Rand Paul’s Bill Clinton-bashing is political. But he has a point.

February 10

 

Rand Paul, the U.S. senator from Kentucky and an all-but-certain contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, is hitting Democratic Party claims to be the party for women with attacks on Bill Clinton’s infidelity with an intern in the White House.

Is it a political maneuver to tarnish top rival Hillary Clinton with guilt by association? Of course. Is Paul taking aim at a popular Democratic Party fundraiser, just as the former president is about to campaign for 2014 candidates, including Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Paul’s own state of Kentucky? You bet.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Does Paul’s charge contain some truth? Certainly. Though the sheen of former president Bill Clinton’s era of peace and prosperity obscures memories of his Oval Office indiscretions, and the globe-trotting statesman is more popular than ever, it’s impossible to dismiss Monica Lewinsky as old and not very relevant news. (Really, could you imagine Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama or either Bush thinking an affair with an intern was a good idea? It was indeed the lapse in judgment and character that critics always claimed.)

After the fact, the much-admired Clinton has fared much better than Lewinsky, who though 40 and the holder of a master’s degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics, is still defined by many by a handful of bad jokes from the 1990s.

Women who agree with the policies of the ex-president and his party – on choice, pay equity and more – will look you in the eye and insist that the long-ago scandal boiled down to a consensual relationship between adults. There is an insistence that there’s nothing to see here, despite a difference in age and a chasm in the power differential. The one without much of it paid – and still pays – a far harsher price.

That is a legitimate woman’s issue, and Paul calling out some Democratic women’s “he’s a dog but he’s our dog” attitude is – let’s face it – much easier than excavating women-friendly policies in the Republican Party, especially as Mike Huckabee and others continue to make gaffes when they attempt to shore up their women’s issues credentials.

Paul said of Democrats on Newsmax TV, “If they want to be credible in saying they defend women’s rights in the workplace, they really need to disown and really return any contributions that Bill Clinton’s either raising for people or giving to people.” That’s not going to happen. Neither will Republicans question money from a long list of party members and donors with their own shady pasts.

Hillary Clinton is not yet a declared candidate for the 2016 presidency, though she’s the front-runner with an even higher-profile surrogate on and by her side. She has her own political and personal résumé to run on – a new book “HRC” details the Clinton machine and her tenure at the State Department – and should not have to talk about or justify her husband’s. But with Bill Clinton, you have to take the bad with the good. In 2012, President Obama managed to benefit from Clinton in small doses, but that’s more difficult when you’re married to the guy.

Particularly after her husband’s oxygen-grabbing antics during her campaign in the 2008 South Carolina primary, where he made as many headlines as she did, Hillary Clinton may be putting together an international itinerary for him right about now.

In the meantime, Paul is showing that he’s not afraid to hit the power couple where he thinks it may hurt. Pointing out the obvious hypocrisies or countering each Democratic transgression with a Republican one is how the game is played and will proceed, but Paul deserves a nonpartisan listen to what he’s saying.

Mary C. Curtis is an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C. She has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3
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