For a Republican, there are many possible targets, lots of places where Democrats might be weak: Obamacare; Syria; the economy; Keystone; the deficit. So where do you plant your flag? What do you make the issue you want to be identified with in 2016? How about — Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky?
Most candidates would fire you for even suggesting that. But not Rand Paul. He’s resurrected “Monicagate,” made it the centerpiece of his campaign and argues that talking about the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal is the answer to Democratic charges of a Republican war on women.
Paul first raised the issue in a Jan. 26 “Meet the Press” interview, when asked why Democrats had such an advantage with women voters. “The Democrats, one of their big issues is they have concocted and said Republicans are committing a war on women,” Paul told host David Gregory. “One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn’t prey on young interns in their office. And I really think 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.”
Now, Sen. Paul’s right about one thing. What Clinton did was wrong. Even though Lewinsky was 22 and 23 and a consenting adult at the time, bosses should not be hitting on interns. But Paul’s crazy if he thinks the American people have any appetite for dredging up a 16-year-old sex scandal. We OD’d on Monica Lewinsky a long time ago.
Paul’s also wrong to assert that Clinton’s behavior lets the GOP off the hook for their historic hostility toward women. The Republican Party’s officially anti-choice. They opposed the Violence Against Women Act. They oppose equal pay for equal work. They oppose Obamacare and raising the minimum wage, both of which help women most. Mike Huckabee says women can’t control their own libidos and depend on “Uncle Sugar.” In a recent CNN/ORC International poll, 59 percent of all women and 64 percent of women over 50 say the Republican Party doesn’t understand women. No matter what Rand Paul says about Bill Clinton, there is a Republican Party war on women — and the women of America know it.
Sen. Paul’s even more wrong when he tries to tie what husband Bill did in 1996 to what wife Hillary might do in 2016. That may not be fair, Paul admitted to host Gregory, but then added: “Sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other.” Really? It’s hard to separate a former president from a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state? But party chair Reince Priebus quickly acknowledged that linking Bill, Monica and Hillary is exactly what the party plans to do: “I think everything’s on the table,” he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I think we’re going to have a truckload of opposition research on Hillary Clinton, and some things may be old, and some things might be new.”
You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know what’s going on here. If she runs for president, Hillary Clinton would be the most experienced and qualified candidate ever to do so. Republicans are so afraid of Hillary Clinton in 2016 they’re trying to scare her out of the race now. That’s why they’re digging up Monica Lewinsky. And that’s why they released the so-called Hillary Papers, notes from conversations with Hillary by her now-deceased friend Diane Blair.
All of which is a total waste of time. If she does decide to run, Americans are not going to hold Hillary accountable for Bill’s sins. And there’s no way what happened in 1996 is going to determine her decision in 2016. But Sen. Paul should think twice before dredging up old scandals. Democrats just might want to talk about a certain young Republican who allegedly abducted a college classmate and forced her to smoke pot, while worshiping “Aqua Buddha.” After all, even in Kentucky, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show.