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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hillary Clinton may well run for president in 2016. Or she may not. But while the nation awaits her decision, both jittery Republican politicians and titillated political journalists – often in concert – will seize upon any excuse to recycle those old “Clinton scandals.”

The latest trip around this endless loop began when Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican of extremist pedigree and nebulous appeal, deflected a question about his party’s “war on women” by yapping about Monica Lewinsky, former “inappropriate” playmate of Bill Clinton. Then the Free Beacon, a right-wing Washington tabloid, published some old papers about the “ruthless” Hillary and the “loony-toon Monica” from the archives of the late Diane Blair, a longtime and intimate Arkansas friend of the Clintons.

Suddenly the media frenzy of the Nineties resumed, as if there had never even been a pause.

What was truly bizarre in Senator Paul’s outburst was his suggestion that somehow Hillary Clinton is implicated in the Lewinsky affair (which he and others have wrongly characterized as “harassment” or victimization of the young White House intern). Most voters will consider that kind of insinuation more repulsive than persuasive.

Still, there were other long-running pseudo-scandals that featured Hillary. Are we doomed to revisit every crackpot allegation and conspiracy theory? Very likely so, if only because that brand of moonshine brought in wads and wads of money from the same credulous wingnuts who follow Fox News. Last week many of them surely sent money to Senator Paul or clicked on the Free Beacon.

The Clintons are still big box office in the mainstream media as well. Our historical amnesia will make the old charges against them sound new again. And if there’s a sucker born every minute, a lot of minutes have passed since they left the White House.

To prepare for the coming tsunami of bullbleep, a brief guide to past scandals may prove useful. Then when another lightweight politician or television personality starts spouting about Whitewater or Filegate or Travelgate – about which he or she actually knows approximately nothing – pertinent facts will be available. (For the longer version, with colorful narrative, consult The Hunting of the President.)

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