Damn right, Bill Clinton is fair game: If Hillary wants to use him as her top surrogate, the campaign will have to answer uncomfortable questions
Thursday, October 13, 2016, 5:00 AM

Donald Trump’s furious excavation of every misdeed, real or imagined, of Bill Clinton’s life has understandably vexed Democrats.

Heeding the call of the right-wing talk show circuit and Breitbart News, his campaign CEO’s outlet, Trump charged into Sunday night’s debate with the names of Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathy Shelton, Kathleen Willey and Monica Lewinsky on his lips. Several showed up for a bizarre predebate press conference, proving once again this election cycle is the most abnormal in history

Many commentators, mostly on the left, cried foul: Bill Clinton, after all, is not running for President. His wife is.

But this logic doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Hillary Clinton must answer for her husband’s time in the public eye because she has chosen to anoint him as her No. 1 campaign surrogate. Trump, the crown prince (or clown prince) of objectifying women, has every right to dredge up her husband’s long and deeply troubled history with the opposite sex. Hillary has made it clear, time and time again, that the Clintons are a package deal.

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In May, Hillary declared that her husband would be “put in charge of revitalizing the economy because, you know, he knows how to do it.” In other words, Bill would be some type of vaguely defined economic czar, wielding theoretically immense power in a second Clinton administration. Aides said the former President, once a white working-class hero, would be deployed to struggling areas like the Rust Belt, where his policies, ironically enough, arguably contributed to their suffering.

Since Hillary Clinton has made the decision to embrace her husband wholeheartedly and carve out a place for him in the White House, Trump can question the past of a potential presidential adviser.
So let’s stop asking whether Trump has a right to launch the salvo and concern ourselves with the substance of the attack itself.

Sunday night, Trump exaggerated. “There’s never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women. So you can say any way you want to say it, but Bill Clinton was abusive to women,” he said.

Given our nation’s history of womanizing and predatory Presidents (John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson?), this statement doesn’t hold up.

But Bill Clinton belongs in the pantheon of perversity. Yes, some of the claims of sexual assault and rape against him are unsubstantiated, but, as the Bill Cosby episode has taught many, it can be difficult to prove in court these things definitely happened — or get others to believe that they did. Democrats should show more sympathy for women who were at a disadvantage against a powerful man in a sexist society.

Partners then (AP)

Nor is it a right-wing conspiracy that Hillary Clinton sought to discredit the women entangled with her husband. Carl Bernstein, known best for breaking open Watergate, reported that she directed a special “defense team” during his first presidential campaign to deal with, among other indiscretions, the women claiming to have had affairs with Bill. She dismissed one of the women, Gennifer Flowers, as “some failed cabaret singer who doesn’t even have much of a résumé to fall back on.”

We know that after Bill Clinton as President had an affair with a 22-year-old intern, his wife privately referred to her as a “narcissistic loony toon.” Monica Lewinsky was not self-centered: Her life, in many ways, was ruined. In the parlance of the 21st century, she was “slut-shamed,” and neither Clinton seemed to particularly care.

We know, too, that not all of Bill Clinton's accusers are easily dismissed. One is Mayor de Blasio’s former press secretary, who described how then-Gov. Clinton scribbled his hotel room number and a question mark on a napkin and slipped it to her. She was just 24 at the time, a young Democratic operative who was naive enough to believe that this rising politician only cared about what she had to say.

But all this was decades ago, Clinton defenders will argue. Let it go. Why, then, do we care about Trump’s lewd and abusive comments about women from 2005? Is it because 11 years is simply a shorter time than 20 or 30? Should someone have known better in 2005, as opposed to 1998, the year of Lewinsky?
All of the past matters. Trump’s decades of megalomania, his failed business dealings and his misogyny are relevant to how he would conduct himself as commander-in-chief. Hillary Clinton’s history matters, too, and — for better or worse — it’s inextricably tied to her husband's. This isn’t sexism. It’s fact.

Hillary Clinton could have chosen to jettison Bill from her campaign or at least diminished his role. Commentators may have unleashed some snark, but she could have taken the stage and declared that her husband would have no role in her White House, that she would rely on other surrogates to carry forth her message.

She didn’t. Now she’ll have to live with the consequences.