The Line From Slick Willie to The Donald

 

This is an expansion of a comment made in another post.

It’s been an interesting ride. The line from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump is drawn with anything but a straight line.

Decisions made in the moment, often for short term gain, sets a precedent that is more often than not difficult to step away from. It has ramifications far down the line that proponents of the original action tend to regret. And yet, often times those same people would be happy to repeat the mistake. Such was the decision to save Bill Clinton from the Monica Lewinsky mess.

It was, of course, a mess of his own making. He was elected with a history of “bimbo eruptions” and allegations of criminal sexual misconduct. Most likely, his supporters expected him to comport himself differently in the Oval Office than he had in the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock. They were wrong. And he could not extract himself so the entire weight of the Democratic/Media Complex was brought to bear.

The circle-the-wagons and do anything movement to save Bill would eventually lead to MoveOn.org and their mantra, “It’s only sex.”

And while I absolutely despise “alternative history” narratives, these questions deserve to be asked:

Had the Democrats pulled the plug on Bill, Albert Gore, Jr. would have become the 43rd President of the United States and faced George W. Bush as the incumbent in 2000. Does he win? Who knows, but the dynamic would have changed. 

Would Hillary have divorced Bill to remain politically viable? Or would she have finally come to the conclusion that there was no viability outside of the New York Senate seat?

If Gore had won in 2000, that would have put W. in the dustbin. Does Obama still rise in ‘08? Or is that left up to America’s first Jewish Vice-President, Joe Lieberman? 

And what of the GOP fortunes? McCain in ‘04? 

Whatever the answers to all these questions, what it does mean is that there is no MoveOn.GOP, that cadre of voters who no longer care about sexual dalliances from their nominee. Without the effort to save Bill Clinton, there is never, ever a Donald Trump.

And we have been living this scenario in reverse these past three years. Opponents of the Trump presidency have been throwing massive amounts of (stuff) at the wall, or should I say, at the bar to see what sticks. We’ve witnessed employees of the Federal Government in open revolt trying to subvert the Administration and, in some cases, trying to bring it down. In the end, any successful attempt would set another precedent, another short term “win” with some nasty long term implications.

It is the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” moment that is only seen best in the rear view mirror.

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There are 37 comments.

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  1. Seawriter Member

    Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. Hillary was elected to the Senate in 2000, in part due a sympathy vote because of Bill’s impeachment – as a way to protest that he had been impeached. Had the Democrats ditched Bill would Hillary become Senator? Without that would she have been a viable Presidential candidate?

    • #1
    • July 10, 2019, at 11:36 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    EJHill: It is the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” moment that is only seen best in the rear view mirror.

    I think this is spot on. 

    This is an old dynamic though. In a struggle, people re-write the rules, thinking that no matter what, they will still be in control. They think things will never backfire. 

    The British thought they could just march into Concord and seize the arsenal there. But, suddenly, there was a local militia there to stop them. Worse, as they marched back to Boston, what has been described as a “rural riot” fell upon them. They were sniped on the march the whole way back. The rules had suddenly changed. No longer could they march around with impunity. 

    We see this today on the left. They think they will always hold the whip. That is not how it works. 

    • #2
    • July 10, 2019, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  3. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Seawriter: Hillary was elected to the Senate in 2000, in part due a sympathy vote because of Bill’s impeachment…

    I’ve seen this asserted several times. Do you have any hard evidence of it? Because, quite frankly, if New Yorkers are content to send Kristen Gillibrand to the Senate they would be willing to elect a fence post provided a picture of a jackass had been nailed to it.

    In fact, Hillary shed support from women throughout that Senate run. Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post quoted someone on that campaign as saying, “Women in the educated professional class? They (effing) couldn’t stand her. We could never figure out why. We had psychologists come in.”

    • #3
    • July 10, 2019, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 18 likes
  4. Joshua Bissey Coolidge

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Had the Democrats ditched Bill would Hillary become Senator? Without that would she have been a viable Presidential candidate?

    Was she ever?

    • #4
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:14 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  5. Joshua Bissey Coolidge

    EJHill (View Comment):
    In fact, Hillary shed support from women throughout that Senate run. Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post quoted someone on that campaign as saying, “Women in the educated professional class? They (effing) couldn’t stand her. We could never figure out why. We had psychologists come in.”

    Shouldn’t the psychologists have been addressing the question of why anyone did like her?

    • #5
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:15 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  6. Seawriter Member

    EJHill (View Comment):
    I’ve seen this asserted several times. Do you have any hard evidence of it?

