it.

Scott Lemieux

"If we compare Clinton's actual accomplishments to an authentic feminist agenda, he was a bit of a disappointment. If we compare him to his predecessors and to his immediate successor, he's the lion of Judah!"

Right. I'd also pose this question: has any President been better on question's of women's rights? I don't think so...

karen corcoran dabkowski

sounds like the snide carping of one female about another who is quite obviously attractive and getting attention. that's my gut reaction to this.

and what was ms. valenti supposed to do? stand there 'round-shouldered'?

get rid of the smile to show she wasn't charmed by the ex-president?

that she was not enjoying herself, was perhaps even properly disapproving?


these were people having an enjoyable conversation at lunch, and someone decided to snap a picture. if althouse had fastened onto anything else but this attractive girl's - well, attractiveness- maybe i'd pay more attention. but as it is- her claws are showing.


I teach part time at a major university. If I carried on with female students/staff there the way that Bill Clinton carried on with women, I would have the entire feminist witch-hunt/inquisition down on me.

As much as I hate to admit it, the conservatives had a point with their impeachment attempt vs Clinton. Why should the president be above the same laws that have destroyed the lives of millions of other people?

One can argue that Clinton is the archetypical alpha male, therefore women defer to him. i.e., when it comes to it, feminist women (and men) are no different than non-feminist, i.e., they choose to subordinate themselves to the alpha males.

As for the photographic incident referred to, a rational view is that it is trivial enough. Who really cares other than the purveyors of ideological purity and other pathological types? Might this not the time for feminists to question their own witch-hunting/inquisition behavior?


I don't know, I think the point Althouse was making was valid, i.e., that the so-called 'progressive' blogger's comments were sophomoric and dopey (e.g., the "he's got beautiful blue eyes," etc.). As well, most of the comments by the peanut gallery over there were spot-on and witty to boot (e.g., re. the irony that the party, which took place in Harlem, was "as white as a Klan meeting").

Things only went south when Jessica showed up and started whining about people making comments about her outfit. I mean, really, she wasn't in a "sausage suit" or anything, but one has to wonder about the wisdom re. wearing a tight fitting top that clings to the boobs when going to a luncheon with a notorious philanderer and womanizer. To quote you Hugo, "what was she thinking?" But the really ironic (and IMO funny) thing was when Jessica got all miffed that people actually noticed her boobs when she wore such a clingy, form-fitting top that practically cried-out "look at my boobs!"

Sheesh, how petty. All of it.


Burton, the Inquisition killed people. The witch hunts killed people, most of whom were women. Hyperbole that compares contemporary non-violent political action to burning people at the stake is inappropriate in the extreme.

Justaguy, when did I ever say "What was she thinking?" in that context? I have long advocated (we've had fights about this here) a position that puts the burden of responsibility for arousal not on the object of desire, but on the subject alone. In other words, wandering eyes are the problem that needs controlling, not revealing outfits. Then again, you are capable of hearing the cries of women's tops, so you are privy to things that I am not.


"I have long advocated (we've had fights about this here) a position that puts the burden of responsibility for arousal not on the object of desire, but on the subject alone." -- Hugo

So then, going back to the topic of Clinton, you would place the blame for the Lewinsky affair on her because according to reports she was the one who was turned on by the President and initiated and encouraged the BJs, cigar play, etc.? One could even go so far as to speculate that she took advantage of his notorious libido and philandering ways. Or am I missing something? It certainly would go a long way in explaining why feminists gave Clinton a pass on that sorry episode in American history.

And BTW, I agree that people's personal and professional lives can be distinctly different, so how does that explain giving Clinton a pass but at the same time hammering Clarence Thomas and Bob Packwood, the Tailhook crowd (who were partying while not on duty), etc.? There seems to be a lot of politically-based waffling on the subject from the left and feminists in particular.


Justaguy, I'm referring to clothing when I talk about subjects and objects. Bill's response to Monica's thong was the problem more than her display of it.

