Donald Trump and his allies are dredging up the past marital infidelities of Hillary Clinton’s husband — a move of questionable benefit that is bewildering even some of his staunchest supporters.
The Republican nominee and his surrogates, under pressure to boost his standing with female voters and respond to Clinton’s accusations that he is a misogynist, are turning to an attack that has been tried repeatedly by the Clintons’ foes.
On Thursday, Trump spoke of the Clintons’ “sordid” past and made a reference to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, which stemmed from his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. A campaign memo circulated the day before urged surrogates to mention Lewinsky and other women whom Clinton has been widely reported to have had affairs.
Trump supporter Newt Gingrich, who as House speaker led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton on perjury and obstruction charges, expressed dismay over the Trump campaign’s effort to revive the controversy.
“It’s totally the wrong direction to go,” Gingrich said. “He should not let them bait him into a swamp where they can revel in the mud.”
Nor does it speak to the broader question of where Trump would take a country that is thirsty for a change from the status quo.
“This stuff isn’t critical to the campaign or even relevant to the people we need to be winning,” said Carl Paladino, the hard-charging former New York gubernatorial nominee who is the Trump campaign’s co-chairman in that state.
“I’m not sure anyone gives a hell about Monica,” Paladino added.
Trump — whose own extramarital affair and resulting divorce were laid out in lurid detail by the circa 1990 New York tabloids — has said he has been mulling whether to bring up Bill Clinton’s affairs in the next presidential debate.
Meanwhile, in the talking points sent around Wednesday, there were suggestions to frame Hillary Clinton as complicit in smear campaigns against the women involved.
“Mr. Trump has never treated women the way Hillary Clinton and her husband did when they actively worked to destroy Bill Clinton’s accusers,” according to one of the talking points, which were first reported by CNN.
In a Thursday interview on “The View,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said, “I’m not advising him to go there.”