2016 cam­paign can’t shake Bill Clin­ton’s scan­dals

Malta Independent - - FEATURE -

Mon­ica Lewin­sky tends to avoid pol­i­tics these days, af­ter be­com­ing in­stantly fa­mous nearly 20 years ago as the White House in­tern who had an af­fair with Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Un­for­tu­nately for Lewin­sky, the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race keeps get­ting stuck in the past.

In the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate be­tween Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump, the Repub­li­can hinted at the Clin­tons’ mar­i­tal prob­lems and brought up Bill Clin­ton’s in­fi­deli­ties di­rectly soon af­ter. For now, Trump says he won’t dis­cuss the subject at the de­bate on Sun­day. But he has been known to change his mind.

“Let’s see what hap­pens,” Trump said at a town-hall event Thurs­day night in New Hamp­shire, re­fer­ring to whether he will hold off on the topic. “I think we’re all bet­ter off if we can do that be­cause it is about is­sues, it is about poli­cies.”

Hil­lary Clin­ton may not want to re­live this pe­riod. But Clin­ton spokesman Brian Fal­lon said any at­tack by Trump on the topic would back­fire, show­ing Trump to be “com­bustible and er­ratic.” Some po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts said Trump risks show­ing Clin­ton in a sym­pa­thetic light as the wronged wife — hardly help­ful as he strug­gles to draw sup­port from women.

Yet it’s a fraught subject for both of them. Bill Clin­ton aides moved ag­gres­sively to dis­credit women who al­leged sex­ual con­tact with him, while Hil­lary Clin­ton stood by her hus­band pub­licly in much of that era and cast his ac­cusers as part of a “vast right-wing con­spir­acy.”

Still, Dianne Bys­trom, di­rec­tor of the Car­rie Chap­man Catt Cen­ter for Women and Pol­i­tics at Iowa State Univer­sity, said the Lewin­sky episode hu­man­ized the Clin­tons for many Amer­i­cans. “Peo­ple felt sorry for her,” she said.

Lewin­sky de­clined to be in­ter­viewed for this story. Af­ter stay­ing out of the pub­lic eye for many years, she re­cently re-emerged as an anti-bul­ly­ing ad­vo­cate. She has talked about the pub­lic sham­ing she ex­pe­ri­enced in a well-re­ceived 2014 Van­ity Fair es­say and a TED Talk.

“I’ve decided, fi­nally, to stick my head above the para­pet so that I can take back my nar­ra­tive and give a pur­pose to my past,” Lewin­sky wrote in Van­ity Fair.

In June of that year, Hil­lary Clin­ton told ABC’s “Night­line” that she wishes Lewin­sky well, adding: “I hope that she is able to think about her fu­ture and construct a life that she finds mean­ing and sat­is­fac­tion in.”

The end? No.

Trump in 2016 threat­ened to bring up Bill Clin­ton’s in­fi­deli­ties and con­grat­u­lated him­self for re­frain­ing in the first of three pres­i­den­tial de­bates. Trump spokes­woman Hope Hicks said Thurs­day he does not plan to talk about Lewin­sky or others dur­ing Sun­day’s show­down.

Bill Clin­ton has long been dogged by al­le­ga­tions of wom­an­iz­ing, ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs and abuse. Dur­ing his 1992 cam­paign, Bet­sey Wright, a long­time aide to the Clin­ton, dubbed the prob­lems “bimbo erup­tions,” a de­mean­ing la­bel that ap­peared aimed at dis­cred­it­ing them.

But the most dam­ag­ing episode was his re­la­tion­ship with Lewin­sky. The two met in 1995 when she was a 22-year-old in­tern and she later re­vealed they had a se­ries of sex­ual en­coun­ters over a roughly 18-month pe­riod, some in the Oval Of­fice. Clin­ton ini­tially de­nied the re­la­tion­ship, but even­tu­ally ad­mit­ted it and said he “mis­led peo­ple, in­clud­ing even my wife.”

The pres­i­dent was im­peached over the episode, ac­cused of ob­struc­tion and per­jury, and ac­quit­ted by the Se­nate.

In her book “Liv­ing His­tory,” Hil­lary Clin­ton wrote that she be­lieved her hus­band when he ini­tially de­nied the re­la­tion­ship. She de­scribed the mo­ment in Au­gust 1998 when he told her that he had lied. She said she could hardly breathe, and screamed in rage.

“I was dumb­founded, heart­bro­ken and out­raged that I’d be­lieved him at all,” she wrote.

Lewin­sky is not the only re­la­tion­ship bag­gage for Clin­ton. In 1998, he agreed to an $850,000 set­tle­ment with Paula Jones, an Arkansas state worker, who had ac­cused Clin­ton of ex­pos­ing him­self and mak­ing in­de­cent propo­si­tions when Clin­ton was the gov­er­nor. The set­tle­ment in­cluded no apol­ogy or ad­mis­sion of guilt.

Juanita Broad­drick, a nurse, in 1999 claimed she was raped by then-state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Clin­ton at a Lit­tle Rock ho­tel in 1978. Clin­ton’s at­tor­ney de­nied the claim at the time and Clin­ton was never charged. Kath­leen Wil­ley, a White House vol­un­teer, claimed Clin­ton fon­dled her when she met pri­vately with him at the White House in 1993 to seek a job. Clin­ton has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions by both women.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s in­volve­ment in ef­forts to un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of her hus­band’s ac­cusers re­mains the subject of spec­u­la­tion; what’s known is that peo­ple close to her or Bill Clin­ton spared lit­tle ef­fort on that front.

Writ­ings about the Clin­ton White House years sug­gest she was ac­tive be­hind the scenes, help­ing to drive po­lit­i­cal and le­gal strat­egy to de­fend her hus­band dur­ing the Lewin­sky in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Her friend Diane Blair wrote in her di­ary that Hil­lary Clin­ton had called Lewin­sky a “nar­cis­sis­tic loony tune.” Former Clin­ton aide Ge­orge Stephanopou­los, in his 1999 mem­oir, re­called Hil­lary Clin­ton in 1992 say­ing of one woman who claimed to have been propo­si­tioned by her hus­band, “We have to de­stroy her story.”

Af­ter the first de­bate, Trump sup­porter Rudy Gi­u­liani, former New York City mayor, raised the Lewin­sky af­fair, ar­gu­ing that Hil­lary Clin­ton at­tacked Lewin­sky af­ter the rev­e­la­tions and say­ing that “if you didn’t know the mo­ment Mon­ica Lewin­sky said that Bill Clin­ton vi­o­lated her that she was telling the truth, then you’re too stupid to be pres­i­dent.”

Clin­ton has stayed above the fray, but in her ef­forts to con­nect with women she has high­lighted Trump’s long his­tory of deroga­tory com­ments about women and used the first de­bate to re­vive the story of a former Miss Uni­verse who says Trump shamed her for gain­ing weight.

Demo­cratic con­sul­tant Lis Smith said that if Lewin­sky or in­fi­delity comes up on Sun­day, it could give Clin­ton an op­por­tu­nity “to drop the fa­cade, drop the mask and have a real human mo­ment.”

"I’ve decided, fi­nally, to stick my head above the para­pet so that I can take back my nar­ra­tive and give a pur­pose to my past"

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