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News Opinion

There will be mud: The Clintons are back

Monica Lewinsky is back in the news, a clear harbinger of the country's imminent return to a political world dominated by the Clintons.

 

Writing in the upcoming issue of "Vanity Fair," Ms. Lewinsky declares that she wants to take control of her own narrative. "It's time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress," she says. "I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened."

 

Ms. Lewinsky affirms that the affair that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment was consensual. "Any 'abuse' came in the aftermath," she says, "when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position. ... The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor's minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power."

 

Whether Ms. Lewinsky can now, or ever, regain control of her own story is questionable. She continues to dwell on the weak side of a vastly uneven power balance, a titillating footnote in a much bigger narrative. That inequity will become even more pronounced in coming months as the wife who was sleeping upstairs while Monica and the president were having their romp downstairs in the Oval Office contemplates a return to the White House.

 

The person even more threatened with losing control of his narrative is the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Stuck with low polling numbers, hobbled by a Congress that opposes everything he does and facing the inevitable ebb of political clout in the lame duck end of his presidency, Barack Obama will have a tough time holding the attention of the media if Hillary Clinton declares her candidacy.

 

Clinton, the sequel, will simply be an irresistible story. In a Sunday New York Times column, Maureen Dowd said the Clintons were already sucking all the oxygen out of the room, leaving President Obama gasping for air. The Clinton political machine has "Rasputin resilience," Ms. Dowd wrote. "Things have now reached the point where it feels as though 42 and 45 have already taken over the reins of Washington power from 44, who is fading Snap-chat fast."

 

Ms. Dowd may be too embedded in the intrigues of Washington, D.C., to notice that the 44th president still gets more notice than Hillary or Bill in the America beyond the Beltway, but she is not wrong to think interest in the Clintons will expand rapidly. America loves watching celebrity family melodramas, whether it's the lowbrow Kardashians or the royal Windsors, and the Clintons feed that guilty pleasure like none other.

 

With Hillary the pre-emptive favorite to coast to the Democratic nomination if she wants it, some Democrats worry that a sudden flood of reminders about the unseemly aspects of the first Clinton presidency could sour voters on another Clinton candidacy. It's possible that such concern is warranted. On the other hand, most Americans made up their minds about the Clintons years ago and a rehash of old dramas may have little effect.

 

Those who hate Bill and Hillary despised them from the start and never voted for them. Those who like them have forgiven Bill for being a scamp and continue to be seduced by his personal charm and political skill. They believe Hillary has shown fortitude in her marriage, has proved her own political savvy as a senator and secretary of state, and now deserves her chance to make history by becoming the first female president of the United States.

 

The certainty that Hillary's candidacy would be met with a vicious onslaught from the right can't be an especially appealing prospect to those inclined to support her, but the same relentless attack has been a feature of the Obama era from the day he took office. Perhaps that is a factor in the Democrats' willingness to buy into the controversial Clinton brand. Unlike Mr. Obama, the Clintons know how to get down in the mud and play rough. In an age when politics is all bare fists, groin kicks and switchblades, "Rasputin resilience" may be what Democrats are looking for.

 

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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