A few weeks ago, Tim Kaine proved his worth as a political wingman for Bill Clinton by trying to block a camera angle showing the former president snoozing through Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. A few years ago, however, Hillary’s running mate felt very differently about Bill. In 2002, when a scandal erupted in Virginia involving allegations of sexual harassment by a Republican, Kaine told the media that such behavior should produce a resignation from public office — and declared that Bill should have exited the White House in 1997, too.
Betsy Woodruff makes the nice catch at The Daily Beast:
The woman, Jennifer Thompson, alleged privately that Wilkins groped her and pinned her against office furniture. She considered pressing charges, according to a Washington Post report that broke the news on June 7, 2002. But she ultimately decided not to, accepting the $100,000 from Wilkins and signing a confidentiality agreement. The Post cited “sources familiar with the settlement” in their report on it. Wilkins held — and still holds, as he stated in an interview with The Daily Beast — that he didn’t sexually harass Thompson, and that he only paid her to keep her allegations from becoming a scandal that would have undermined Republicans’ efforts to control the House.
The Post’s report caused an immediate firestorm, and top Republicans called for Wilkins to resign. Jerry Kilgore, then the state’s attorney general and top-ranking elected Republican, joined the chorus.
So did Tim Kaine, who was the state’s lieutenant governor at the time. And according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he said he also believed Bill Clinton should have resigned from the presidency over his own sex scandals.
Just how strongly did Kaine insist that Bill should have resigned? Both the Times-Dispatch and the Washington Post quote Kaine as saying about Wilkins that “he ought to resign,” and that he made the equivalence to the Lewinsky scandal on his own. Woodruff finds a Kaine quote in an Associated Press report from the same day that makes the point even more clear:
“When I read it this morning, my reaction was the same I had when I read about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair: this is not appropriate conduct. It’s beneath the dignity of the office,” he said.
Let’s game this out. Had Bill resigned at the time, Al Gore would have had two-plus years to solidify support for the 2000 campaign, and incumbency might have made the difference over George W. Bush. It might have also put an end to some of the more corrosive partisanship that took place in the years that followed, much of which harmed the GOP more than Democrats (as it did in the 1998 midterms).
It’s an interesting what-if, but no one at the time seriously thought the Clintons would simply walk away from power — and they haven’t. Not by a long shot. That should be a cautionary tale, but for most voters, it won’t be. It certainly wasn’t for Tim Kaine. While this is an amusing walk down Memory Lane, it will have zero impact on the trajectory of this election cycle. If an FBI investigation into corruption didn’t keep Democrats from nominating Hillary Clinton, a nugget of long-expired integrity from Kaine’s past won’t keep their ticket from winning in November, either.