“An impeachment for lying,” Trump said Thursday at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, referring to the effort to remove Bill Clinton from office for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. “Remember that? Impeach.”

The Republican nominee’s decision to dredge up the former president’s sexual history is a risky move in his campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton, whose own team isn’t fazed by the attack line. Clinton was asked on her campaign plane whether she has an obligation to speak out if Trump brings up her husband’s infidelities. Her answer was a terse “No.”

Trump critics say it all could backfire, elevating Clinton in the eyes of female voters and motivating her base.

“The whole notion of trying to get Hillary Clinton to pay for Bill Clinton’s infidelities is just strategically a bad choice,” said Katie Packer, a longtime Republican strategist opposed to Trump’s candidacy. Women in particular, she said, see it as cruel.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz said Trump’s reference to Bill Clinton’s indiscretions was his low point Monday night among the group of voters with whom he watched the debate.

“They were laughing about it because they thought that was Trump at his worst,” Luntz said, adding that undecided voters are especially turned off by personal attacks.

The effort also risks drawing attention to the thrice-married Trump’s own unflattering history with women. His first marriage ended following a well-publicized affair, and two of his top advisers, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have had their own well-documented infidelities. The three have had nine wives combined.

Trump first touched on Bill Clinton’s sexual past the weekend before the debate, threatening to seat Gennifer Flowers in the front row. She has said she and Clinton had an affair and he has admitted to one sexual encounter. She didn’t appear.

Trump did not directly mention Bill Clinton’s affairs on stage with the Democratic nominee, but did make a veiled reference.

“You want to know the truth? I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself: I can’t do it. I just can’t do it,” he said on stage.

Moments after the debate ended, Trump raised Bill Clinton’s affairs unprompted, in response to a question about Hillary Clinton’s performance.

“I’m very happy I didn’t mention Bill’s indiscretions because that’s out of respect,” he told The Associated Press, adding that he’d held his tongue because the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, was in the audience.

That restraint didn’t last. In talking points later distributed by the campaign and obtained by the AP, Trump supporters were advised that “Mr. Trump has never treated women the way Hillary Clinton and her husband did when they actively worked to destroy Bill Clinton’s accusers.”

The document mentions Flowers, Lewinsky and Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state worker who sued Clinton for sexual harassment. The former president eventually agreed to an $850,000 settlement with Jones, but acknowledged no wrongdoing.

Trump supporters are advised to say they are not “blaming Hillary for Bill’s infidelities,” but rather are pointing out that she has “been an active participant in trying to destroy the women who has come forward with a claim.”

His backers got the message. Giuliani said Bill Clinton “disgraced this country with what he did in the Oval Office.”

As for Hillary Clinton, Giuliani said, “After being married to Bill Clinton for 20 years, if you didn’t know the moment Monica Lewinsky said that Bill Clinton violated her that she was telling the truth, then you’re too stupid to be president.” That was in an interview posted by a reporter from the news website Elite Daily.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told MSNBC on Wednesday, “If we want to dig back through the ’90s on comments made about women, we can certainly look to Secretary Clinton referring to Monica Lewinsky as a neurotic loony toon.”

While Hillary Clinton’s aides aren’t thrilled about having her marriage back in the spotlight, they argue Trump’s new focus prevents him from making an affirmative case for his candidacy and only underscores the concerns some voters have with his temperament.

Said spokesman Brian Fallon, “She’s not wired in the same way he is, prone to outbursts.”

GOP strategist Packer, who has spent years working to draw women to the Republican Party, said independent, Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning women alike don’t blame Clinton for her husband’s affairs or for being angry with the women he slept with. And reminders of them only boost her popularity.

“Hillary is never stronger than when she was when she’s a victim,” Packer said.


Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer in Des Moines, Iowa, and Steve Peoples in New Bedford, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.

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7 thoughts on “Trump’s New Campaign Strategy: Shading Bill Clinton

  1. common on said:

    Hillary will keep the same old presidency we’ve had for decades, she’s in a controlled environment, Trump on the other hand will not be controlled by the goons, the so called elite of Washington. We need a change and it begins with up rooting Washington;s corruption, greed, they are paid millions of taxpayers money and we still struggle, why?

  2. The way I see it, two wrongs don’t make a right. Both are cheaters but I don’t know any woman who would stay with a man who cheats the many time Bill did. So apparently she had no problem with it.

    • specialt757 on said:

      Many women stay with men who’ve cheated on them. Right or wrong it’s not a new earth-shattering concept. Women have different reasons for staying, but it’s their reason. It’s no different than women staying in abusive relationships, unbeknown to me, they have their reasons. God help ’em.

  3. Trump is really reaching — such a pig. While you are at it Trump; let’s talk about Presidents Jefferson, Harding, Roosevelt, Eisenhower all had affairs, and most infamous for his affairs, JFK. Men with power feel entitled and you would be no different because you are a PIG! I will be glad when this election is over, but I don’t think Trump will ever STF up.

  4. specialt757 on said:

    I don’t see Hillary as a victim in the least. But I do see the orange hitler as the biggest jackass on the planet, (next to his supporters). O.H. is hurting his own chances, bringing up BC’s history is the dumbest, especially when he’s had two marriages that ended because of affairs. Right along with the two fools supporting him, 9 marriages between them. Who’s the real cheater?

  5. Rosco P Coaltrain on said:

    This what Trump brings to the USA…..Any other time in history this Mayor would have been IMPEACHED and CHARGED with Treason, the same day he posted this, but because America has an African American President no one seems to care about racist rants like this one about the Commander and Chief of the USA………..WHY?

    Council calls on mayor to step down after Facebook posts comparing Obamas to monkeys
    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article104863841.html#storylink=cpy

    I am praying this is just a hoax but if it is not, I will be the first to condemn this type of rhetoric and bring charges of TREASON against this man. So it is said, so let it be done.

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