I don't know many feminists who actually gave Bill a "pass." We condemned his private behavior but remained grateful for his generally strong public record. That's not hypocrisy, it's common sense.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Give me a break, justaguy. That whole darn initial thread was all about mocking Jessica for being pretty, and suggesting she was a whore, until Jessica showed up to very mildly under the circumstances make an objection. There was no way for things to go south from where they'd started; in fact, people only started to raise substantive points about the meeting with Clinton after Jessica had complained about being made the butt of intern jokes.

As for Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton, of course Clinton was more responsible; he was much older and above all her boss. Does anyone seriously think otherwise?


I don't claim to understand American politics (I'm always befuddled by the fact you don't seem to have a left-wing). But surely since he signed welfare reform into law he cannot be considered to have a strong record on women's rights. I think such a serious attack on the most vulnerable women cannot be undone no matter what else he did.

I don't know enough to challenge Scott's description of Clinton as the most pro-women's rights president ever (although I would suspect there were more steps forward on Nixon's watch than any other president), but that is certainly damning with faint praise.


Maia, I agree that Nixon was remarkably progressive compared to most of those around him. And please understand that my point here is not to ignore Clinton's misdeeds. His virtues and his defects must be read together; neither cancels out the other.


One can argue that Clinton is the archetypical alpha male, therefore women defer to him.

One can, if one thinks that willingness to engage in sexual congress with a man is a sign of "deference" in women. Or if one thinks that willingness to vote for a politician whose policies they agree with is a sign of "defererence" in women. Or if one thinks that making a pragmatic political decision to support an sexist man because the only alternative is far worse is "deference" in women.

In other words, one can argue that, if one is a throughgoing misogynist.

The Gonzman

Well, I'm sure I'm considered a misogynist - but then again, I never once had an intern my daughters age perform oral sex on me, conduct several affairs, sexually harass numerous women, and be accused of rape, either.

If I ever decide to do that, though, I'll be sure to put a (D) after my name so I can get the free pass.

Scott Lemieux

"...the point Althouse was making was valid, i.e., that the so-called 'progressive' blogger's comments were sophomoric and dopey."

But, of course, this wasn't her point. Her point was that the picture was actually arranged to show of Valenti's breasts to Bill Clinton. And Althouse has actually continued to argue this, and in her podcast actually argued that she was invited to the meeting so that she could be set up with Clinton! She not only encouraged but actviviely participated in the sexist abuse, while also making lunatic arguments about how a picture of a woman in a t-shirt is "breastblogging.")

As for your comments about her outfit, they say more about you than her. Wearing an Ann Taylor knit sweater is an invitation for sex now? What?


Justaguy, what exactly should Ms. Valenti have worn? My guess from these pictures is that she has a large chest. What would have been better for her to wear, a mummuu? A chador? It may sound like I'm joking, but I'm not. Large-chested women are going to have breasts that stick out if you wear anything even remotely form-fitting, which includes a baggy t-shirt.

Ms. Valenti chose to wear a nice outfit with a modest neckline and cap sleeves. It is tailored to display her body, yes, but not in anything that wouldn't easily pass muster on at least a casual Friday at an office.


Well, I'm sure I'm considered a misogynist

You keep asking us to slap you with this label. It's as if you consider it a badge of pride.

Lots of feminists supported Clinton because they realized the people attacking him didn't care about Monica Lewinsky, sexual harassment, or even adultery; they just wanted an excuse to kill Bill. (That's an explanation, not an excuse, by the way.) It's particularly vile that many of the same people freaked about Clinton were either themselves adulterers or embraced adulterers on their own side of the political chasm.


I agree with Justaguy that we need to praise good public behavior. When good public servants demonstrate bad private behavior,however, I'm less likely to be confident in their core character. That leads me to be suspicious of their motives no matter how effective their public actions are, and less trustful that they have the best interest of their constituents in mind.

You nailed it when you described (in the post on All Saints and the IRS) Bush and former presidential candidate Kerry as "princes of this world." We need to be so careful not to confuse our mission to practice God's kingdom principles instead of putting our hope in presidents.

Sorry to mix threads here, but I think the two are related.

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