The Corner

Elections

Do Democrats Really Need Bill Clinton to Speak Tonight?

Former president Bill Clinton speaks to the nation following his acquittal by the U.S. Senate on impeachment charges, February 12, 1999. (Blake Sell/Reuters)

There’s no law that says a former president has to speak at his party’s convention. Democrats didn’t have to invite Bill Clinton to speak at this year’s convention. CBS News asked Democrats who they wanted to hear from at the convention this week, and 56 percent of Democrats said they wanted to hear from Bill Clinton, and 44 percent said they did not — well below almost all of the other choices besides John Kasich. (For Hillary Clinton, respondents split 58 percent for yes, 42 percent for no.)

And, in what is almost certainly a perfectly timed leak, the Daily Mail revealed photos of Bill Clinton receiving a neck message from Chauntae Davies, then a 22-year-old massage therapist. The photos appear to be in an airport waiting area of some kind and are not particularly salacious — both are dressed. The Mail reports that Clinton complained of a stiff neck while traveling on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane, the one given the unsavory nickname, “the Lolita Express.” Davies is one of the women who accused Epstein of sexual abuse, but told the Mail, “although the image looks bizarre, President Clinton was a perfect gentleman during the trip and I saw absolutely no foul play involving him.”

Flight logs indicate that Bill Clinton flew on Epstein’s plane at least 26 times; Clinton insists the cumulative flights amounted to only four trips.

The photo, by itself, does not prove sexual impropriety on the part of Bill Clinton. It does not, by itself, corroborate the claims of Virginia Giuffre that she saw Clinton on Epstein’s private island with two “young girls,” and that Epstein claimed the former president owed him favors. Separately, one of Epstein’s former IT contractors claimed he once saw Clinton at Epstein’s villa home. Clinton denies that he ever traveled to the island.

And yes, the incumbent president has his own issues regarding Epstein, most notably a bizarre insistence that he wishes alleged Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell well as she faces multiple counts of allegedly helping Epstein sexually abuse minor girls.

But the explanation from Bill Clinton is that the former president knew absolutely nothing about any illegal behavior by this jaw-droppingly malevolent sexual predator, and that all of their time spent together was in the context of Epstein’s support for the Clinton Foundation.

Bill Clinton will hopefully understand that the world is not particularly credulous about his denials of improper sexual actions.

You notice Bill Clinton has not done a potentially hostile interview since Craig Melvin of NBC News asked him about the #MeToo movement and his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and Clinton turned beet red, angrily insisted he had done the right thing and accused Melvin of ignoring “gaping facts.”

Bill Clinton hasn’t been president for nearly 20 years. Hillary Clinton is no longer the Democratic-nominee-in-waiting. They can no longer promise future cabinet jobs or other favors. If the Biden campaign denied Bill Clinton this moment on the national stage, it would not cost them any votes, any donations, any future leverage.

But apparently that much of a reckoning with Bill Clinton is just too much to ask.

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