On the eve of what is shaping up to be a close election in California next week, the Hillary Clinton campaign is trying to demonstrate to likely primary voters that the former secretary of state can win a scorched earth campaign against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in November.
A general election campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will, in all probability, be such a vicious and negative contest because Clinton and Trump are some of the most disliked presidential candidates in history. They also both have extremely high name recognition, leaving little room to define themselves for the first time with voters. In other words, the vast majority of Americans know who they are and don’t like them; it’s a choice among evils.
But every weapon the Clinton attack machine cranks out with which to attack Donald Trump draws blood on both sides, and typically for the same reason—former President Bill Clinton.
The most recent example is the scandal surrounding Trump University, which the Clinton campaign has been pushing hard directly and through surrogates and affiliated (but supposedly “non-coordinating”) Super PACs and publications. The push has been largely successful, as the corporate media continue to report and re-report information about the sleazy for-profit education scam.
But then, wait for it, people doing a quick Google search can find out that a year ago, former president Clinton was forced to cut ties with the for-profit education industry for fear of undermining former secretary Clinton’s campaign.
Bill Clinton had been serving as honorary chancellor for Laureate International Universities. The best that could be said of Laureate by The New York Times was that Laureate was “not considered among the worst offenders in the for-profit college industry.”
Laureate has refused to disclose how much Bill Clinton was paid, but the Clinton Foundation received between $1 million and $5 million from Laureate, according to the foundation’s website.
While Trump University is the most recent demonstration of Bill Clinton’s dampening effect on Clinton campaign attacks on Trump, the most obvious and likely substantial case has to be attacks based on Trump’s treatment of women.
Donald Trump’s statements about specific women and women in general should, in theory, offer Hillary Clinton a perfect opportunity to win sympathy with female voters. Instead, the Trump campaign has been successful in boomeranging or at least muddying the waters on every attack by citing Bill Clinton’s conduct and his treatment of women.
Former president Clinton’s womanizing is well known, and led to perhaps one of the most embarrassing presidential scandals in American history, courtesy of an affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But the Trump campaign and fellow travelers have gone a step further by citing accounts of Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual assault victims, and then saying Hillary Clinton participated in various cover-ups of the crimes.
The most noteworthy so far was the account of Juanita Broaddrick, who claimed Bill Clinton raped her in 1978. Given the view some liberals have of siding with female accusers until a man is proven to be innocent, Broaddrick’s accusation is thoroughly problematic, even if few of said liberals follow the rest of the narrative and believe Hillary Clinton had any role in covering up the crime after the fact. If one should, in principle, “believe women” then Broaddrick and others are going to be a problem for the Clinton campaign.
So far, the attacks have had little effect. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a virtual tie in the polls. And if the Clinton campaign’s plan is to hit Donald Trump on shady business dealings and womanizing to win, it might be time to get Bill Clinton out of sight.