The Cost of Backing Bill

Hillary Clinton’s decision to bring up former Miss Universe Alicia Machado during the closing minutes of the presidential debate has the establishment press in a tizzy. The supposedly thoughtful people are devoting a lot of bandwidth to exploring not just whether this creates an opening for her opponent to bring up former President Bill Clinton’s history of marital infidelity but whether it would be legitimate for him to do so.

It’s an interesting question and the wrong question. The invocation of the Machado story, which the establishment press had ready to roll – surprise, surprise – as soon as Clinton brought it up has little to do with Bill Clinton’s various infidelities, as far as the qualifications to be president go. It has everything to do, however, with legitimizing the discussion of how the former first lady treats women, especially those women whom she saw as a threat to her husband’s reputation and, in turn, a danger to her political future.

Back when he was in the White House and his active extramarital goings-on were all over the news channels, people knew who Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp and Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones were. More importantly, they knew why they knew.

That was nearly 20 years ago. To the voters who may well decide the outcome of the election in 2016, it is ancient history. It seems a little strange therefore that so many of the pundits seemingly on Clinton’s side seem ready to relitigate the whole business.

They’re not fools. They believe, first and foremost, the country didn’t care back in the 90s and won’t care now, so it won’t cost Clinton any votes. Second, it gives them an excuse to start talking about Donald Trump’s marital record while making it look like he started it. The New York Times and other publications are already trying to get a court to unseal the records from his divorces, probably because they figure they contain enough dirt to bury him. A public fight over who is the better husband – Trump or Bill Clinton – would increase the credibility of the argument that the public has a right to know what’s in court documents that are frankly none of their business.

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