It’s the story that won’t go away.

The scandal over President Clinton’s affair with thong-flashing intern Monica Lewinsky erupted 16 years ago. But you’d never know it from what you encounter in the news media these days…

In fact, the president and the intern were put back in play by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Appearing on Meet the Press on Jan. 26, Paul said that while Democrats keep pounding the GOP for allegedly waging a War on Women, the media were giving Clinton a “pass” over his “predatory behavior” with Lewinsky. Does that have anything to do with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy? Paul at first said that wasn’t his message, but quickly added that when it comes to the Clintons, “It’s hard enough to separate one from the other.”

Glenn Loury asks: How does Bill Clinton “get to go around and be an honorable defender of the Democratic Party line, which is a pro-woman line when he took advantage of an intern in his office? And, you know, I’m not a pro-impeach-Bill-Clinton guy and whatnot, but I kind of find it hard to see that Rand Paul doesn’t have a point there, okay? How is it that the press and everybody else can just forget about the exploitation of women when they’re actually exploited and yet are prepared to level their howitzers of criticism on any Republican who might say something that could be construed as anti-woman, who hasn’t been messing around with the interns under his charge?”

Let’s remember how the affair started: Lewinsky flashed her thong at the president. She later described this act to Barbara Walters as a “small, subtle, flirtatious gesture.” “Prey” she was not. Unless, that is, you view an adult woman the way Sen. Paul apparently does: as too mentally undeveloped to make her own (bad) decisions.

Though Paul says the “girl” was 20, she was actually 22 when the affair started and 24 when it ended. Either way, younger people sign up to go to war. It’s hard to imagine Paul portraying a man Lewinsky’s age as the abused victim of an affair in which he eagerly participated. None of this excuses the former president’s behavior. But even the most fanatical Clinton hater knows there was no violence or abuse or unwanted advances. There was a consensual affair

We know of three women who made accusations: Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey. But Paul surely knows that no court of law ever found Clinton guilty of the accusations.

It is, as Rand Paul said, often hard to tell where one Clinton ends and the other begins. Remember in 1992 when Bill offered Hillary up as a potential co-president, suggesting that if we voted for him, we would get “two for the price of one?” Moreover, Bill is obviously the dominant member of the couple. He is the pre-eminent political genius of his generation, while no one would ever have heard of Hillary if she hadn’t married Bill. It would be foolish to imagine that Hillary could be president, without wondering what influence the far more able and experienced Bill would be wielding behind the scenes.

Hillary’s appeal as a candidate will consist largely of nostalgia for Bill’s two terms in office. A key issue in 2016–probably the key issue–will be which candidate has the best ideas to get the economy moving again. Is it conceivable that Hillary can refrain from harkening back to Bill’s tenure in the 1990s, and implying that we should elect her to bring back those good times? No. Apart from being the first woman president, that is the only plausible reason for electing her…

If Mitt Romney putting a dog on the roof of his car can become a campaign issue, so can Hillary Clinton’s acquiescence in Bill’s string of alleged sexual assaults.

It transpires to nobody’s great surprise that Mrs. Clinton was more than a passive victim in the sexual scandal that preceded her husband’s impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. She was a callous political calculator who bemoaned not her husband’s mere infidelity but the lack of discretion he exhibited in initiating a dalliance with a “narcissistic loony toon” — her description of Monica Lewinsky — rather than limiting his adultery to somebody who would be easier to “manage,” in Mrs. Blair’s paraphrase. But Mrs. Clinton’s contempt was not limited to Miss Lewinsky: When Senator Bob Packwood found himself in trouble over allegations of sexual harassment — inconveniencing Mrs. Clinton, who had been counting on his support for her health-care scheme — the first lady complained that she had grown “tired of all these whiney women,” according to Mrs. Blair’s papers.

The Clintons are our national grotesques…

Mrs. Clinton, an inevitable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, can be counted upon to use the Democrats’ “war on women” rhetoric to advance her cause, even though she was, according to the papers of a woman she described as her “best friend,” a main enabler of a very nasty campaign against a great many politically inconvenient women — not only Miss Lewinsky and those who endured Senator Packwood’s attentions, but all the women whom the Arkansas political mafia, commanded so ably by James Carville, portrayed as “sluts,” “trailer trash,” etc. President Clinton used women for his own ends; so does his wife.

