Simple is usually better in politics. Monica Lewinsky and the Benghazi e-mail investigation may appeal to conservatives looking for anti-Hillary Clinton material, but these are ultimately unsatisfying topics for those trying to convince the 2016 electorate to put a Republican in the White House. Instead of taking the circuitous route, Republicans should go right at their target, the folly of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry policies.
As I noted previously, using Monica Lewinsky to attack Bill Clinton is not an effective response to Democrats’ bogus “war on women” strategy. Reminding voters of a sympathetic time in Hillary Clinton’s career and dredging up a nearly 20-year old scandal can be a trip down memory lane for conservatives who cut their teeth on Clinton scandals, but it is ancient history for voters. Moreover, it’s hard to make Bill Clinton into some sort of “predator” when Lewinsky concedes the obvious, namely that this was a consensual relationship. (Republicans do remember Lewinsky wasn’t an effective topic for the 1998 midterms, right?)
Since the attack-Bill-to-anger-women idea surfaced, we’ve had some impressive women, including Terri Lynn Land, take the “war on women” hooey straight on. We’ve seen both mainstream and conservative media debunk the White House’s fake 77 percent figure on pay inequality. In other words, when you run right at your opponent, undermine bogus arguments and treat voters like adults, there is no need for a roundabout effort to attack the husband of the woman likely to run for president. “Simple and straightforward” should be the GOP’s mantra.
Likewise, Benghazi, we’ve argued, is a White House scandal in and of itself, but for Hillary Clinton it is a symptom of a failed foreign policy. Which is better politics — spending time trying to prove Clinton (rather than Ben Rhodes or Jay Carney or their bosses) misled the public intentionally for a few weeks or that she dropped the ball on al-Qaeda, left the world a more dangerous place and had no discernible policy (other than fighting with Israel’s elected government) in the Middle East? The latter is certainly more evident and more damning.
I understand that Bill Clinton and Benghazi get the GOP base enraged, but many voters will find these irrelevant to their choices in 2014 and 2016. The psychic pleasure derived from re-plowing the Lewinsky scandal and the president’s misleading statements on Benghazi doesn’t make these issues effective political issues for Republicans. This has nothing to do with the merits of these topics. One can still believe Bill Clinton was a sleazy character (and Hillary Clinton an enabler of sorts) and Benghazi a scandal (with Hillary Clinton more than willing to play along with the video narrative for a time) and still conclude these are not fruitful topics for 2014 or 2016. There is still utility in getting to the bottom of Benghazi for reasons I have discussed; but the reasons for doing so have little to do with Hillary Clinton’s deficiencies as a potential commander in chief.
Republican candidates for the House, Senate and White House should remember their real audience, which is significantly different from the talk show audiences who delight in past Clinton scandals. Most voters, to be blunt, think all politicians are dishonest; what they want to know is what they are going to do for them and who’s going to address the problems the country faces. Let Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) get to the bottom of Benghazi. Let Vanity Fair explore Lewinsky’s psyche. Republicans have bigger fish to fry.