An Associated Press story detailing that major donors to the Clinton Foundation managed to secure meetings with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state has sent GOP fire-breathers into overdrive.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump flooded social media with calls for an investigation. Several Republican members of Congress followed The Donald’s lead and issued press releases demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate the matter.
These people never learn.
Bill and Hillary Clinton met when they both attended the Yale University School of Law, where they both were top students. They are among the best legal minds of their generation.
That, in part, is the reason why Republican efforts to nail them on legal grounds always fail. The Clintons know where the line is and, with long years of practice, they have become adept at tiptoeing along it.
The attempts to defeat the Clintons through legal investigations also end in disaster because both husband and wife have finely developed instincts for self-preservation. There is no doubt that they love money and the good life, but not nearly as much as they love political power.
Bill Clinton began running for president while he was still in his mother’s womb. Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the nation’s highest office began in the seconds right after her husband took the presidential oath for the first time.
Neither Clinton is likely ever to do something that would end their chances of returning to the White House.
And, again, because they have fought upon this terrain so often before, they know how to turn these attacks to their advantage.
Republicans were convinced 20 years ago they had Bill Clinton skinned and scalped over his dalliance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. By the time the impeachment and subsequent trial in the U.S. Senate had ended, several Republican members of Congress had seen their careers come to an end – and Bill Clinton enjoyed some of the highest public approval numbers of his presidency.
That pattern has repeated itself again and again.
Republicans attack, the Clintons parry and the GOP inevitably ends up sustaining the deepest wounds.
The outcome will be the same this time.
The AP story reveals a pattern of behavior on Hillary Clinton’s part that is unseemly but not illegal. (If it becomes a crime for public officials to open their doors to people of wealth, every member of Congress, every governor and most state legislators soon will find themselves under indictment.)
Using a special prosecutor or some other investigatory means to trickle out details embarrassing to the Clintons also won’t be effective.
Because the Clintons have dominated the nation’s attention for a quarter-century, there are few Americans who haven’t made up their minds about them already. The news that they like to cut ethical corners stopped being a revelation two decades ago.
More evidence won’t change many minds.
What the GOP needs right now is a way to persuade wavering moderate Republicans, distrustful independents and disaffected Democrats to swing their way.
Attacking Clinton won’t do that, but there is a way it could be done.
Long ago, a Republican presidential candidate destroyed his Democratic opponent by asking one simple question during a debate:
“Are you better off than you were four years ago?
The brilliance of Ronald Reagan’s query during his 1980 race against Jimmy Carter was that it shifted the focus back where it always should be in public service – on the lives of the people elected officials are supposed to serve. It also helped make the Republican Party the dominant political force in this country for a generation or more.
The brutal fact is that if a candidate, Republican or Democrat, asked Reagan’s question now, many Americans could not answer yes without lying. Even with the stock market notching record highs and employment numbers setting new standards, the middle class is dissolving and the American standard of living is eroding.
Making this race about those citizens who feel the American Dream slipping from their grasp would be the smart thing to do.
Instead, the GOP wants to make this race about Hillary Clinton.
Attacks of stupidity are costly – sometimes more than others.
This is likely to be one of the “more” times.
Republicans are about to suffer another attack of stupidity.