November 17, 2017

Harvey, Donald and Bill

Dr. Malcolm Cross

The story of the fall of Harvey Weinstein is as gripping as any of the movies he produced.  And it has brought back memories of the most lurid stories of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton as well.  Together, these stories offer a cautionary lesson which will no doubt be supported and reinforced by the stories of others grown too powerful for their own good:  The bad fall not only because they’re bad, but because they’re no longer useful to their allies/enablers.

One of the most noteworthy features of the Weinstein revelations is the number of enablers who knew of his predations yet said nothing.  Not to be blamed are the actual female victims he hurt.  Their principle reason for remaining silent—fear he would do them more harm if they talked—is understandable.

Also understandable, but far more blameworthy, is the silence of other men and women in entertainment and politics who knew what he was up to yet said nothing.  Whatever his faults, Weinstein could deliver—jobs and wealth and Oscars for actors, actresses, and other moviemakers, as well as big bucks for charities, political campaigns, and the media.  Too many people profited too much for too long to want to expose and ruin him.  You don’t kill the goose laying the golden eggs as long as the goose keeps laying.

But industry reports indicate Weinstein’s company was already having financial and other production difficulties when Hollywood turned against him.  He was becoming less successful at laying the golden eggs.  And that may have emboldened his victims to start coming forward, and his other enablers—including the media—to start turning against him.

And this seems to have been the dynamic behind the October 2016 release of the Access Hollywood tape, wherein Donald Trump can be heard boasting of his own sexual predations as well.  Consider NBC’s timing:

The tape was made in 2005, just a year into Trump’s eleven-year career as star of The Apprentice, one of NBC’s biggest money makers.  So as long as he kept the show successful, NBC was willing to sit on the tape and keep it secret.  And even after the network booted him from The Apprentice for the anti-Mexican comments he made when kicking off his presidential campaign,  it chose not to release the tape, at least as long as he was the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.  Only in the last weeks of the general election campaign, when public opinion polls were showing Trump would lose the race to the White House, did his former network choose to stop being an enabler.

Of course, if the intent was to destroy Trump while he was seemingly already down, it failed.  Trump had enough enablers in the Republican Party and the country at large to win the presidency anyway.  It wasn’t that we approved of his conduct as described on the tape, but that we still needed him to keep out of the White House someone we considered even worse.

No—Hillary’s personal conduct was not in the same league as that of Weinstein or Trump, but that of her husband, whom she had been relentlessly defending for decades, certainly was.  But like Trump, and unlike Weinstein, Bill Clinton retained enough enablers to survive the Republican Party’s ill-fated attempt to remove him from office.  Whatever his personal failings, Clinton as president was seen by the Democrats as one of their top vote-getters—he was the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win two presidential elections—and by the public as delivering peace, prosperity, and balanced budgets.  Had either the Democratic Party or the public at large seen Clinton as an albatross around the neck, he almost certainly would have been not only impeached but removed from office as well.  But, Like Trump, Clinton survived because so many enablers relied on him for their own success to let him fall.   

So the moral of all this may be that whether someone’s misconduct proves to be his undoing, he can survive if enough people want him to, and will fall not necessarily because he’s bad, but because he’s no longer relevant to others’ success.  And if that’s the case, then however much we disapprove of their misconduct, we should be aware that if they are able to survive undetected or at least unpunished, it’s because they have a lot of help—perhaps even from some of us.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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