Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine. Candice E. Jackson, World Ahead Publishing, Los Angeles, California, 291 pages, $25.95.
Before writing this review, I must disclose to the readers that Candice E. Jackson has been one of my writing partners these past two years. Furthermore, she has been a key person in my life, as she and I communicate often, and although she is 24 years my junior, we are good friends. Thus, I did not read this book with an unbiased view of its author.
When Candice gave me a copy of her new book, Their Lives, a few weeks ago, I had doubts about whether or not it would be ethical on my part to review it for anyone, and told her so. She understood, and had not sought a review from me. After our conversation, I thought of a plan. I would read the book on the plane going home (I was in San Francisco for a conference), and then decide if in good conscience I could review it in print, even after she put my name in the acknowledgements. Since I am reviewing it, you know my decision.
Their Lives is a wonderful and thoughtful piece of work, and I congratulate Candice for her efforts, as she had taken upon herself to engage in a very difficult piece of mental maneuvering. She has written a book that deals with the lives of various women who had encounters with Bill Clinton, sexual and otherwise, who were put through a personal hell not because they sought to attack him — which they did not — but rather because Bill and Hillary Clinton and their acolytes recognized that these women were a threat to both of their political futures. Thus, we have the orthodox-feminist Clintons using rather Neanderthal means to personally attack women in a manner that would have consumed the editorial page writers and columnists of the New York Times had Clinton been a conservative Republican. Instead, the press and their leftist allies not only swallowed this nonsense, but even became part of the attack machine.
So far, it would sound as though I am describing yet another "conservative" attack on the Clintons. After all, Ann Coulter (who Lew Rockwell once described as the "Madame DeFarge" of the Republicans) has said pretty much the same thing, so what’s the point of having another "right-wing" expos of Bill Clinton’s enormous sexual appetites?
Jackson, however, does not follow in that particular genre. Instead, she attempts something much more difficult, an attempt to tie the Clinton’s antics to their ideology; to put it another way, she is not shocked that the country’s 42nd president turned out to be an out-and-out misogynist. It’s the ideology, stupid.
Furthermore, Candice attempts to weave a libertarian ideal of feminism in her work, and then tie the entire unwieldy package together. That she succeeds at all is proof that this is not a bad piece of work, not a bad piece of work at all. And to highlight her inter-personal skills, Jackson has managed to gain the confidence of certain women who previously had shunned all attempts by writers and journalists to interview them. Thus, Kathleen Willey Schwicker, who first was introduced to the nation in 1998 on "60 Minutes" as the middle-aged woman claimed to have been groped by Clinton in an Oval-Office encounter, could write:
Candice E. Jackson’s rendition of my story is the most accurate portrayal of my experience with Bill Clinton that has yet been published. I appreciate her painstaking attempt to express the true nightmare Bill and Hillary put me through. (back cover)
To put it another way, Candice was not out to write sensational (and undocumented) things, but rather to get the facts of the case. Not every woman about whom she wrote would talk to her. For example, while Candice talked on numerous occasions to the parents of the infamous Monica Lewinsky (though not on the record), the loopy White House intern whose sexual affair with the president ultimately touched off a year that began with speculation and ended with the impeachment (but not removal) of President Clinton would not talk to the author. My sense is that her refusal to talk was Lewinsky’s loss.
The women that Candice covers in her book are Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Sally Perdue, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey (Schwicker), Lewinsky, and Juanita Broaddrick, who convincingly argued that then-Arkansas Attorney General William Jefferson Clinton raped her in a hotel room in 1978. She ends with a brief discussion of the possibilities of a Hillary Clinton presidency — that in 2005 does not seem particularly remote as the 2008 election approaches.
In the first chapter, the reader quickly finds that Candice does not view Clinton’s sexual antics as mere frat boy mischievousness. She writes:
Unfortunately for the many women mistreated by him, Clinton’s interactions with women spanning his political career place him outside the category "philanderer" and into much more serious categories like "sex addict," "sex offender," and "misogynist."
I don’t use these terms lightly…Philandering may be about men who "love" women too much, but sexual abuse, sex addiction, and misogyny have nothing to do with love and everything to do with power and control, often based on a view of women as objects. (p. 8)
She further writes:
From Clinton’s brief affairs with Elizabeth Ward Gracen and Sally Perdue as governor of Arkansas, to his decade-long recurring affair with Gennifer Flowers, to his alleged unwanted advances thrust upon Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey, to his confessed sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office and — if you find her story as credible as do I — his vicious assault on Juanita Broaddrick, Bill Clinton constantly views women as playthings. He has used his ever-expanding positions of power to seduce, entice, cajole, pressure, abuse, smear, and destroy women unfortunate enough to be caught in his gaze. (p. 11)
So far, however, I have described something that could just as easily have been written by Coulter, Laura Ingraham, or even Rush Limbaugh. But Coulter, Ingraham and Limbaugh are conservatives. Furthermore, they are Republicans, and they write and speak from a point of view that is aimed at empowering the Republicans at the expense of Democrats.
Candice takes a different route, however. The problem is not that Clinton belongs to the wrong party, but rather that he has a wrong view of the state. She writes:
…aspects of liberalism that contributed to such mistreatment include: using any political means to achieve a worthy political goal; relying on intermediaries to enforce political demands; judging the message based on the presumed motives of the messenger; elevating groupism over individualism; trusting in government as super-parent; succumbing to government seduction; and most critically, perpetuating the use of force to achieve moral values. Exploring the stories of the seven women in this book will connect the dots between Clinton’s misogyny and his political liberalism. (p. 14)
Such protestations will win her no friends on the left — but modern "conservatives" and their neo-conservative allies also would object to this declaration. After all, in this post-9/11 age, conservatives tell us that we are not safe unless federal agents wearing latex gloves search wheelchair-bound elderly ladies and young children before they board airlines, and that there should be no bounds on the state’s abilities to eavesdrop on any of our conversations.
