No, You Fools, a "Lewinsky Sex Tape" Won't Destroy Hillary Clinton

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 31 2013 3:09 PM

No, You Fools, a "Lewinsky Sex Tape" Won't Destroy Hillary Clinton

This woman's voice will ruin Hillary Clinton! Just like last time!

Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images

The National Enquirer has obtained "a sex tape that Monica Lewinsky recorded for Bill Clinton at the height of their scandalous affair," according to Radar Online. It's just her on the tape, no Clinton, because Clinton, like most people, is smarter than Anthony Weiner. But the gossip site, which has done the hard work of quoting the tabloid for those of us who skip over it for In Touch at the checkout line, captures this bit of hilarious heavy breathing:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

The Enquirer reports the emergence of the tape could torpedo Hillary’s expected run for the White House.
“The Clintons thought this sex tape was dead and buried,” said one source. “If this tape and other material are surfacing now, imagine what else must be out there?"

This is about as lazy and wrong a read on politics as you're likely to see. The Lewinsky saga did not hurt Hillary Clinton. On the contrary, it lifted her poll numbers to the point where New York Democrats started sounding her out to run for U.S. Senate. A few examples:

- The December 1997 NBC poll put Clinton's favorable numbers at 45 percent. In October 1998 they were at 56 percent.

- The January 1998 ABC News/WaPo poll put her favorables at 52 percent. By August, when Bill Clinton apologized for the affair on television, Hillary's favorables had surged to 64 percent.

Every poll revealed basically the same thing. Bill Clinton's job approval numbers stayed steady during the Lewinsky affair, though his favorables sank. Hillary's favorables increased. The mass-psychology reason for this is probably too obvious to get into, but it's been forgotten—the public sympathized with Hillary.

A decade and a half later, this still sparks a strange cognitive dissonance. The most resonant political storyline in the Weiner implosion is that Weiner, via Huma Abedin, is close to the next Democratic candidate; Abedin had been working on "transition" efforts in the Clinton Global Initiative (that's what the effort to retool it and make room for Hillary is called, apparently), and she's taking a step back—surely this must ripple into 2013. Maybe. You can always find a bulwark of opinion, usually on the right, indicting Hillary Clinton for the sex scandals around here. But the dominant opinion is always, always sympathy.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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