Should the GOP ‘re-litigate the ’90s’?

Clinton Benghazi

This is the tweet that alerted me to all the concern journalists now have for the health and direction of the GOP leading up to 2016.

And that sent me running to catch up.

First to Fournier, and then to a couple of his colleagues for their take on Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Republican presidential campaign, and Republicans’ (supposed) obsession with sex and ancient history.

The question before us, in Fournier’s words:

Should the GOP ‘re-litigate the ’90s’?

Ron Fournier: Reeks of desperation

Ron Fournier, National Journal (Why Monica Lewinsky Shouldn’t Be a GOP Talking Point):

Great for the primary/bad for the general—

Here’s the problem: While Clinton bashing may be a good pre-primary tactic, it’s a lousy politics for the Republican Party in general.

Counter productive—

We know that because Clinton registered the highest approval ratings of his presidency during the period between the January 1998 exposure of his affair and February 1999, when the Senate voted to acquit him.

In July 2012, Clinton’s approval rating registered at 66 percent, higher than any time since he left office. Two-thirds of women gave him high marks, as did 44 percent of Republicans.

Bad for the brand—

Elections are about the future. The GOP is harping on the past. Romney seem to acknowledge the problem when he said Sunday, “I don’t think Bill Clinton is as relevant as Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president.” He added, “She has her own record and her own vision.”

John Dickerson: Let’s all take a timeout

John Dickerson, Slate (The Monica Moratorium):

Reigniting sympathy for Hillary—

In the 1990s, Hillary Clinton’s approval rating went up when her husband’s affair with an intern was on the front pages. Politicians who bring up these issues risk reanimating these feelings of sympathy.

Resurrecting Brand Obsessive—

… going down this road conveys the feeling that Republicans are obsessed. The verdict the country rendered during the Clinton impeachment trial was that the obsession had gotten in the way of reason. In the elections of 1998, which Republicans tried to make a referendum on Clinton’s morality, Democrats lost no ground in the Senate and picked up five seats in the House—a historic aberration. It was the first time since 1822 that the nonpresidential party had failed to gain seats in the mid-term election of a president’s second term.

Distracting from the real issues—

You can try to convince people that Bill Clinton’s behavior is important, but while you’re doing that you’re not talking about whatever programs you support that are actually going to improve people’s lives. During the 1990s, voters decided that they preferred peace and prosperity to moralizing. Why then, when there is anemic prosperity and a much more dangerous world, would people be interested in pawing over that old ground?

There is so much in common between Dickerson’s and Fournier’s columns, I wondered for a minute if they shared hair stylists.

They voice the same opinion about the dangers of bringing Bill Clinton’s sexual misadventures into the conversation. (That danger is very real for Republicans, by the way.)

They also share a theory as to what the GOP is thinking. Even though that theory is almost completely wrong, Republicans definitely need to take it seriously.

But not for the reasons these two gentlemen offer.

I’ll cover that in a bit [note: As it happens, that will have to wait.].

Byron York: Fair Game

Byron York, Washington Examiner (Why Hillary Clinton’s past is fair game in presidential race).

York takes a completely different tack.

Walking and chewing gum—

There’s a debate going on about Hillary Clinton’s past. If she runs for president in 2016, should Republicans reach back to the scandals of her years as First Lady? Or should they focus on more recent times, especially her tenure as Secretary of State, to build a case against her?

The GOP doesn’t have to choose. Of course Clinton’s recent experiences are relevant to a presidential run. But so are her actions in the 90s, the 80s and even the 70s. It’s not ancient history; it reveals something about who Clinton was and still is. And re-examining her past is entirely consistent with practices in recent campaigns.

Digging up ancient history all the rage these days—

In the 2012 presidential race, for example, many in the press were very interested in business deals Mitt Romney made in the 1980s. In the 2004 race, many journalists were even more interested in what George W. Bush did with the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, as well as what John Kerry did in Vietnam that same year. And in 2000, a lot of journalists invested a lot of time trying to find proof that Bush had used cocaine three decades earlier.

