The sex scandal issue isn’t really central, since Americans have a long record of voting for the candidates they think can deliver, regardless of private peccadilloes. And Donald Trump has a history of boorish public behavior that could even overshadow the marital baggage Hillary has to tote. However, she’d be in a much stronger position if she was toting on her own.The private/public distinction there is pretty subtle, but you see the argument. What Trump has done to women — e.g., referring metaphorically to Megyn Kelly's blood, calling Rosie O'Donnell fat — happened in public, but Bill Clinton's woman problems arose out of incidents in which the women was sequestered in a hotel room or the Oval Office. I don't think the private/public distinction cuts in favor of the man who physically imposed himself on vulnerable women in private and against the man who used crass language against powerful female celebrities as part of the public debate.
The phrase "the personal is political" means something important in the fight for women's equality. No one who cares about that fight should call the accusations against Bill Clinton "private peccadilloes." A "peccadillo" is: "A minor fault or sin; a trivial offence." That's the OED definition. Here's one of the illustrative quotes: "What the boy does almost proudly, as a manly peccadillo, the girl will shudder at as a debasing vice." Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque.
From the testimony of Paula Jones:
You know what? This is the Governor we're talking about. I had just met the man. A state trooper sitting outside the door with a gun. I know that. I'm terrified. And so what I'm thinking next is what was happening here and what am I going to do next to get out of this room? Is he going to stop here?... And I was talking to him about Hillary and she was working with children's things or something, children's schools at the time, and I remember I was complimenting her on how she was really good with children. And... he came over by the wingback chair close to where I was at. Then it's like he wasn't even paying attention to what I was saying to him. Then he goes, "Oh, I love the way your hair flows down your back. And I was watching you," and stuff like that. Downstairs. And then he did it again. Then he started -- he pulled me over to him while he was leaning up against the wingback chair and he took his hands and was running them up my culottes. And they were long. They were down to my knees. They were long, dressy culottes. And he had his hand up, going up to my middle pelvic area, and he was kissing me on the neck, you know, and trying to kiss me on the lips and I wouldn't let him. And then I backed back. I said, "Stop it. You know, I'm not this kind of girl." I mean. And it still -- and then I ran right over to where the couch was. I thought what am I going to do? I was trying to collect my thoughts. I did not know what to do. I was trying to collect my thoughts. I did not know what to do. After the second time -- after the first time, I had rebuffed him. And then when I got over there and I kind of sat right there by the end of the couch on the -- seemed like on the armchair part. And the next thing you know it, I turn around because he was kind of back over here, and he come over there, pulled his pants down, sat down and asked me to perform oral sex.... He asked me would I kiss it. He goes -- you know, I can see the look on his face right now. He asked me, "Would you kiss it for me?" I mean, it was disgusting.As Jones was leaving, Clinton said, according to Jones, "You're a smart girl. Let's keep this between ourselves." But she brought a lawsuit, a lawsuit that involved Bill Clinton in lying under oath and that Bill Clinton paid $850,000 to settle.
Private peccadillo. Really, Gail Collins, what do you think the young women of today — women who know sexual harassment and sexual assault are extremely serious — are going to think of your using that word peccadillo?
ADDED: Deja vu. Here I am last January, confronting Glenn Loury about the very same application of the word "peccadillo":