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Saturday, August 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — Don’t play the Bill Clinton “conduct toward women” card at my New Year’s table talk. Don’t tell me his “sordid sexual history,” as a Washington Post woman pundit put it, is “fair game” against leading presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

No, don’t do on the first day of 2016.

We’ll read all about it soon as shrewd frontrunner Donald Trump blasts one Clinton’s flawed past to hurt another Clinton’s present. And the future of the nation may hang in the balance; the Republican Trump and the Democratic Clinton are likely the last candidates still standing come summer.

The former first lady is sending her husband, a.k.a. the Big Guy, to campaign in New Hampshire, a player out on his own on the political field. So the stones are already being cast at Bill Clinton for the infamous affair he had while he was president. Unseemly, for sure. Unforgettable, yes, but unforgivable? No.

I don’t care if “fair game” is in among the politerati. It’s so last century. If Hillary forgave Bill Clinton his sins, that’s good enough for me. He’s like Tom Sawyer grown up; it’s hard to stay mad long, even if he’s dead wrong.

Hillary Clinton deserves to run for president free from a scalding sex scandal. Isn’t there a statute of limitations on spousal suffering in the limelight? In the court of public opinion, a man’s misdeeds must not be held against his wife.

The Clintons, by the way, have stayed together. When they were in the White House, columnist George Will poured scorn like coffee, accusing them of a marriage of convenience. Their marriage, if rocky, is real.

What happened 20 years ago in the Oval Office between the president, Monica Lewinsky and a cigar riveted the nation, but it was not a Nixonian crime against the constitution. It never should have been investigated. It never should have happened. Yet it was consensual.

Ruth Marcus, the Post pundit who sides with Trump on the “fair game” front, seems as stern as a Salem judge. For contrast, let’s call up Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Now that was raw, crude sexual pursuit and harassment, presuming Hill’s devastating story was true.

The press labels the college graduate a White House intern, which is not quite right. Lewinsky also worked at the Pentagon as a paid press aide.

Actually, President Clinton was the best friend women ever had in the White House. It is meaningful that mine was the first generation who could take family leave after becoming parents — thanks to the first bill he signed. Ideally, abortion should be, in his pithy phrase, “safe, legal and rare.”

Clinton was the first president to make several high female appointments in his Cabinet and Supreme Court: Donna Shalala, Janet Reno, Madeleine Albright and the divine Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Close to his late mother, he’s visibly attached to his wife and daughter. His bright, stand-out wife speaks to his esteem for womankind. The vibrant Hillary Rodham was no beauty as a Yale law student.

Donald Trump has all but declared a Twitter war on Bill Clinton’s “women abuse,” which is rich, in the English sense, for a flagrant adulterer. (I remember his “conduct” with Marla Maples, second of his three wives.)

Trump is rising to Hillary Clinton’s comment that he has “a penchant for sexism.” His bathroom wall talk about her bathroom break was, indeed, conduct unbecoming. Why aren’t pundits up in arms about that? His misogynist mockery, had it been racist, would have been shouted down.

Clinton and Trump are about the same age. Perhaps the contest will come down to one of the worst and one of the best of their look-at-me Boomer generation. The true test will be of us, we the people. If the political weather is ugly, it could take two Clintons to beat one fierce Trump.

Lest we forget, the former president paid a high price for l’affaire Lewinsky in public shaming. He was impeached by Speaker Newt Gingrich’s House. Prosecutor Kenneth Starr showed no mercy on the Clinton family, including daughter Chelsea, revealing every salacious detail and even demanding a dress for a DNA test.

Now that was sordid, persecuting a president for something so slight.

Three of Clinton’s chief tormentors — Gingrich, his successor, Bob Livingston, and House Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde — had to admit their own extramarital affairs before it was over.

They happen all the time in the best of Houses.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (2nd L) with former U.S. President Bill Clinton (C) and their daughter Chelsea (L) attend the Foundry United Methodist Church’s bicentennial service in Washington September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas