In Monday’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton wrapped up with some parting shots at Donald Trump for his degrading statements toward women. For Hillary, it was low-hanging fruit. If looking to smack-down Donald Trump for an offensive statement or two toward women, the options are vast, a veritable harvest of rich opportunities. Reach into the grab-bag and pick your poison.
For his part, Trump played the unlikely role of gentleman. Rather than excoriating his debate opponent — as he did freely, wantonly, brutally, to the likes of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — Trump this time chose not to jump into the gutter. As Ted Cruz had learned, and as Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi had learned, no one can sling it like Trump — anytime, anyplace.
Except, that is, Monday night at Hofstra.
I suspected this might happen. In fact, I began writing about it here months ago, way back in February, predicting that the bad-boy would magically become nice-boy to Madame Hillary, when his opponent was no longer Cruz or Rubio. Now he’s suddenly playing nice?
“I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family,” said Trump near the end of the debate, “and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.’”
Inappropriate? Not nice? Since when does Donald Trump care about that? He wasn’t nice to “Lyin’ Ted” and his wife and his dad, to “choking” Marco, to “ugly” Carly, to “loser” Jeb, to that surrender-monkey John McCain, to WMD-lying George W. Bush, to Scott Walker, to Susana Martinez, to John Kasich, to Mitt Romney, and on and on. Now he’s a delightful chap to Hillary? Where was this sense of measured restraint against our people?
I remember listening to Rush Limbaugh one day back in May, when Ted Cruz dropped out of the race after Indiana, followed by John Kasich. Donald Trump was thus the presumptive nominee, what I called a catastrophe for the future of the conservative movement. To accommodate Trump’s candidacy, Rush had taken a two-semester sabbatical from his chair at his School of Advanced Conservative Studies. He suddenly seemed unfazed and unconcerned about whether the Republican nominee was carrying a flag for conservatism, or even knew what it was.
Instead, that sad afternoon in May, Rush was reveling in joy, savoring the Trump-Hillary spectacle to come. Rush said that he couldn’t wait to watch Trump destroy Hillary, rip her to shreds, blow her to smithereens, flatten her, finally see her get her comeuppance. This would be “orgasmic” to watch, assured Rush.
Well, Rush, how did it feel on Monday night? Were you satisfied? Your guy dealt with Hillary with kid-gloves, not a stick of dynamite.
“I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.’”
Clearly, this was a tactical shift by Trump and his campaign. It was an obvious attempt to change his tone for a larger audience, to try to salvage some semblance of the married-female vote. The fact that he spent a year laying waste to the reputations, characters, and political careers of the best and brightest in the future of the conservative movement and Republican Party was now a moot point, I guess. (Oh, well.) The Trump tornado took them down, but now the wolf retreated to the woods. The wolf was replaced Monday night by a kinder, gentler Trump, a lovable lamb — now that the target in the debate is Hillary.
But alas, I ask Mr. Trump: why not? Why not blurt out something “rough” to Hillary and “her family”? Why let Hillary and Bill off the hook?
The public should be reminded just how bad the Clinton White House was in the 1990s. That’s clearly what Trump was thinking — namely, how Bill Clinton treated women, how Hillary either looked the other way, enabled her husband’s behavior, helped cover it up, or surely on occasion even joined the Carville cabal in smearing Bill’s (rightful) accusers. Bill had turned the White House into Animal House.
Since Trump was unwilling to say it on Monday night, I’ll briefly summarize what I wrote here recently. I’ll remind everyone of what erupted on the national scene precisely this time 18 years ago, September 1998, when explicit details were released regarding President Bill Clinton’s scandalous escapades with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. They are sordid details that are painfully graphic but worth remembering.
“The first sexual encounter took place late in a day in which Mr. Clinton signed a ‘Family Week’ proclamation,” reported the New York Times in September 1998. “He saw Ms. Lewinsky working alone in an aide’s office, invited her into the Oval Office and began with a kiss.”
It began there. Family Week at the Clinton White House.
The actual scandal had broken much earlier, at the start of the year. In January 1998, word first broke that the 42nd president was guilty of a physical relationship with no less than a White House intern.
Of course, Bill Clinton denied it categorically. He always did. On January 26, 1998, he stood before the press, bit his lip, and earnestly insisted, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
The next day, Hillary Clinton stepped up to assume her well-rehearsed role of yet again protecting Bill from charges of unbecoming sexual conduct, as she had done in her infamous 60 Minutes appearance during the 1992 campaign, a crucial move in Bill’s path to securing the presidency. On January 27, 1998, she told NBC News that there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to get her husband — one that included this august publication, The American Spectator
It was classic Hillary Clinton. But this time, it didn’t work. This time, Bill’s bluff was called. The FBI did tests on semen stains on a blue dress worn by the college girl during one of her moments with the president in the Oval Office. The DNA matched. The evidence confirmed the presidential sexual act.
Bill Clinton could not fib his way out of that one.
The avalanche, however, was just beginning. In September 1998, the Starr Report was released, accompanied by numerous media reports from reporters doing their own digging. Here is what was learned:
There had been 18 months of gifts and at least a half-dozen intimate encounters between Bill and Monica from 1995 to 1997, including while the president of the United States was on the phone conducting the business of the state. One such moment occurred Easter Sunday 1996. Another occurred with Bill using a favorite cigar on Monica as a sexual instrument. They transpired during the peak of Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign.
There was much more. The full details are outrageous. They are literally pornographic.
To this day, I’m flatly amazed that no one ever walked in on Bill and Monica. (Someone must have.) How did Bill get away with it? Was POTUS locking the doors to keep out his staff while he had his way with his play-thing? Where was the secret service? The secretaries? The maids? The janitors?
Where was Hillary?
All of this was brazen, politically and personally. They smack of a man who was not new to this kind of thing.
Millions of Americans learned this and still more. Monica laughingly told Barbara Walters about the “phone sex” she enjoyed with the commander-in-chief. She also told Barbara that her presidential boyfriend had confided in her that he “might be alone in three years,” referring to the prospects of Hillary dumping him. Yes, Hillary divorcing him.
Was that tantalizing tidbit on Donald Trump’s mind on Monday night?
So, why revisit all of this now? Two reasons:
First, because a whole generation of Americans know none of it. Today’s college students were all born after this ugly period. When we tell them that Bill Clinton was a cad, they scoff. Couldn’t be that bad, they figure. They have no idea. It’s good for Americans to learn or be reminded — and yes, vividly — what life was like in the Clinton White House.
Second, it’s worth revisiting because Hillary raised the issue of Trump’s derogatory comments toward women, and Trump refused to retaliate by raising the issue of Hillary’s husband’s derogatory behavior toward women, including White House interns inside the Oval Office. Bill was president, the same office Trump is seeking.
For Donald Trump to hold back on this material against the Clintons, especially when Hillary was (justifiably) attacking him for his attitude toward women before a huge national TV audience, seems way too soft. She started punching, and he curled up. The next time Hillary takes the gloves off and plays this card on the big stage, Donald Trump shouldn’t hesitate to swing back. Hillary Clinton and her husband have no claims to moral superiority.
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