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Clintons are still drama junkies

I like Bill and Hillary Clinton, but they don't make it easy.

For more than a quarter century I have watched them slip and out of scandals, most of which were either generated or exaggerated by their Republican rivals.

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We've all learned to expect scandals by now. What irritates me is to see the Clintons slip and slide into a scandal that could have been avoided and can't honestly be blamed on anyone other than themselves.

The latest example is tarmac-gate, so named because it occurred on one of former president Bill Clinton's favorite places to schmooze with VIPs: an airport tarmac amid the VIPs' private planes.

Mr. Clinton was preparing to fly out of Phoenix during a seven-state fund-raising swing for his wife's campaign when he learned that Attorney General Loretta Lynch was in another nearby plane, according to reports.

He decided to say "hi." Mr. Clinton has known Ms. Lynch since at least 1999 when he named her to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern Districtof New York. With Phoenix boiling at 103 degrees, he climbed aboard her air-conditioned plane.

The chat lasted 20 minutes and also included Ms. ynch's husband, Secret Service agents and several staff members.

Fine. But Ms. Lynch is still the nation's top cop. She oversees the FBI, which has been investigating whether Bill Clinton's wife or any of her associates broke laws in using an unauthorized private email server for her when she was secretary of state.

Now that the FBI has decided against filing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, her husband's visit with Ms. Lynch taints that decision with a cloud of suspicion. Republicans howl about the appearance of impropriety. Populists charge that the system is rigged. Democrats ask how the former president and current attorney general could have been so stupid.

Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart cleaned that up later by asking Ms. Lynch a question at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado that virtually everybody wanted to ask: "What on earth were you thinking?"

Ms. Lynch maintained her cool but admitted: "It's painful to me. I certainly wouldn't do it again."

Good. But watch out, Madam Attorney General. You can be pulled into the Clinton web of high-risk shenanigans before you know it. The Clintons are smart people, but they're also drama junkies.

That's what in today's psycho-babble you call people who cause problems, actively or passively, because they find it easier than avoiding problems.

For example, a normal non-drama junkie might ask, why did Hillary Clinton need to have an unauthorized private email server anyway?

In her case, she has claimed, it was merely a matter of convenience. She didn't want to have to carry two Blackberries or switch between two accounts -- one personal, the other government-issued and therefore more secure against hackers.

But wasn't convenience a small prize for the huge toll that now has been taken on her credibility? You might think that, if you were not a drama junkie.

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She and her husband are both smart, Yale-educated lawyers. But they also seem to share the lawyerly belief that they can argue their way out of anything, tough or teeny.

And sometimes they seem so battle-hardened from surviving their conservative rivals' and critics' relentless assaults that they no longer worry very much about the appearance of impropriety. There always seem to be bigger crises to face.

As a result, the prospect of yet another scandal seems to bring little more than a yawn from the Clinton camp, as long as their polling numbers are up.

I'm hardly the first to notice. "Scandals don't weaken Hillary Clinton," said comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" back in 2013. "They only make her stronger."

That was before House Republicans held highly-touted hearings into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four Americans.

House majority leader Kevin McCarthy admitted in a later burst of televised candor that the Benghazi hearings actually aimed to sink Hillary Clinton's presidential election chances in 2016. Right. And the committee's 800-page report makes a nice doorstop.

Obviously whether scandal makes the Clintons stronger or not, they have been helped enormously by the shortcomings of their Republican rivals. Donald Trump, the Grand Old Party's presumptive nominee, could hardly do a better job of alienating people if he was on the Clinton's payroll.

That leaves us, the voters, to choose between two of the most disliked presidential candidates in the history of polling -- also known as two drama junkies running against each other.

E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@tribune.com.

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