A couple of years ago, as the 20th anniversary of Bill Clinton’s impeachment approached and the #MeToo moment was in full force, I found myself driving to Middleburg, Virginia, an hour outside of Washington, D.C. It was there that Linda Tripp, one of the most controversial players in modern political history, was living out a second act as a shopkeeper at her husband’s year-round Christmas store.
Tripp (who died earlier this year) told me she was not eager to revisit her actions—namely, betraying the confidence of her young friend at the time, Monica Lewinsky. She still saw herself as a whistleblower, a civil servant who at the time felt morally obligated to call out an abuse of power by the president, a man she believed had “abused, used, and discarded” the 24-year-old Lewinsky. Were it not for Tripp, and the details she revealed, it surely would have been almost impossible to bring impeachment charges against Clinton. For years afterward, Democrats vilified Tripp for her behavior.
And then came Trump World, where Democrats got, well, Tripp’d up—embracing and encouraging and rationalizing the very disloyalty and betrayal they once scorned. Now, not only is stabbing one’s girlfriend in the back not scorned, it’s celebrated.
Throughout the past four years, the left has been yelling, “Go, girl!”—but only so long as that girl is sticking it to Melania or Ivanka. Look at the rat in Melania’s East Wing, former Vogue staffer and Melania bestie, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. She made a ton of cheddar when she shot to the top of the best-seller list. Or Mary Trump, Donald’s niece. She was more courageous in going against her family’s code of omertà, but there was still something icky in how she surreptitiously recorded her aunt and leaked it to the media.
Then there was, most recently, Ivanka Trump’s ex-B.F.F. Lysandra Ohrstrom, who knifed her in Vanity Fair. Even though Ohrstrom was one of Ivanka’s two maids of honor, and a friend since the seventh grade, her most damning revelations include that Ivanka once … blamed a fart on a classmate. This wasn’t political courage; it was tawdry angling from a fellow elite searching for applause from a media class salivating for any evidence that New York would shun Javanka upon their return to polite society.
Snitches used to get stitches. Now they get re-tweets. As with so much of the bad behavior we’ve seen in the last four years, it’s all good so long as it’s done with the aim of trashing Donald Trump, no matter how circuitously. And it’s not just women who did it.
• In 2016, Hillary Clinton paraded around Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe who claimed Trump had called her “Miss Piggy.” In 2020, Democrats cheer when Anderson Cooper describes Trump as an “obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun.”
• Yes, Trump is scum for appointing a homophobic veep. But did Stephen Colbert really say on CBS that “the only thing [Trump’s] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster”? (He did.)
• Trump spews on Fox News that Biden takes drugs. But Howard Dean alleged that Trump’s sniffling at a debate may be evidence of a cocaine addiction.
• The R.N.C. invites the gun-toting St. Louis husband-and-wife trolls to speak at their convention. But Democrats invite Trump lip-synch artist/social-media troll Sarah Cooper to the D.N.C.?
• Woke resistance warriors whine about “kink-shaming” and “body-shaming” but cheer when Stormy Daniels and Jimmy Kimmel kink-shame and body-shame Trump live on the air.
• Steve Bannon gets de-platformed for saying about F.B.I. director Chris Wray and Dr. Fauci that “I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England, I’d put the heads on pikes.” Yet John Mulaney gets laughs on Saturday Night Live for saying, “Another thing that happened under Julius Caesar was he was such a powerful maniac that all the senators grabbed knives and they stabbed him to death. That’d be an interesting thing if we brought that back now.”
The petty, nasty, stupid, and bitchy behavior of the last four years has been bipartisan. Mr. Smith goes to Regina George’s lunch table in Mean Girls. Thankfully, Trump was just hit by an electoral bus. But will the antics that defined this sophomoric era come to an end, too? As Ms. Norbury said in Mean Girls: “There’s been some girl-on-girl crime here.”
Ryan Murphy, the Netflix showrunner, is currently at work on a series about the Clinton impeachment. Recently, the actress Sarah Paulson went viral after tweeting out a picture of herself made up as Linda Tripp. Looking at the photo, it was hard not to think: Linda was ahead of her time.
Shawn McCreesh is a Washington, D.C.–based writer