In recent weeks, one Republican after another has come forward to rebut the Democratic claim that the GOP is waging a “war on women.” The responses have ranged from homey (Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers responding to Barack Obama’s State of the Union address by noting that she’d given birth just eight weeks earlier) to creepy (former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee saying Democrats think women can’t control their “libidos.”) But perhaps most puzzling has been the tack taken by Rand Paul, who in interview after interview after interview has accused Democrats of “hypocrisy” for claiming to support women’s rights while giving Bill Clinton a pass for his “predatory” behavior towards Monica Lewinsky.
Yes, Monica Lewinsky, who enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame 16 years ago. Luckily for Democrats, Paul hasn’t cottoned on to their affection for John F. Kennedy (naked White House pool parties with suspected communist spies) and Franklin Roosevelt (died in the presence of his mistress).
It doesn’t take long to grasp the flaws in Paul’s strategy. For starters, Clinton’s infidelities didn’t hurt his popularity at the time. Between January 1998, when the Lewinsky scandal broke, and February 1999, when the senate voted not to impeach him, Clinton registered the highest approval ratings of his presidency:
Once the impeachment circus ended, Bill Clinton’s popularity did dip, leading some to suggest—as they continued too throughout the 2000 campaign—that the country was suffering “Clinton fatigue.” But the problem for Paul is that these days, Americans seem fatigued with the fatigue. A July 2012 Gallup poll found Clinton’s approval at an impressive 66 percent, higher than it had been since he left office. Among women, Clinton’s approval rating was 63 percent. It was 44 percent among Republicans. By comparison, President Obama’s most recent approval ratings are 43 percent among women and 12 percent among Republicans. Which helps explain why Paul is the only prominent figure in today’s GOP spending as much time attacking the last Democratic president as the current one.