US Elections 2016

Trump takes aim at Bill Clinton's previous sex scandals

Trump supporters at a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday. Mr Trump spoke on Thursday of the Clintons' "sordid" history.
Trump supporters at a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday. Mr Trump spoke on Thursday of the Clintons' "sordid" history.PHOTO: REUTERS

Latest gambit stumps some supporters, who don't see it as relevant to winning voters

WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump and his allies are dredging up the past marital infidelities of Mrs Hillary Clinton's husband - a move of questionable benefit that is bewildering some of his staunchest supporters.

The Republican nominee and his surrogates, under pressure to boost his standing with female voters and respond to Mrs Clinton's accusations that he is a misogynist, are turning to an attack that has been tried repeatedly by the Clintons' foes.

Mr Trump spoke on Thursday of the Clintons' "sordid" history and made a reference to Mr Bill Clinton's impeachment, which stemmed from his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

However, Trump supporter Newt Gingrich, who as House Speaker led the charge to impeach Mr Clinton on perjury and obstruction charges, expressed dismay over the effort by the Trump campaign to revive the controversy.

"It's totally the wrong direction to go," he said. "He should not let them bait him into a swamp where they can revel in the mud."

 
 

Nor does it speak to the broader question of where Mr Trump would take a country that is thirsty for a change from the status quo.

MUD-SLINGING MAY BACKFIRE

He should not let them bait him into a swamp where they can revel in the mud.

MR NEWT GINGRICH, a Trump supporter, expressing dismay over the effort to revive the controversy. As House Speaker, he had led the charge to impeach Mr Bill Clinton on perjury.

"This stuff isn't critical to the campaign or even relevant to the people we need to be winning," said Mr Carl Paladino, a former New York gubernatorial nominee who is the Trump campaign's co-chairman in that state. "I'm not sure anyone gives a hell about Monica."

Mr Trump - whose own extramarital affair and divorce were laid out in lurid detail by the New York tabloids in the 1990s - has said he has been mulling over whether to bring up Mr Clinton's affairs in the next presidential debate.

And Trump campaign talking points sent to key supporters earlier in the week contained suggestions to frame Mrs Hillary Clinton as complicit in smear campaigns against the women involved.

"Mr Trump has never treated women the way Hillary Clinton and her husband did when they actively worked to destroy Bill Clinton's accusers," according to one of the talking points, first reported by CNN.

Yet in a TV interview on Thursday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said: "I'm not advising him to go there."

But she defended the strategy. "It's fair game to think about how Hillary Clinton treated those women after the fact. She called Monica Lewinsky a loony toon."

Ms Conway was referring to comments in a private conversation that Mrs Clinton reportedly had with her friend, the late political science professor Diane Blair.

Others on the right also brought up old allegations. Conservative film-maker Dinesh D'Souza tweeted on Thursday: "Do young people know that in an admission of sexual abuse, Bill Clinton paid Paula Jones an US$800,000 settlement?"

Ms Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, had filed a suit claiming that Mr Clinton had sexually harassed her when he was governor; Mr Clinton did not apologise or admit guilt in paying the out-of-court settlement, which was actually US$850,000.

Clinton campaign officials theorised that Mr Trump's latest gambit reflected his own impulses, rather than a calculation on the part of his campaign high command.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Trump takes aim at Bill Clinton's previous sex scandals'. Print Edition | Subscribe