ABC reporter to Bill Clinton: I've got to ask, is your past fair game in this election?

Via the Weekly Standard, which notes that, for once in his life, Slick seems unsure of what to say. Conservatives on Twitter are sneering that the reporter’s prefatory “I’ve got to ask” speaks volumes about how reluctant the media is to broach this topic with their hero, which is true but incomplete as an explanation. Part of it is ideological bias towards Clinton. Part of it is contempt for Trump, whose water they’re especially reluctant to carry against a Democratic target. But part of it too, I think, is Clinton having attained a sort of benevolent post-political stature among the many people who like him (including in the media) that makes re-airing his dirty laundry seem distasteful to them. Most media coverage of Bill Clinton over the past 10 years has focused on his charity work and his aisle-crossing friendship with the Bushes, along with sporadic paeans to what an expert retail politician he is/was. (Notable exception: In late 2007 and early 2008, he became a tone-deaf racist who’d lost his golden political touch because it served the Hopenchange narrative for him to be that.) Now that he’s set to rejoin the fray for Hillary, he’s fair game for questions like this again — but since he still kinda sorta retains that elder-statesmen halo, some reporters end up feeling genuinely awkward about how to ask, I think, even beyond their partisan leanings. There are few figures in American public life as reliably beloved as ex-presidents, even ones like Jimmy Carter and Dubya who were widely derided as failures when they left office. Some of that is at work here in the reluctance to pose the question.

But she posed it anyway because ultimately she had no choice, which is a problem for the Clintons. If Trump had raised Bill’s sex scandals and the assault allegations against him gratuitously, they could be ignored as an attempt to “change the subject” or to tar Hillary with the sins of the man who hurt her. But it’s not gratuitous: Trump and Rand Paul before him were both correct that a campaign that will lean as heavily on “war on women” garbage as Hillary’s has no choice but to reconcile that with Bill’s history. If the race is destined to be a contest over which side takes hardships imposed on women more seriously, then all the evidence is coming in. The question may be asked reluctantly, but it has to be asked. And it will be.

Here’s Clinton, palpably not knowing how to reply, followed by Bernie Sanders reassuring America yesterday that whatever Bill Clinton might be guilty of is unimportant even though he’s Hillary’s most valuable surrogate and will obviously have enormous influence over the government if she’s elected president. Imagine how well Sanders would be doing in the polls if he was actually trying to win.

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