Ruth Marcus, a liberal Washington Post columnist, has argued that Bill Clinton’s sex scandals are “fair game” for his wife’s fellow presidential aspirants now that she has (1) enlisted Bill to campaign actively for her and (2) accused Donald Trump of sexism. Is Marcus right?
In her terms, perhaps. “Fair game” in this context apparently now corresponds to the concept of “opening the door” in the context of the rules of evidence at a trial. So applied to Clinton’s sex scandals, they may be fair game.
If so, this tells me that our political “rules” are over-lawyered. The real question is whether Bill’s sex scandals (and Hillary’s response to them) have more than de minimis relevance to the decision whether to vote for Hillary Clinton. For me, the answer is: no.
How will the electorate view this matter? I agree with Ramesh Ponnuru. He writes:
Revulsion at Bill Clinton’s behavior wasn’t enough to get voters to turn on him when the stories were fresh. Rehashing them years afterward seems unlikely to get voters to turn on her.
At the time of the Lewinsky scandal, the public generally viewed her as the innocent, wronged wife. This sympathy, it seems to me, was largely misplaced. (Remember the famous “vast right wing conspiracy” interview with Matt Lauer? Twice, she said that the scandal would not be “proven true.”) But it helped to get her into the Senate two years later.
So far, that is, her husband’s sex scandals have been a benefit to her political career.
There are dozens of lines of attack against Hillary Clinton, nearly all of which will resonate with folks who already dislike her. The trick for the GOP nominee will be to select the handful that are likely resonate with other voters.
I’m not certain what these lines of attack are, but I’m pretty sure the matter Bill Clinton’s sex scandals isn’t among them.