Scandal is a defining feature of our political discourse. Presidential campaigns spend gazillions of dollars researching every business transaction an opponent has ever conducted, every person they have ever known, and every word they have ever said. Under these circumstances, I doubt that any of us could come out of a major political campaign unscathed by some sort of scandal.
Think about it: have you ever stretched the truth in a commercial transaction or done something stupid at a party? I, for one, am reasonably sure that somebody in the world could produce video footage of me standing underneath a picture of Che Guevara and singing a Communist war song in Spanish. And I know that if I were ever to run for a major political office, the whole world would get a chance to hear how badly I sing.
The Christie scandal (Bridgegate? Bridgequiddick?) is the sort of thing that opposition researchers live for. It is easy to understand. It affects real people. And it plays right into what everybody already suspects about Christie. The only way it could have been worse would have been if he had stolen doughnuts from people’s mothers at a nursing home.
It is, in other words, like pretty much every other political scandal of my lifetime. No presidential candidate today can expect to skate through a primary and a general election untouched by scandal. The stakes are too high, the opposition is too well organized, and there will always be skeletons in the closet: the political donor who operates illegal enterprises, the business deal gone bad, the friend or college who turned out to be a communist. Everybody is vulnerable.
Except Hillary Clinton, who has spent most of the last 25 years in the public eye and who has gone through perhaps more scandals than any politician now alive: Whitewater, Vince Foster’s suicide, Bimbogate (Parts 1-4), Benghazi. Been there. Done that. Got the mug shot.
No presidential candidate today can expect to skate through a primary and a general election untouched by scandal.Michael Austin
Shortly before the Christie scandal broke, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus went on CNN to say that a Hillary candidacy would be good for Republicans because of her past scandals.
“She wanders and scandal surrounds her,” Priebus said. “We talk about Benghazi. We talk about the health care rollout in the early ’90s. Whitewater. I mean, you name it.”
And that’s the point. You name it, she has been through it — and she is still popular. That is precisely why (as I suspect Priebus understands very well) her candidacy would be very bad for Republicans. Hillary Clinton is the only potential candidate in either party who doesn’t have to worry about her past surfacing because just about everything in her past has already surfaced, done its damage, and been dealt with.
This is a considerable advantage in a political environment that has made career-destroying political scandals an absolute qualification for the highest office in the land.