Bill Clinton: I couldn't be elected now because I don't like embarrassing people

Of all the ways he could try to dunk on Trump, he’s going to get high and mighty about personal decency? C’mon. Your honor, the state calls to the stand Juanita Broaddrick.

What he means to say, I think, is that he doesn’t like insulting people, although he’s certainly not above it if he thinks he can benefit politically from it. It’s true that Trump is far more prone to schoolyard taunts of his opponents than Clinton is, but when you have vicious lackeys like Philippe Reines and Sid Blumenthal — and Hillary Clinton — to do that for you, why would you need to be nasty yourself?

Clinton’s character defects are sufficiently familiar that you can draft your own list of his embarrassing behavior, both pre-presidency and during. Did his affairs embarrass Hillary and Chelsea? Did his #MeToo predation of Monica Lewinsky, something for which he’s never properly apologized, embarrass her? It’s strange to watch him congratulate himself for being publicly civil to his enemies when he’s famously done so many things to wound those closest to him. It’s also strange for him to treat Trump’s insult-comic shtick as somehow integral to him getting elected president. Obama was another guy who affected civility in his public rhetoric while leaving the dirty work to others and he was comfortably elected twice, as recently as six years ago. The public actually hates Trump’s habit of mouthing off on Twitter; it’s one of the few subjects on which even his own voters give him poor marks.

If it’s true that Clinton couldn’t get elected today, it’s not because he’s too civil. It’s because his party’s base has charged left and he’d now struggle to get out of the primaries, particularly after Democrats held their noses and opted for an “electable” centrist with tons of personal baggage over a woolly socialist two years ago only to watch her fumble the election. Modern Democrats don’t care if their nominee embarrasses people any more than modern Republicans do. They want a progressive and they want to win, and increasingly they’re convinced that those two goals are aligned rather than at odds. That’s why Bill couldn’t get elected.