So by the standards set in coverage of other candidates, Clinton’s past is not too far past.

Letting a new generation in on the family secrets—

[T]here will be millions of young voters in 2016 who know little about the Clinton White House. Americans who had not even been born when Bill Clinton first took the oath of office in 1993 will be eligible to vote two years from now. They need to know that Hillary Clinton has been more than Secretary of State.

A laundry list of iffy behaviors—

  • The Amazing 10,000 Percent Cattle Futures Gambit

Cynics thought the well-connected crony who executed the trades might have paid her the profits from good trades and absorbed the losses from bad ones, but Mrs. Clinton insisted that she developed her investing acumen by reading the Wall Street Journal.

  • The Disappearing (and Reappearing!) Billing Records Magic Trick

New voters also need to learn about Mrs. Clinton’s checkered history as a lawyer and the game of hide-and-seek she played with federal prosecutors who subpoenaed her old billing records as part of the Whitewater investigation. After two years of defying subpoenas and not producing the records, she suddenly claimed that they had been in a closet in the White House residence all along.

  • The Taking Care of Your Friends While You’re at the Top Friendly Gesture…

New voters also need to learn about Mrs. Clinton’s purge of the White House travel office, which was done to steer business to another Clinton crony. There’s no doubt she directed the 1993 firings of long-time White House employees although she testified under oath that she did not. Years later, prosecutors concluded that “Mrs. Clinton’s sworn testimony … is factually inaccurate.”

  • …And The Resulting Sweeping it Under the Rug When Questioned Follow-Through

There’s no doubt she directed the 1993 firings of long-time White House employees although she testified under oath that she did not. Years later, prosecutors concluded that “Mrs. Clinton’s sworn testimony … is factually inaccurate.”

Wow. I can’t even finish York’s list.

I had intended to analyze here the relevance of Bill Clinton’s predatory past as the counter to Democrats’ War On Women meme—which, by the way, the establishment, supposedly non-partisan press has at no time shown an inclination to adjudicate. Then I was going to lay out what I thought Republicans should do, and where they needed to be careful.

But I’m just stunned as I re-read York’s short account of Mrs. Clinton’s long-standing struggles to tell the truth under oath.

And I’m brought immediately to Benghazi.

And a question that sends a chill through me as I type:

Why does the press allow itself to get baited on sex while ignoring critical—and frankly—scary questions of ethics, truthfulness, and abuse of power?

This is the statement Rand Paul made that caused all this journalistic concern for the future of the Republican brand:

One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses should not prey on young interns in their office. And I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this. He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior….. Then they (Democrats) have the gall to stand up and say, ‘Republicans are having a war on women.’

Notice the key words and phrases Paul actually uses:

  • Workplace laws and rules
  • Prey
  • Took advantage
  • Predatory
  • War on women

Notice what words and phrases are not in this paragraph:

  • Sex
  • Adultery
  • Blue dress

It’s the press that’s obsessed with the blue dress

Not Republicans.

But it’s sex, not predatory behavior or Democrats’ obsession with an alleged War on Women, that the press uses to concern troll Republicans.

Fascinating that the establishment press has no trouble cheerleading a partisan fishing expedition into Bridgegate, and-oh-by-the-way, sidelining the GOP presidential hopeful they most fear.

They’re on the case in Wisconsin hoping with all their hearts to dig up something to kneecap the next guy up for the Republicans (emulating the successful mob scene in Alaska that directly led to Sarah Palin’s resignation—and which they then used to prove she’s an ambitious, greedy quitter).

But the press isn’t interested in past-as-prologue in the career of Hillary Clinton.

Why is that?

Why does it take a right wing journalist to lay out what is important?

And when will the press decide it’s time to do their due diligence?

You know, truth to power and all that?

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