    I may have phrased this badly. She got the nomination because the party higher-ups got her the nomination as a reward for her loyalty to Bill and as an “up-yours” to the impeachment. Once she got the party nomination she was going to win regardless of women’s attitudes towards her because NY is such a blue state.

    But:

    1. She was not a resident of New York State before 2000.
    2. She was not associated with New York State before 2000 (She was from Illinois and had spent years in Arkansas.)
    3. She had never run for public office before 2000
    4. She pretty well demanded a nomination for senator.

    Why did she even get the nomination if not due to Bill’s influence? And what would that influence have been worth had the Democrats had not circled the wagons?

    Again, the issue is not how did she get elected. Even the Worst Democrat Candidate Evah (or Hillary Clinton – but I repeat myself) would have won the New York senate race in 2000 once the nomination was in hand. My argument is that without Bill surviving impeachment she could not have gotten the nomination in any state, even bluer-than-blue New York.

    • #6
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:18 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  7. Seawriter Member

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Had the Democrats ditched Bill would Hillary become Senator? Without that would she have been a viable Presidential candidate?

    Was she ever?

    She got her party’s nomination. Being a viable as a Presidential candidate is different than winning the Presidency.

    • #7
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:20 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. PHCheese Member

    I have a personal history that is a what if. The summer before my fifth birthday I was bitten by a wasp on the back of the neck. It hurt like heck. That fall my dad took me to kindergarten and hanging from a tree near the door was a large wasp nest. I was afraid and cried upon entering everyday for two weeks. The teacher pulled my dad aside and told him I was too immature for school. My dad took me home and my mother just having given birth to my brother told my dad to take me to the Catholic school. They didn’t have kindergarten so he signed me up for first grade. That changed the whole course of my life. I would have had different friends, probably gone to a different college, married a different person, had different kids,missed being drafted into the military and on and on. One lousy wasp for me one blue dress for WJC.

    • #8
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:21 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  9. GrannyDude Member

    I remember arguing this from the other (that is Democrat) side: If Bill had done the right thing and resigned, Al Gore would be president. He would not have been worse (I think, anyway). A dreadful campaigner, he would’ve done better in 96 because he wouldn’t have to manage the, um, ambivalent legacy of Bill—I remember that people were embarrassed about Bill’s behavior, “It’s Just Sex” or not. 

    It’s actually possible that, without the distraction of a prolonged impeachment fight, the U.S. might have focused on the threat of Al Qaida, and 9/11 might not have happened. That would’ve been nice. 

    Had Gore been president during 9/11, he would have attacked Afghanistan but we wouldn’t have gone into Iraq. Make of that what we will.

    But the reason for Bill Clinton to resign after having been caught in the “I did not have sex with that woman” lie is that resignation would’ve been the right thing to do. 

    • #9
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  10. DonG Coolidge

    This story should start with Ross Perot. Without Perot in ’92 the Clintons never leave Arkansas.

    • #10
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  11. EB Thatcher
    EB

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    One lousy wasp for me one blue dress for WJC.

    22 years ago, an ex-boyfriend gave me a ride to the MARTA station to take the rail to the airport. He was late (as usual) and I was hacked off. But…my future husband walked into my train car and sat down across the aisle from me. I should probably have sent the ex a thank you note.

    • #11
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  12. KentForrester Coolidge

    The story of recent U.S. history rests on Monica failing to wash her dress.

    Without the DNA that Bill left on that dress (I’ll leave it to you to imagine how it got there), I think Bill would have gotten away with it.

    • #12
    • July 10, 2019, at 1:20 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. Judge Mental Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    The arc of U.S. history rests on Monica failing to wash her dress.

    Without the DNA that Bill left on that dress (I’ll leave it to you to imagine how it got there), I think Bill would have gotten away with it.

    He did get away with it.

    • #13
    • July 10, 2019, at 1:23 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  14. KentForrester Coolidge

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    The arc of U.S. history rests on Monica failing to wash her dress.

    Without the DNA that Bill left on that dress (I’ll leave it to you to imagine how it got there), I think Bill would have gotten away with it.

    He did get away with it.

    Not quite. He was left with the “stain” of impeachment. Without that DNA, he would be claiming, to this day, that he did not have sex with that woman. 

    • #14
    • July 10, 2019, at 1:46 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    DonG (View Comment):

    This story should start with Ross Perot. Without Perot in ’92 the Clintons never leave Arkansas.

    Without GHW Bush “kinder gentler (unlike you hateful Reaganites)” “read my lips (you “voodoo economics” suckers),” the Clintons never leave Arkansas. 

