Politics & Policy

Devil with the Blue Dress

Is anyone else having flashbacks?

Mitt Romney has recently taken to referring to the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency as electing an “intern.” He recently said, to Fox News host Sean Hannity: “The government of the United States is not a place for a president to be an intern. You need to have experience actually leading and running things.”

He’s said it more than once, so there’s no mistaking. He did not mean to say the presidency is no slot for on-the-job training. He meant intern.

It may prove to be a smart line of attack.

In fact, while he’s at it, he ought to encourage Americans to read the new Sally Bedell Smith book, For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years, wherein you’ll find passages like: “Finally, on Friday, February 28, Bill invited Lewinsky to an evening taping of his weekly radio address. Afterward he instructed Betty Currie to escort Lewinsky into his private study . . . For the first time in eleven months, they were sexually intimate, first in the hallway and then in the bathroom. When he pushed her away during oral . . . “

Why read this stuff? Voyeurism? Nope. There’s a substantive reason. As I started to read the book, I, political junkie, got bored; then frustrated. I’ve been there, done that. I’ve (unfortunately) read the Starr Report. I’ve lived through the blue dress and all the other details. We all lived through that. And while the impeachment was about important public issues — perjury and abuse of power — it all stemmed from, and fed into, that drama that is the Clintons.

For all the Clintons’ talk about getting-back-to-the-people’s-business, it was, in the end, about the Clintons. All the time “wasted” on impeachment was the result of the refusal of a president to resign, after being caught red-handed in perjury and obstruction of justice. Hillary Clinton, who stakes her claim of executive experience on her two-for-the-price-of-one days in the White House, hasn’t apologized; to the contrary, she continues to rant about a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Romney is onto something, turning his attention to Hillary before he’s had a chance to win a primary or caucus. He has a point about experience: Unlike Romney, and unlike Rudy Giuliani, she hasn’t run anything successfully. I predict that this fact — that her chief experience is not in actually running anything, but simply in being a Clinton — will be what finally defeats her candidacy.

The night before Halloween, Craig Crawford of CQPolitics said, while analyzing a Democratic debate on MSNBC’s Hardball: Imagine that — it being “hard to pin down a Clinton.” With those words, Crawford unintentionally reminded us what we have to fear next Halloween: Four more years . . . of the Clinton drama, with all its attendant pathologies of mendacity and evasion.

Hillary’s defeat is not inevitable, but it’s doable. Listen to some wise words from radio host Rush Limbaugh — who, in many ways, has been serving as the Reagan successor conservatives claim to be looking for: “I’ve always had ultimately faith in the American people. . . . Since the turn of the [last] century, only four Democrats have gotten more than 50 percent of the vote in presidential races. It may not even be that many. The idea that this is a Democrat-owned country or a majority-Democrat country simply isn’t true…This is why so many of us here lament the lack of genuine leadership on our side. People do respond to leadership. Leadership is bold; leadership is confidence; leadership is not being defensive about things. People will respond to it; it can be done.”

Americans will reject Hillary if the Republicans show some of that leadership, some of that spine. And Romney’s visuals don’t hurt. “Intern” was a start. But Romney (however cheesily) followed up with specifics about what he called “Hillary’s House of Horrors”: “We’d have . . . the ‘raise your tax’ room. We’d have the ‘weaker military’ room. We’d have the ‘family values in shambles’ room. . . . And frankly, what the Democrats are selling is really quite frightening these days as we approach Halloween.”

That, and at least four more years of depressingly dramatic rewind — all of which America can do without right now.

© 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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