Thomas: Is ‘better late than never’ really the proper adage for sexual misconduct? (column)
The English poet of the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer, is generally credited with coining the phrase that has been updated in modern English to read, “better late than never.” It means to do something or to arrive later than expected may not be good, but it is better than not at all.
That may not be true in the case of former President Bill Clinton’s enablers and apologists for his sexual misdeeds before and after winning the White House.
At a time when people in the media, Congress and the entertainment industry are being exposed for allegedly — and, in some cases, admittedly — sexually harassing and assaulting women, the failure of president Clinton’s cabinet and staff to confront him on his misbehavior is only now being dealt with in light of other incidents.
President Barack Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, spoke to Obama adviser David Axelrod for his podcast program.
About Clinton’s extramarital exploits, Sebelius said, “Not only did people look the other way, but they went after the women who came forward and accused him. And so it doubled down on not only bad behavior, but abusive behavior. And then people attacked the victims.”
Sebelius also criticized Hillary Clinton and White House staff members for smearing her husband’s accusers. She said the same pattern is being repeated today as various men are accused of sexual harassment and their accusers are being twice victimized.
Among others aiding Clinton, either by their silence or by issuing misleading statements, was his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Albright appeared in the White House driveway before news cameras and vouched for Clinton’s veracity when he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
If Albright and other higher-ups knew or suspected that Bill Clinton was engaging in extramarital sex and Hillary was aiding in the cover-up, then they should have resigned in protest or confronted the president — or both.
While it’s true, as Sebelius noted, that less powerful women fear speaking up because they might lose their jobs, the higher and mightier ones would presumably not have such concerns. In fact, they might be regarded as heroes (or heroines) and rescuers of casualties from the sexual revolution.
There should be no double standard about any of this; whether the abuser is the president or a boss, if allegations of sexual misconduct can be proved, that person should be forced to face the consequences. Tolerating or denying this behavior only guarantees we get more of it.
Every female is someone’s daughter, wife, mother, girlfriend or sister. Would these abusers tolerate the harassment or rape of a close female relative or friend? Not unless they are sicker than the behavior they are alleged to have carried out.
In her interview with Axelrod, Sebelius drew a distinction between Clinton’s acts and those of accused groper Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and accused pedophile Roy Moore. In the case of Franken, she said, he admitted the bad behavior and immediately called for an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. Moore, Harvey Weinstein, President Donald Trump and others have denied the accusations made against them.
Sebelius admitted the Senate Ethics Committee has a checkered history when it comes to investigating claims against members, but she thinks with so much public outcry, disgust and pressure, members won’t be able to sweep things under the rug. The question is whether Franken’s call for an investigation is an attempt to delay accountability for his actions.
One benefit from the Sebelius interview is that it should be the final word on the political lives of both Clintons. They should leave the stage to a new generation. Given their past and lust for money, however, I’m betting they won’t. It could be said their departure into retirement would be considered a case of better late than never.
Readers may email Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.