Opinion: For better or worse, there’s no escaping Bill for Hillary

The answers to some questions are difficult. This answer's easy: It doesn't matter whether voters "should" remember Bill when considering Hillary, as the debate asks. For the fact is, voters will remember Bill. They are remember...


The answers to some questions are difficult.

This answer’s easy: It doesn’t matter whether voters “should” remember Bill when considering Hillary, as the debate asks.

For the fact is, voters will remember Bill. They are remembering him.

And those memories already are playing a huge role in Hillary Clinton’s presidential race, for better or for worse.

Interestingly, that phrase - “for better or for worse”- best captures the dynamic. Because voters’ memories of Bill both help and hurt Hillary’s campaign, as national polls suggest.


The memories help because on balance, most Americans have a favorable view of Bill Clinton’s years in the White House. The country was at (relative) peace, the economy grew steadily, and Congress and the president balanced the budget.

Those are huge accomplishments, and they account for why Bill Clinton has been a fixture at Democratic Party conventions ever since. They’re why he’s now campaigning for Hillary Clinton, too.

Contrast that treatment with the one accorded Jimmy Carter, who has been welcomed at many, many fewer party-building efforts over the decades since he left office.

Furthermore, Hillary Clinton herself has pointed with favor to the success of the Bill Clinton years. Donald Trump isn’t the only candidate who’s campaigning on a promise to “Make America Great Again.” It’s just that Hillary’s Golden Era is the 1990s, not the 1950s that The Donald reveres.

But when you look at Bill Clinton’s reputation, you’ve also got to consider the huge negatives that make his “net favorable” rating a lot smaller than it could have been.

Those very much include his apparent willingness to cheat on his wife. For that failing and for lying under oath about his behavior, Bill Clinton suffered “impeachment lite,” as the late columnist William Safire called it: He was was impeached, but he was not removed from office - a punishment that fit the crime, in Safire’s view

Of course, this thumbnail description doesn’t begin to do justice to the crazy politics or rabidly partisan atmosphere of those years. So today, it’s understandable and even inevitable for American voters to ask: Do we want to risk going through that again?

It’s also understandable that Hillary Clinton tends to get poor marks from voters on “trustworthiness.”


That, too, has its origins in Bill Clinton’s time in office - probably in Hillary’s blaming women and Republicans for the various scandals, but never blaming Bill.
Jeb Bush couldn’t escape repeated and intense comparisons to his brother George W., no matter how hard Jeb tried.

Likewise, Bill Clinton is a fixture in both the image and the reality of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
It might not be useful. It might not be fair. But it’s undeniably real, and Hillary Clinton and her supporters might as well get used to it.

Related Topics: CLINTON
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