- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 3, 2016

Fair game or not, former President Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliances, which include rape accusations, emerged as a hot topic Sunday as the ex-president prepared to campaign Monday in New Hampshire for his wife, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Republican businessman Donald Trump’s declaration that Mr. Clinton’s relationships with women had become “fair game” for the campaign wound up as a discussion item on the Sunday talk shows.

Fielding most of the questions was Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, who characterized Mr. Clinton’s “sex life” as a nonissue.

“Fair game? No, I think we’ve got more important things to worry about in this country than Bill Clinton’s sex life,” Mr. Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He later told ABC’s “This Week” that “I think, you know, we have enormous problems facing this country, and I think we’ve got more things to worry about than Bill Clinton’s sexual life.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton was dealing with the ghosts of her husband’s past at a campaign appearance as a female heckler attempted to ask her about the allegations in Derry, New Hampshire.

“You are very rude, and I’m not going to ever call on you,” Mrs. Clinton told the woman, who later identified herself as New Hampshire state Rep. Katherine Prudhomme O’Brien, a Republican, according to ABC News.

Mrs. Clinton’s response drew applause and a standing ovation from many of those in the crowd of about 750 at a middle school auditorium.

Longtime Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who managed the 2000 presidential campaign of Al Gore, Mr. Clinton’s vice president, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “I’ve known about this issue. Hell, I had to work through the issue.”

“You can’t put this under the rug. It’s out there. So yes, deal with it. But, you know, we can also say it’s an old issue. This election is about the future,” said Ms. Brazile.

The issue is particularly problematic for Mrs. Clinton as she moves to make women’s rights and Democratic charges of a Republican “war on women” centerpieces of her campaign.

Most Republicans have steered clear of Mr. Clinton’s past, but not Mr. Trump, who has warned that he will use the issue if Mrs. Clinton attempts to attack his record on women.

“If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women’s card on me, she’s wrong!” said Mr. Trump in a Dec. 28 post on his Twitter account.

Mrs. Clinton went on the attack after Mr. Trump said she had been “schlonged” in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, saying, “It’s not the first time he’s demonstrated a penchant for sexism.”

The issue drew more attention after Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus criticized Mr. Clinton in a Dec. 28 column.

“‘Sexism’ isn’t the precise word for his predatory behavior toward women or his inexcusable relationship with a 22-year-old intern,” the columnist said. “Yet in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said.”

About a half-dozen women have said they had sexual encounters with Mr. Clinton, while one, Juanita Broaddrick, has accused him of rape. Other women have charged aggressive sexual come-ons from Mr. Clinton of the sort that were often shrugged off by women in the 1980s and 1990s, but which today routinely get their perpetrators fired if made in a workplace context.

Mr. Clinton has denied many of the allegations, though often merely by dismissing the women as politically motivated. He also eventually acknowledged the Monica Lewinsky affair after his months of denials were definitively refuted by DNA tests.

Mr. Sanders attempted to deflect the issue Sunday by ticking off a number of issues, including climate change and “tax breaks for billionaires,” then added, “maybe Trump should worry about those issues rather than Bill Clinton’s sex life.”

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