In a bombshell email released by WikiLeaks, a Clinton campaign advisor warned about Bill Clinton’s sexual history, urging Hillary’s campaign staff to develop answers on the issue. Responding to the email, a member of Clinton’s staff referred the matter to campaign chairman John Podesta, apparently unable to address it himself.
Ron Klain, executive vice president and general counsel at the political strategy firm Revolution, LLC., emailed a list of four issues to Clinton staff, insisting that these are important “‘Political’ Issues” of “high” importance. The first three dealt with Clinton’s poll numbers, revelations about her emails, and whether voters can trust her. The fourth was more revealing, however. It dealt with her husband’s sexual past:
4. WJC Issues
a. Is his conduct relevant to your campaign?
b. You said every woman should be believed. Why not the women who accused him?
c. Will you apologize to the women who were wrongly smeared by your husband and his allies?
d. How is what Bill Clinton did different from what Bill Cosby did?
Jake Sullivan, the Clinton campaign’s top foreign policy advisor and rumored to be a front-runner for the position of U.S. national security advisor should Clinton win, responded briefly, “I think we should go through 1-3 tomorrow,” but on the Bill Clinton issues, he referred to Podesta: “John, how to handle 4?”
Klain sent the email, and Sullivan responded, in January of this year. Podesta did not respond — or at least, if he did so via email, that email has not yet been released by WikiLeaks.
It is easy for conservatives to misinterpret this email. In sending it, Klain was not arguing that Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds were no different from those of Bill Cosby. He was not acknowledging the double standard of Clinton saying victims of sexual assault should be believed, but then attacking her husband’s accusers. He was merely raising these issues in order to prepare the Clinton campaign should a Republican opponent (Donald Trump) raise them.
This is a routine political tactic — doing “opposition research” on your own candidate in order to anticipate others’ attacks and prepare your responses in advance. This is campaigning 101, and when Donald Trump refused to do it, that was news.
Nevertheless, Podesta’s lack of a response and Sullivan’s speechlessness on the issue suggest the campaign had not thoroughly prepared for attacks on these issues, which would be a serious error in judgment.
The Clinton campaign seems to dismiss questions about Bill Clinton’s sexual history as irrelevant to his wife’s presidential bid. This fails to dismiss many concerns, since Hillary Clinton herself led the effort to silence Bill’s old accusers. Indeed, when Juanita Broaddrick (one of Bill’s accusers) sent a viral tweet attacking Hillary’s duplicity, the “right to be believed” language mysteriously disappeared from the campaign website.
No, Mrs. Clinton, your husband’s sexual indiscretions — and the way you enabled them by covering up for him — are a very legitimate issue in this campaign. Both Clinton and Trump have sordid records on sexual abuse, and that is one huge reason why a moral man like Evan McMullin stands out in this race. Media bias may emphasize Trump’s errors and minimize Clinton’s, but both are legitimate issues, as this email makes abundantly clear.
Klain’s concern that Bill Clinton’s past could hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential chances was not baseless, and Podesta’s lack of a response raises further issues. Why did the campaign not have a clear, simple answer to this question?