After his terrible performance at Monday’s debate, Donald Trump has come out swinging (wildly). He has attacked former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, Lester Holt, and the microphone (he’s not wrong on this one- the fact that the microphone was on clearly did not help him).
Somehow, Trump believes that his major mistake was not hitting Hillary harder. He has decided that the best way to do this is to bring up Bill Clinton’s affairs. Aside from being crass and cruel, it is also bad politics.
Here are three major reasons that this is a mistake:
1. Who’s Gennifer Flowers, Anyway?
When not commenting on politics, I teach college. This week I discussed Monday night’s debate with my class. We talked about different elements of the evening and I mentioned that despite Trump’s suggestion at the end of the debate that he had held back on bringing up Bill Clinton’s affairs, he had invited Gennifer Flowers to attend the debate.
The students stared blankly at me. They had no idea who Gennifer Flowers was. They seemed actually not to know too much about Bill Clinton either- not his presidency, his policies, not Monica or even the impeachment. Not only that- they didn’t care. They are deciding between Hillary and Trump. They may not be thrilled with their choices, but they know that Bill isn’t one of them.
For my 18-22 year old students, the Clinton presidency ended somewhere between when they were toilet trained and when they started first grade. It’s ancient history. And it’s not just young people, aside from those suffering from CDS (Clinton Derangement Syndrome), no one cares. Who Bill Clinton slept with in the 1990’s hardly seems relevant in 2016.
2. Victim Blaming
Trump wants to tarnish Hillary with Bill’s misconduct. Aside from the blatant double standard (when are men ever held responsible for what their wives do?), it’s politically stupid. The only reason to bring up Bill’s cheating is to suggest that somehow Bill’s cheating is Hillary’s fault.
It’s not the first time Trump has suggested this (see the tweet Trump deleted in April). Aside from it being gross, it’s also a political loser. How many women want to be told that their husbands cheated because somehow they weren’t good enough wives? There are plenty of women who will not take kindly to Trump’s insinuation.
Furthermore, the last time Bill Clinton’s extra-marital affairs were the topic of public discussion, Hillary enjoyed her highest favorability ratings. What Donald Trump doesn’t understand is that for decent people, the natural reaction to hearing that a woman has been cheated on, is to feel bad for her. When Bill Clinton publicly humiliated Hillary, it humanized her for many Americans. Attempting to shame her with references to that personally painful time reveals more about Trump’s character than Hillary’s.
3. It’s the Hypocrisy, Stupid!
For some inexplicable reason (or the fact that he is a Republican male), Donald Trump’s personal life has not been the subject of much discussion this election season. This is a man with 5 children from 3 different women. This is a man who is on his third wife. This is a man who began seeing his second wife, while still married to his first wife. This is a man who should not be talking trash about other people’s marital problems. The hypocrisy is staggering- though not new.
Of course, the biggest reason not to do this is because Bill Clinton’s failures as a husband have nothing to do with whether Hillary Clinton should be president. Donald Trump’s insistence on bringing them up however, have everything to do with why he should not be.