(For that matter, in his first speech after being appointed head of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean insisted that the Democrats should receive the credit for the creation of the Transportation Security Administration [TSA, or "Thousands Standing Around"] and the Department of Homeland Security. No doubt, rats proudly took the credit for spreading the Bubonic Plague during the Middle Ages. In this case, the rats wear the buttons of both political parties.)
While Jackson’s logic appeals to libertarians and others who see the power of the state as a menace, it is going to be a hard sell elsewhere. Leftists and Democrats are going to say that the dots she lays out simply don’t connect. Moreover, they are liable to point out that conservatives were promoting a double standard when it came to condemnation of Clinton’s peccadilloes, and that none of it should matter, anyway. Impeachment was about sex, which was not a high enough standard for the Republicans to use in their attempt to remove Clinton from office.
Strangely enough — or perhaps because Candice wishes to be logical and consistent — she takes the position that Clinton’s behavior did not warrant impeachment. First, as she points out, while Clinton’s advances toward Paula Jones were crude and reckless, they did not fit the legal definition of sexual harassment. Thus, the whole string of wild events that began with the sexual harassment suit that Jones filed against Clinton might have been avoided had someone actually read the law. Of course, we would not have heard about Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, and, of course, Monica Lewinsky and Candice would not have had a book, but what has happened has happened.
The book seems to have three main purposes. The first is to re-introduce us to the women whose encounters with Clinton became front-page news, and Candice does a good-to-very good job in dealing with them. It is a credit to her that these women were willing to put themselves on the record again after having endured personal attacks directed against them from the highest political office on the face of the earth. Kathleen Willey was broke, widowed, and did not have the resources to deal with the threats and violence directed against her. Broaddrick found herself on the receiving end of an IRS audit. (Use of the IRS against his political enemies — or people who might pose a problem for him — was a reoccurring weapon wielded by Clinton.)
Her second purpose, as noted earlier, is to connect the tenets of modern liberalism to Clinton’s behavior. This connection is harder to make, as one has to tie an ideology to personal behavior that seems to contradict the doctrines of that way of thinking. After all, leftist feminists such as Gloria Steinem were aghast at the comments Clarence Thomas allegedly made to Anita Hill, comments that they tied directly to his particular ideology.
But, one forgets that Steinem also declared many years ago that "the personal is political," and she lives her life accordingly. Thus, her actions fit squarely into Jackson’s description of the current tenets of liberalism:
In modern liberalism, political goals justify any political means to achieve them. For example, leftists uphold the goal of nondiscrimination based on race or gender, and feel completely justified using any and all political means to try to accomplish that goal. The impact of their chosen means on individual people, and the burdens they impose on real people in pursuit of their objective, can be conveniently ignored or dismissed as small prices to pay in pursuit of a worthy cause. Anyone who objects to the means selected to achieve the goal is attacked as heartless and a terrible person who wants racial and gender discrimination to continue. (p. 23, emphasis author’s)
Like the defenders of Lenin and Stalin who declared that the creation of an "omelet" requires "the breaking of eggs," Clinton’s backers were willing to use any means possible to destroy people who stood in the way of their being able to obtain and use political power. We know from the impeachment brouhaha of seven years ago some of the tactics the Clintons used; Candice uncovers even more. Therefore, in the end, the Clintonites are left with the "defense" that they had to attack women in order to preserve women’s rights, a "we had to destroy Vietnam in order to save it" mentality.
The third purpose of Their Lives is to lay out a libertarian feminist alternative, an ideology based upon respect for the individual. While she does not quote Wendy McElroy, her work certainly is along the same lines as the woman who has given us very thoughtful analysis and ifeminism. Space does not permit me to go through all of her ideas, but let me say that she makes a cogent case. Furthermore, the concepts that she presents are workable in a free society, as they ultimately are built upon the principles of liberty, property, free speech, and mutual respect.
My review deals lastly with her own revelations of a rape that she suffered many years ago, it being included in the chapter on Juanita Broaddrick. Candice does not write from the point of view of "I was raped; therefore, Bill Clinton should burn in Hell." Instead, she recounts the experience, how she dealt with it — and gives insight into why Broaddrick did not run to the authorities immediately after the rape occurred. (For one thing, Clinton was the Arkansas AG at the time, which would have meant that he ultimately would have had to be prosecuting himself, which seems highly unlikely. One can only imagine Broaddrick’s fate had she actually reported the incident to the police right after it happened. Instead, we are left with the immortal Clinton line, "You better get some ice on that.")
It is not easy reading the words of a friend who has gone through such an experience. Other women in my life have had similar experiences, and rape is a crime that too often goes unpunished. Certainly, the future and now past President of the United States got away with it — and was able to marshal his attack machine to go after Broaddrick, although not all feminists were willing to go on board with this one.
(It is one thing to go after a Paula Jones or even a Kathleen Willey. Juanita Broaddrick was too believable and too credible a witness for the Clinton feminists to slice-and-dice the way they had done with the others.)
In the end, we are left with a different picture of Bill Clinton than his supporters try to give us. We have seen too many people who advocate "women’s rights" who were all-too-happy to see women attacked and their lives destroyed because their stories got in the way of feminist ideology — and the political vehicles needed to put that ideology into law. Indeed, Their Lives is not another anti-Clinton screed. It is thoughtful, well-written, and speaks to the heart, and I will say that I am very proud to be a friend and working partner of the very special woman who wrote it.
May 7, 2005