Matthew Continetti's Washington Free Beacon is trying to make a news story out of a rape case Hillary Rodham took as a 27-year-old attorney in 1975, before she married Bill. The victim was a 12-year-old girl, and Hillary was instrumental in getting the charges reduced for her client, Thomas Alfred Taylor, so that he was released after a short stint in the county jail. The Free Beacon built its story on the case on newly released audio of an interview Hillary did with an Esquire reporter in the 1980s; in the interview, Hillary makes clear that she didn't believe in her client's innocence ("I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs"), and she recalls the legal maneuverings -- her own and others' -- with amusement.
In the original Free Beacon story, Alana Goodman writes,
... there are parallels between the tactics Clinton employed to defend Taylor and the tactics she, her husband, and their allies have used to defend themselves against accusations of wrongdoing over the course of their three decades in public life.No. In the tape, Hillary describes being told about a Nobel Prize-winning forensic expert in New York who'd be willing to weigh in on evidence in a lawyer's favor if he became interested in the case. Hillary got in touch with him and got him involved. She chuckles over this, but what I see is not a congenital deceiver but a young lawyer picking up the ways the sausage of the law really gets made, and going along because she knows she has a duty to offer her client a vigorous defense. And then, in retrospect, it's not horrifying to her, it's colorful. (And if you've ever read, say, a Scott Turow novel and regarded it as "escapist," you might understand that.)
More disturbing is what the Daily Beast's Josh Rogin learned when he found the victim. She's now 52; she's spent time in prison on drug charges. It's clear she's had a horrible life, and this case was a large part of the horror.
Hillary filed an affidavit in the case that seems appalling and self-evidently untrue -- though I'm sure it didn't at the time. The Volokh Conspiracy's Jonathan Adler explains:
Rogin discusses an affidavit Clinton submitted seeking a psychiatric evaluation of the victim (available here at page 34). In this affidavit, Clinton wrote "I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing"and that "she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body. Also that she exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way." The victim, who is now 52, says any such claims were untrue, that she never made accusations against anyone else, and that she believes Clinton was lying.My guess is that Hillary wasn't lying; I suspect she had "been informed" of this -- by her client (or by another man who was involved in the incident and was never tried). This is just what a child rapist (or any rapist or abuser) who thinks he might get away with it would say.
The real horror here is that all the maneuvering worked. You can say that this is Hillary's fault, but it's really the fault of a society that would fail to see through the chicanery because it didn't take child rape seriously enough, or understand the likely behavior of child rapists well enough. But that was the way things were when Hillary, as a young lawyer, took on a defense as a favor to a prosecutor. It's not admirable, but it's understandable.
And then, a decade or so later, when she was the governor's wife and no longer doing criminal law, she looked back on it as an amusing anecdote from her youth. Again, not admirable, but understandable. A lot of us have worked in ethically compromised milieus as young people. It's easy to see it as a brush with the real nitty-gritty, especially if you feel you went into it as a naive kid.
I'd like to think that Hillary Clinton -- the human being under the name and the career and the Clinton brand -- could read all this, especially the Rogin story about the victim's pain, and understand that the way the sausage got made in this incident was horrible. She could feel regret, and maybe express it publicly. Probably nothing but pain could come from reaching out to the victim, but it might be a worthwhile thing to do (privately, with no press involved).
But I think Hillary is too protective of her brand and narrative to do that. I don't think that's unique to her -- part of being an ambitious public figure is doing one's best to keep the skeletons in the closet. Mike Huckabee has defended his commutation of a long prison sentence for a young man named Maurice Clemmons who went on to murder four police officers. He's also defended his work in obtaining a pardon for a serial rapist named Wayne Dumond, after which he committed more rapes. Huckabee's done everything in his power to contain these stories. That's what ambitious people do.
I think that's what Hillary will continue to do -- not because she's an evil, amoral Clinton but because she's a national figure with ambition. That's regrettable, but that's the way it works.