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Back Then, This Time

Gaming out 2016 with former Clinton crisis manager Chris Lehane.

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Illustration by Tony Millionaire  

Will we be spending the next two and a half years hearing about Whitewater, Vince Foster, cattle futures, and Monica Lewinsky?
I’ve got my time machine ready! At the rate [the Republicans] are going, they’re going to be talking about Murphy Brown and how to spell potato. But I just don’t know how much traction it really gets out there, and that’s for a pretty basic reason: Hillary is someone who’s not just famous, she’s someone who is well known. People have engaged with her, interacted with her, and have had an opportunity to really make some decisions about how they feel about her for 20-some-odd years.

Do you see Republican attacks as potentially backfiring?
I think that the fact that she’s embracing the idea of being the first woman to become president serves as both a sword and a shield. It’s a shield because if you get down to it some of the attacks really are misogynist, and it’s a sword because this becomes part of her vision.

But Hillary already ran to become the first woman president, and Barack Obama still beat her with his “same old politics” attacks.
First of all, I’m not sure, at least in the first part of her campaign in 2008, that she really embraced the historic nature of the candidacy. In fact, if you look back, there was a real effort to not highlight that. And obviously 2008 was still only eight years removed from the Clinton presidency. When you’re running in 2016, that offers a different historical perspective. I’m doing polling all the time on campaigns across the country, and if you ask people how they voted in the Clinton years, you get 65, 70 percent of the public that say they voted for Bill Clinton even though he never, obviously, got close to those numbers.

You advocated getting in front of scandals when you were an aide in the Clinton White House. Do you think Hillary should respond when people like Rand Paul and Reince Priebus dredge up Whitewater and the impeachment?
To use a boxing analogy, I think you can sidestep those punches. I just don’t think they really connect, because they were just so long ago and they’ve been regurgitated any number of times. You’re talking about stuff, in some cases, that goes back to the mid-1980s. I mean, there’s some not-­insignificant percent of the population that wasn’t even born then!


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