Rand Paul Is Trying to Redefine the War on Women

The Kentucky Republican is using the past scandals of Bill Clinton and Woody Allen to paint Democrats as being antiwomen.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) attends a press conference with House Republicans on proposed greenhouse gas standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency September 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Matt Berman
Feb. 25, 2014, midnight

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For­get the de­bate over wheth­er Mon­ica Lew­in­sky is still rel­ev­ant in 2014. Rand Paul is de­term­ined to keep Demo­crats’ past sexu­al im­pro­pri­et­ies alive, and in do­ing so change how Amer­ic­ans think about the War on Wo­men.

Paul is turn­ing to past sex scan­dals as a way to not only dis­par­age Demo­crats, but also to try to change the nar­rat­ive on which party really sup­ports wo­men. Take this from a Monday in­ter­view with NBC’s Kasie Hunt, who asked for Paul’s re­ac­tion to a Tues­day cam­paign event for Ken­tucky Demo­crat Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes with Bill Clin­ton:

“If the pres­id­ent of your net­work [NBC] had re­la­tions with a 20-year-old girl who was there from col­lege, I think the pres­id­ent of your net­work would be fired,” Paul said. “We don’t ac­cept that in the work­place. So if that’s what Bill Clin­ton did mul­tiple times. Really they ought to be con­cerned about be­ing as­so­ci­ated with him.”

Paul hasn’t let up on Bill Clin­ton in 2014. Grimes, for her part, is par­tic­u­larly close with the Clin­ton fam­ily. She chaired Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 2008 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign in the state, and Tues­day will mark Bill Clin­ton’s first cam­paign stop of 2014. Asked about Sen. Paul’s re­marks, Grimes said that the former pres­id­ent “has been a friend of my fam­ily for many years.”

But Paul didn’t just name-check Clin­ton and Lew­in­sky and move on.

“Ken­tucky, we’re not quite Hol­ly­wood as far as ac­cept­ing sort of dif­fer­ent kind of things like that. Woody Al­len is ap­par­ently a big con­trib­ut­or of [Grimes], too. Woody Al­len has been now ac­cused of, you know, hav­ing re­la­tions with his chil­dren,” Paul said. “That’s not really ac­cept­able in Ken­tucky. And I think she has to de­cide wheth­er she’s rep­res­ent­ing Ken­tucky or Hol­ly­wood.”

This isn’t the first time Paul has men­tioned the re­ignited Woody Al­len scan­dal (the de­tails of which Paul does at least slightly mis­char­ac­ter­ize). In an early Feb­ru­ary ra­dio ap­pear­ance on Laura In­gra­ham’s show, Paul ac­cused Demo­crats of hy­po­crisy for call­ing them­selves “the great sa­viors of wo­men in the work­place.” He went on:

“Look at a Woody Al­len, who is a big Demo­crat giver across the coun­try, whose 7-year-old girl de­scribed what he did to her. And yet nobody in Hol­ly­wood blinks an eye and says he’s still our big pal. We love Woody Al­len. He’s a great giver to Demo­crat causes. And really there should be a so­cial shun­ning of some­body who would do something like that, if not pris­on.”

Al­len isn’t really a big Demo­crat­ic donor. He gave Grimes $500 last fall, and has oth­er­wise only donated money sporad­ic­ally since 1990. Grimes says that the sexu­al al­leg­a­tions around Al­len are for the courts to de­cide. But with Paul try­ing to help boost the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s chances with wo­men, it makes sense that he’d try to tie his op­pon­ents to men em­broiled in scan­dal — not just Clin­ton.

The Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an Party is go­ing after Grimes on Al­len as well. Grimes, the state party’s com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or said last month, should re­turn Al­len’s dona­tion if she “really cares about stand­ing up for Ken­tucky wo­men.” If she doesn’t, “we can only as­sume she either con­dones sexu­al har­ass­ment and dis­gust­ingly in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­ha­vi­or in the work­place, or she’s more con­cerned with her lib­er­al al­lies’ cam­paign cash than the wo­men of Ken­tucky.”

The Per­ver­ted, Amor­al Hol­ly­wood trope feels dated. And it seems es­pe­cially odd com­ing from a po­ten­tial 2016 pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate who wants to win over young people, namely Sil­ic­on Val­ley’s liber­tari­ans. But this early on in what’s sure to be an ag­gress­ive 2016 cam­paign, it makes sense for Paul to throw whatever he’s got at the wall and see what sticks, es­pe­cially when he’s tied to a party that 55 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans say doesn’t un­der­stand wo­men. So far, he seems to think that this is work­ing.

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