Live by Bubba, die by Bubba.
Something has shifted when it comes to the treatment and perception of the Clintons, and it threatens their joint political ambitions like nothing before it.
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Clintons have been politically bulletproof. No charge, regardless of how salacious, illegal and true, seemed to stick. When they detected incoming fire, they activated their tried-and-true protocol: deny, stonewall, deflect and claim that the nation’s business was too important — they were too important — to respond: “I need to get back to work for the American people.” Exit left. Get protection from the leftist mainstream media.
They were untouchable, having created a cult of personality rivaled (and surpassed) only by President Obama.
And surprisingly, the issue that is currently unraveling their Wizard of Oz illusion isn’t the allegations of massive fraud at the Clinton Foundation or her mishandling of classified material on her private email server. (More on both fronts to come, courtesy of the FBI).
PHOTOS: Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
No, the issue posing the greatest risk right now to a Clinton Restoration is the public’s voiding of the deal it made with the Clinton Devil in 1992.
The conventional wisdom has long been that Mr. Clinton’s lewd, abusive past is itself a thing of the past. His serial extramarital affairs, including the one with the barely legal intern, Monica Lewinsky, his textbook sexual harassment of subordinates like Paula Jones, his alleged assault of Kathleen Willey and the rape alleged by Juanita Broaddrick, were considered old news, episodes litigated in the court of public opinion and dismissed for three reasons: 1) His piggery was already widely known; 2) a strong economy absolved many of his sins; and 3) the public took cues from his wife. “Hey, if she’s OK with his piggery, who are we to judge?”
This cleverly constructed protective shield is now crumbling because Mrs. Clinton, after enlisting her husband on the campaign trail in a retread of 1992’s “two for the price of one” deal, is oblivious to the political ground shifting beneath her.
Republican candidate Donald Trump does not play by anybody else’s rules, least of all Clinton-enforced ones, but apparently no one has informed Mrs. Clinton. So she gleefully and blindly launched an attack on his “penchant for sexism.”
You could almost see Mr. Trump’s rhetorical gun turret turn slowly toward her before he opened fire. “Be careful,” he warned on Twitter. And then, on MSNBC, he blasted her husband as “one of the great women abusers of all time,” adding, “I think Hillary is an enabler.” He then released an Internet ad tying her to the sex scandals of her husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (husband of her closest aide, Huma Abedin) and Bill Cosby.
He dared to go where no traditional politician would — hitting the Clintons’ grotesque hypocrisy — and made it acceptable to question both Clintons’ character and judgment on women’s issues. Suddenly, Mrs. Clinton — self-styled champion of women and girls — came under criticism, particularly from news organizations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, MSNBC and others that have long protected both Clintons.
PHOTOS: Conservatives in Hollywood: Celebrities who lean right
Liberals are now far less inclined to defend them, perhaps because she is the candidate this time and he, the charming rogue, is not, or perhaps because the Democratic Party and the broader culture have changed. But the cosseting they once enjoyed and exploited is disappearing, and they are floundering without it.
Bill Clinton, a man never at a loss for words, was rendered speechless when asked by an ABC News reporter if his past were fair game. Later that same week, he dodged another reporter who asked him specifically about Mrs. Broaddrick’s charge of rape. Having never before had to account for his behavior, Mr. Clinton’s usual veneer of calculated unflappability dissolved.
Earlier, Mrs. Clinton tweeted a message about rape victims: “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.” Except, apparently, for those attacked by her husband. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, an audience member reminded her of her tweet and asked, “Would you say that about Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and/or Paula Jones?”
Stunned, she gave a mangled reply: “I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.”
The Clintons are not used to this. Something has shifted. They don’t like it, and they sense they can no longer control it.
The Clintons thought the party would last forever. It took over 20 years, but it’s finally last call.
Mrs. Clinton’s wish for sexual assault victims to be heard and believed starts with her husband’s victims. And this time, they are getting far more support — and from unexpected quarters that once served as the Clintons’ political bodyguards.
As both Clintons may be slowly realizing, when the ground shifts beneath you, you are usually the last one to feel it. And by then, it’s too late to escape.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.