On July 1, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez fired a gun in San Francisco. The bullet killed 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle.
Just ten weeks earlier San Francisco had released Sanchez, who had been repeatedly convicted on drug and felony charges in Washington, Arizona, Oregon and Texas. The “progressive” sanctuary city had refused to honor a detainer from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep Sanchez in custody, so he could be deported, for the sixth time.
The death of this vibrant and beautiful young woman was a tragedy, especially for her family. But “Kate” quickly became Exhibit A for Donald Trump, coming so soon after he started his presidential campaign with its focus on illegal immigration.
More recently, in November, Trump began to oppose the influx of Syrian refugees. “This could be one of the great Trojan horses,” he opined in many interviews. Then, the San Bernardino terrorist attack occurred on December 2, further validation of The Donald as The Cassandra.
Timing is working in Trump’s favor again. Consider the following context that will now allow Trump to pivot on the “women’s issue,” put Hillary Clinton on the defensive, and perhaps affect the general election, no matter who is the Republican nominee.
Hillary has said that alleged victims of sexual assault “have the right to be believed” – in effect prompting the then inevitable inquiry about Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual assaults. Sure enough, earlier this month a woman in New Hampshire asked Hillary whether his accusers — Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones — should be believed. They should, Hillary replied tersely, be “disbelieved based on evidence.”
Last week Hillary provided a second opening when she criticized Trump’s “penchant for sexism” and yet a third opening when she announced that Bill would soon campaign for her. Trump strategically lets the “other guy” throw the first punch (“they hit me first”), especially to put an issue in play (“they started this”). Hillary fell into the compound trap. And: “If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women’s card on me, she’s wrong!” Trump twittered on Monday.
Now a few days after Christmas, the Montgomery County District Attorney in Pennsylvania has given Trump an unintended gift. The charges of “aggravated indecent assault” against Bill Cosby, once revered as “America’s favorite father” raise the issue of a powerful man sexually assaulting a trusting and vulnerable woman. Just as Cosby previously settled a civil suit, so too did Clinton pay money in settlement to Paula Jones. The public and different accusers over decades against Governor Clinton and then President Clinton are graphic and specific and part of a pattern of predatory sex. Clinton’s accusers suggested more than improper advances in a hostile work climate, also sexual assault.
Meanwhile, the Cosby story will not go away. The preliminary hearing January 14 for the criminal case will be part of a drawn out process complicated by more civil suits that will keep the issue alive. At least a fifth of next year’s electorate, and a quarter of Democrats, were children at the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Some of the reporters are too young to remember. These voters and journalists are, regarding the possible Bill Clinton fallout for Hillary, political virgins. And the times have changed with more awareness of sex without consent.
America still suffers under the delusion that Clinton was responsible for “peace and prosperity.” Incompetent Beltway Republicans never let the electorate realize that Clinton inherited a peaceful world, with the fall of the Soviet Union and victorious Persian Gulf War, and inherited an upswing business cycle, plus the Internet boom. The false Clinton legacy may not be enough to save Hillary. A new consciousness holds powerful men like Clinton and his morally challenged spouse accountable.
Trump initially has framed the issue as marital infidelity, even saying his own indiscretions are fair game. At first this seems a blunder, since the Clintons spun the impeachment as an attempt to criminalize an extramarital affair, rather than perjury. Further, most Americans think a politician cheating on his or her spouse is a private matter.
Actually Trump shrewdly lures Hillary and the media to dignify a dialogue he fully intends to escalate. As I write this, he just called Bill “one of the great abusers of the world.” Within weeks, his discussion will turn to Hilary as an expedient and hypocritical enabler for Bill who therefore lacks moral standing to judge Trump’s “male chauvinism” or even to speak on women’s issues, and then as her husband’s enforcer to put down “bimbo eruptions” – masterminding the intimidation and defamation of the victims.
With the Cosby story on the ascendancy, Trump can uniquely raise the bar to define a ruthless Hillary. Trump doesn’t hold back, never retracts and doubles-down and triples-down. This stuff will no longer be the province of right-wing websites. Unlike other candidates, only Trump commands massive real-time coverage for his bold attacks. Mainstream media will confront Hillary over repeated news cycles to respond each time Trump escalates.
Even if Trump is not the Republican nominee, Hillary may become damaged goods for November.