Herald-Leader Editorial

No way to cure female problems; Paul not immune from presidential fever

January 29, 2014 

We can only hope Sen. Rand Paul is planning a run for president; otherwise, we'd have to look for another way to explain his bizarre comments over the weekend about women, Republicans, Democrats and former President Bill Clinton.

There have been many, many examples of the strange fever that overtakes people when they begin to pair their own names with terms like "commander in chief" and "leader of the free world." And there's no reason to believe that Paul, who has proved he loves attention more than almost anything, could be immune from it.

Nonetheless, his reaching back almost 20 years to the relationship between then-President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky during her 1995-96 White House internship, to make a point about how Democrats and Republicans view women, bears examination.

The Clinton/Lewinsky affair, or whatever it was, is certainly indefensible, as Paul says.

However, to extrapolate from that to the attitude of the entire Democratic Party toward women, or how women will fare under a future, possibly female, Democratic president, is simply silly.

The private actions of one individual, no matter how reprehensible, can't be used to dismiss an organization or institution with which that person is associated.

If that were the case, there would be no organized religion, no college sports, no political parties of any kind, no military services or academies, no newspapers and no Congress.

The list is truly endless.

Beyond that, the argument rests on the juvenile premise that in finding fault with an opponent one somehow becomes more admirable. If my opponent is a jerk then I can't be. Sadly, they can both be jerks.

But the critical issue in talking about public policy isn't which party has the most jerks — that would be a tough competition — but which has the best programs.

And that's why the Republicans, or at least this one R, needs to reach back almost 20 years to talk about Clinton's dalliance.

The GOP does have a female problem, one of its own making.

It's obsessed with controlling female reproduction, even fighting access to low-cost birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

Paul thinks protecting personal freedoms means keeping the government out of setting standards for toilets and light bulbs, but he has no problem with the government deciding whether a pregnancy should continue.

It's lame at best on fighting workplace discrimination and unequal pay and on protecting women from assault, either in the home or the military.

These are all issues that affect how women live their lives and support themselves and their families. They matter today, and they will matter in 2016.

Individual women can, and will, weigh whether these public policy issues matter more than Bill Clinton's dreadful behavior almost 20 years ago. Paul shouldn't bet on the scales tilting in his favor.

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