Well, there’s an obvious reason Rand Paul and other 2016 GOP hopefuls may keep raising the Lewinsky issue, even if he is concerned that Brzezinski may be right, and the general electorate does not want to revisit the mid-90s.

The reason is this: you have to win a nomination before you can face off against the other major party’s candidate. And Republican primary voters may be fed up after two White House losses and eager for a standard-bearer who will take the fight to Democrats. In that context bashing Bill Clinton as a “predator” may make electoral sense

[S]ometimes you have to take risks just to make it to the playoffs.

[W]hat are some ways to make conservatives think you’re “one of us” without having to alter those positions, which he surely knows would be a disaster for him, destroying the very basis of his appeal as principled and so on? Find something conservatives hate and say you hate it too. What bigger something than the Clintons? Well, there’s Obama, but hating on him is old hat. Dredging up Lewinsky, on the other hand, shows that some care was taken to cultivate conservatives. As Paul knows, Clinton-hatred is still mother’s milk for that crowd.

He is also, as Peter Beinart noted, aiming specifically at the Christian Right. He’s been doing this for some time now, talking, for example, of the persecution of Christian minorities around the world. His father never bothered much with evangelicals, an error the son, recognizing their importance in the Iowa GOP caucuses, clearly hopes not to make…

The more Paul talks about the Clintons, the more he sets up the mental picture in the brains of Republican primary voters of him being the logical guy to step into the ring with them. After all, they’ll think, he’s sure not afraid of them!

Former Bush administration adviser Karl Rove on Sunday cautioned Republicans against a 2016 presidential election strategy that focuses too much on the political history of potential Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Rove told “Fox News Sunday” he was uncertain whether revisiting Clinton and husband Bill Clinton’s years in the White House would help Republicans win the presidency…

“It’s more important to say what you’re for,” Rove continued. “Anyone taking on Hillary Clinton — Democrat or Republican — had better focus on what they’re for to contrast implicitly against Hillary.”

This sort of attack is bound to backfire, for three obvious reasons.

First is that it unfairly impugns Hillary Clinton for her husband’s flaws. Second is that it suggests a moralistic GOP preoccupation with matters sexual. Third is that it will strike most younger voters, who have dim or no memories of the scandal, as thunderously irrelevant to the issues of 2016.

It’s a losing gambit. But that doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of it from Paul or his fellow Republicans.

Focusing voters on the past may be a subtle way to argue that Hillary Clinton is not about the future.

Here’s the problem: While Clinton bashing may be a good pre-primary tactic, it’s a lousy politics for the Republican Party in general. We know that because Clinton registered the highest approval ratings of his presidency during the period between the January 1998 exposure of his affair and February 1999, when the Senate voted to acquit him…

Elections are about the future. The GOP is harping on the past. Romney seem to acknowledge the problem when he said Sunday, “I don’t think Bill Clinton is as relevant as Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president.” He added, “She has her own record and her own vision.”

What exactly is the GOP vision beyond attacking President Obama and two Clintons? That’s what brought to mind the Clinton car-racing metaphor, which I’ve heard him deploy over the years in different contexts. Lacking a fresh, forward-looking agenda, Republicans should worry that attacks on Bill Clinton’s character could backfire again, making them appear to be acting out of fear, unable to concentrate or calm down.

Mostly, though, going down this road conveys the feeling that Republicans are obsessed. The verdict the country rendered during the Clinton impeachment trial was that the obsession had gotten in the way of reason. In the elections of 1998, which Republicans tried to make a referendum on Clinton’s morality, Democrats lost no ground in the Senate and picked up five seats in the House—a historic aberration. It was the first time since 1822 that the nonpresidential party had failed to gain seats in the mid-term election of a president’s second term…

Sen. Rand Paul, who hopes to run for president, has talked the most about Bill Clinton as a “sexual predator.” Perhaps it’s a bid to show evangelicals in the Republican Party that he shares their moral code. But throwing “red meat” to evangelical voters feels awfully 1996—a conventional and tiny approach to coalition building when held up against Paul’s larger sweeping promises of creating a futuristic new coalition that attracts Millennials, conservatives, and libertarians…

The post-election party autopsy that wrestled with creating a modern GOP that spoke to women and minorities claimed that the GOP was too old and backward-looking. It quoted from focus groups in which former Republicans described the party as “scary,” “narrow minded,” “out of touch,” and the party of “stuffy, old men.” Reprising the anti-Clinton talking points of the 1990s will not help undo those impressions.

Via the Daily Rushbo.