    • #15
    • July 10, 2019, at 3:53 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  16. I Walton Member

    History is complex and we don’t get do overs, but we’re supposed to learn. I supposed some politicians learn but not many and probably not the right things. Citizens have to, but as often as not learn the wrong lessons, or respond to the wrong politicians. That’s why we have to return to the constitution because it’s built on that knowledge. 

    • #16
    • July 10, 2019, at 4:12 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  17. Bishop Wash Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    DonG (View Comment):

    This story should start with Ross Perot. Without Perot in ’92 the Clintons never leave Arkansas.

    Without GHW Bush “kinder gentler (unlike you hateful Reaganites)” “read my lips (you “voodoo economics” suckers),” the Clintons never leave Arkansas.

    Possibly without Desert Storm and near 90% approval for GHW Bush, different Democrats decide to run in 92 and Clinton doesn’t get the nomination or decides not to run. 

    • #17
    • July 10, 2019, at 4:13 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Hillary’s highest favorability ratings occurred in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal and it was that renewed popularity in the defense of “her man” that gave her a political future. Her favorability ratings had tanked after the healthcare debacle and loss of Congress in 1994.

    When the Lewinsky scandal broke Bill was out of favor with the party’s left wing because of his triangulation after the ’94 elections – they hated welfare reform, balanced budgets, no big new social programs, and the rumors that he and Gingrich might do a deal on entitlements. It was the miscalculation of the GOP in pushing for impeachment that rallied the Left in his defense and created the opening for Hillary’s political future.

    • #18
    • July 10, 2019, at 4:56 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  19. Unsk Member

    Clifford:”Without GHW Bush “kinder gentler (unlike you hateful Reaganites)” “read my lips (you “voodoo economics” suckers),” the Clintons never leave Arkansas.”

    Bingo.

    Arguing about the Clintons is a fool’s errand. The Clintons were incredibly powerful people who knew where all the bodies were buried in the Democrat party and made sure the right people knew it, so it would be tough to cross them. I doubt Gore would have done any better than Bill. Gore is easily as corrupt as Bill and Hillary, as crazy Progressive as Hillary, and not the compromiser Bill was. 

    Trump was a response to two things: the fecklessness of the RINO wing of the Republican party and the crazy Leftward turn the Democrats made under Obama. The American public just became sick and tired of politics as usual and the extreme disingenuous and negligence of the Establishment wings of both parties.

    • #19
    • July 10, 2019, at 5:09 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  20. Jon1979 Lincoln

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Seawriter: Hillary was elected to the Senate in 2000, in part due a sympathy vote because of Bill’s impeachment…

    I’ve seen this asserted several times. Do you have any hard evidence of it? Because, quite frankly, if New Yorkers are content to send Kristen Gillibrand to the Senate they would be willing to elect a fence post provided a picture of a jackass had been nailed to it.

    In fact, Hillary shed support from women throughout that Senate run. Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post quoted someone on that campaign as saying, “Women in the educated professional class? They (effing) couldn’t stand her. We could never figure out why. We had psychologists come in.”

    There’s also the possibility that if Bill resigns in 1998, Hillary’s political ambition would have caused her to strategically divorce Bill shortly after that, in order to gain sympathy as a ‘wronged woman’ who was now going out on her own. New York State voters would have swallowed that story hook, line and sinker as well, and we might have ended up on the exact same path, with Senator Clinton lusting for the White House, but being the same awful campaigner outside of deep Blue areas without her husband, and she was with him.

    • #20
    • July 10, 2019, at 6:54 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Judge Mental Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Seawriter: Hillary was elected to the Senate in 2000, in part due a sympathy vote because of Bill’s impeachment…

    I’ve seen this asserted several times. Do you have any hard evidence of it? Because, quite frankly, if New Yorkers are content to send Kristen Gillibrand to the Senate they would be willing to elect a fence post provided a picture of a jackass had been nailed to it.

    In fact, Hillary shed support from women throughout that Senate run. Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post quoted someone on that campaign as saying, “Women in the educated professional class? They (effing) couldn’t stand her. We could never figure out why. We had psychologists come in.”

    There’s also the possibility that if Bill resigns in 1998, Hillary’s political ambition would have caused her to strategically divorce Bill shortly after that, in order to gain sympathy as a ‘wronged woman’ who was now going out on her own. New York State voters would have swallowed that story hook, line and sinker as well, and we might have ended up on the exact same path, with Senator Clinton lusting for the White House, but being the same awful campaigner outside of deep Blue areas without her husband, and she was with him.

    It would have been this:

    How will you make it on your own? 

    This world is awfully big, girl this time you’re all alone

    But it’s time you started living

    It’s time you let someone else do some giving

    .

