Evidently Donald Trump believes his campaign can accomplish with an Internet video what Kenneth Starr failed to do with $50 million and a platoon of private detectives and FBI agents: Bring down Bill and Hillary Clinton by dredging them through moldy muck. Somehow he doesn’t seem to understand his own vulnerability on scandalous matters that are real rather than invented.
The problem Ken Starr confronted during six years as independent counsel was neither a shortage of resources nor a lack of support from the political media, most of which seemed as eager to ruin Clinton as the right-wing Republican prosecutor. No, the trouble with Whitewater, Travelgate and Filegate — so dubbed by scandal-addled reporters — was that substantive, plausible evidence of wrongdoing simply didn’t exist. The Lewinsky affair was all too real, but most Americans didn’t believe that sex, or even lying about sex under oath, merited a costly, hypocritical, and rabid investigation, let alone a presidential impeachment.
The hollowness of all those old pseudo-scandals is why the Clintons are still standing — even as ace sex detective Starr is ousted from the presidency of Baylor University in disgrace for covering up sexual assault by members of the school’s football team.
Yet Trump, under the tutelage of Nixon-era dirty trickster Roger Stone, apparently believes that he can resuscitate even the most discredited old tales to smear the Clintons — and especially Hillary, the Democrat he is likely to face in November. This sordid pair quickly turned to Starr’s sex files, with a misogynist twist: The sexual accusations against Bill Clinton should be blamed on Hillary Clinton. They believe if they shriek “rapist” and “enabler,” nobody will realize their attack has no factual basis.
Only Juanita Broaddrick and Bill Clinton know what, if anything, ever happened between them, and their accounts are directly contradictory — except that she has offered at least two very different versions under oath. Starr immunized Broaddrick and thoroughly investigated her revived rape accusation against Clinton during his impeachment probe in 1998. He found the evidence that she provided “inconclusive,” and didn’t include her case in his impeachment.
Naturally, Trump is promoting Broaddrick’s additional claim that Hillary Clinton, only weeks after the alleged rape, sought to intimidate the Arkansas nursing home owner into remaining silent. But it isn’t easy to know what to believe about her charge against Clinton, either — because, again, she has also said, and may even have sworn, precisely the opposite.
Nearly a year after she testified before the independent counsel, Broaddrick was interviewed on NBC News Dateline by correspondent Lisa Myers. After tearfully describing her alleged encounter with a violent Bill Clinton she stated firmly that nobody had ever tried to intimidate her.
From the Dateline transcript of Feb. 24, 1999:
Lisa Myers: Did Bill Clinton or anyone near him ever threaten you, try to intimidate you, do anything to keep you silent?
Juanita Broaddrick: No.
Myers: This has been strictly your choice.
Having received a grant of immunity against prosecution for perjury, did she tell Starr that Hillary had feloniously tried to “silence” her? Or did she tell the Office of Independent Counsel — as she later told Myers — that nobody ever did?
Meanwhile, perhaps the moment has come when blustering Trump should respond to the rape accusations sworn against him by his first wife Ivana during their bitter 1990 divorce, which a court granted her on grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment.” Journalist Harry Hurt III first recounted the ugly details of Trump’s allegedly violent assault on Ivana —ripping out her patches of hair and sexually violating her — in his book “The Last Tycoon.”
Although Ivana withdrew her accusation after the Daily Beast reported it last year, Hurt says there is much more to be learned from the Trump divorce papers, which are under seal. So here is a suggestion for Trump, who still refuses to release his tax returns as American presidential candidates have done routinely for decades.
If he wants to accuse other people of rape and intimidation, Trump should unseal his divorce papers and let voters assess his standing to make those charges. The evidence gathered about Bill Clinton by the independent counsel’s sex probe is public record. If Trump has nothing to hide, he should let the public view the evidence of what he did to his first wife — and then they can judge him accordingly. If he doesn’t have the guts to disclose those scathing documents, then maybe he should shut up about the Clintons’ marriage, which endures.