    Love is all around, no need to waste it

    You can have the town, why don’t you take it

    You might just make it after all

    You might just make it after all!

     

    • #21
    • July 10, 2019, at 7:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    @judgemental You should be slapped for soiling the memory of MTM with that woman.

    • #22
    • July 10, 2019, at 7:44 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  23. Steve C. Member

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Hillary’s highest favorability ratings occurred in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal and it was that renewed popularity in the defense of “her man” that gave her a political future. Her favorability ratings had tanked after the healthcare debacle and loss of Congress in 1994.

    When the Lewinsky scandal broke Bill was out of favor with the party’s left wing because of his triangulation after the ’94 elections – they hated welfare reform, balanced budgets, no big new social programs, and the rumors that he and Gingrich might do a deal on entitlements. It was the miscalculation of the GOP in pushing for impeachment that rallied the Left in his defense and created the opening for Hillary’s political future.

    I think you are right about the effects. But wrong about the principle. Even knowing what we do, impeachment was the correct course of action. 

    • #23
    • July 10, 2019, at 7:51 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    EJHill (View Comment):

    @judgemental You should be slapped for soiling the memory of MTM with that woman.

    Yes.

    I’ve watched every MTM episode.

    I think I know a bit about MTM.

    HRC is no MTM!

    • #24
    • July 10, 2019, at 7:56 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. Judge Mental Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    judgemental You should be slapped for soiling the memory of MTM with that woman.

    Yes.

    I’ve watched every MTM episode.

    I think I know a bit about MTM.

    HRC is no MTM!

    You guys know they would have used that song. (You notice I used the original, first season version. Even the left wouldn’t try to pretend she was going to turn on anyone with her smile.)

    • #25
    • July 10, 2019, at 8:03 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Hillary’s highest favorability ratings occurred in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal and it was that renewed popularity in the defense of “her man” that gave her a political future. Her favorability ratings had tanked after the healthcare debacle and loss of Congress in 1994.

    When the Lewinsky scandal broke Bill was out of favor with the party’s left wing because of his triangulation after the ’94 elections – they hated welfare reform, balanced budgets, no big new social programs, and the rumors that he and Gingrich might do a deal on entitlements. It was the miscalculation of the GOP in pushing for impeachment that rallied the Left in his defense and created the opening for Hillary’s political future.

    I think you are right about the effects. But wrong about the principle. Even knowing what we do, impeachment was the correct course of action.

    It was the wrong action as a political matter since the GOP knew it would not have the votes to convict, and Clinton would have been left as a weak president after a censure motion, which would have passed. It was not a matter of principle, it was a matter of politics. They chose poorly.

    • #26
    • July 10, 2019, at 8:17 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. Chris Campion Coolidge

    While I really enjoy the occasional retrospectives (seriously, I do), doing this sort of backwards/forwards calculus is a lot like trying to draw a straight line from Godzilla to MechaGodzilla.

    Which means it’s interesting, but ultimately meaningless, other than as a poli “sci” exercise.

    • #27
    • July 11, 2019, at 3:17 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Chris Campion: Which means it’s interesting, but ultimately meaningless…

    One doesn’t learn from history without serious examination, does one?

    • #28
    • July 11, 2019, at 4:28 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  29. John Park Member

    @seawriter Hadn’t she always been a Yankees fan?

    • #29
    • July 11, 2019, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Cosmik Phred Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):
    I’ve seen this asserted several times. Do you have any hard evidence of it?

    I may have phrased this badly. She got the nomination because the party higher-ups got her the nomination as a reward for her loyalty to Bill and as an “up-yours” to the impeachment. Once she got the party nomination she was going to win regardless of women’s attitudes towards her because NY is such a blue state.

    But:

    1. She was not a resident of New York State before 2000.
    2. She was not associated with New York State before 2000 (She was from Illinois and had spent years in Arkansas.)
    3. She had never run for public office before 2000
    4. She pretty well demanded a nomination for senator.

    Why did she even get the nomination if not due to Bill’s influence? And what would that influence have been worth had the Democrats had not circled the wagons?

    Again, the issue is not how did she get elected. Even the Worst Democrat Candidate Evah (or Hillary Clinton – but I repeat myself) would have won the New York senate race in 2000 once the nomination was in hand. My argument is that without Bill surviving impeachment she could not have gotten the nomination in any state, even bluer-than-blue New York.

    I think it was her “lifelong” Yankee fandom and sympathy over that meany space invader Rick Lazio’s behavior during the debate that pushed her over the top. ?

    • #30
    • July 11, 2019, at 11:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
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