As some liberals have come to realise in recent days that a president having sex with a White House intern is a very bad thing that shouldn't be waved off, some conservative commentators have carped that this timing is awfully convenient -- Democrats are only discarding the Clintons once they weren't needed anymore.
This is wrong. This timing is decidedly inconvenient.
It would have been much more convenient for the Democratic Party to jettison the Clintons years ago. There would probably even be a Democratic president right now.
The reputational vortex that drowned us all
As Matt Yglesias notes, Democrats couldn't find the time to break with Bill Clinton over the sex stuff because Hillary's political career was starting just as hers was ending.
"Once Hillary Clinton threw her hat into the ring, she immediately became America's presumptive first woman president, creating a kind of reputational vortex that shielded her husband's behaviour from scrutiny," Yglesias writes.
One reason Bill and Hillary's reputations weren't separable for Democrats was the key role Hillary had played over the years in seeking to discredit Bill's accusers. If you admitted that his sexual misbehavior consisted of more than just a "consensual blow job," as Hillary's longtime press aide, Philippe Reines, characterised Bill's affair with Monica Lewinsky on Thursday, then you would have had to admit she had been wrong, and not feminist, to defend him through it all.
But it isn't just the sex stuff. Over the years, the Clintons built a financial apparatus together that got more and more uncomfortable for a party of the left to defend.
The Clintons forced Democrats to be the party of big-money interests
The Clinton Foundation, as we have been reminded ad nauseam by the Clintons' advocates, is an international philanthropy that does really valuable work. It has to be -- it wouldn't work as a vehicle to build the Clintons' profile and international business connections if it were a pure Trump-style scam.
The Foundation provided little direct material benefit to the Clintons (save as a place to warehouse Sidney Blumenthal when he couldn't get a job in the Obama administration). But it meshed well with Teneo Group, a consultancy built on monetizing Bill Clinton's global connections for profit.
And you might ask, what's wrong with that? Why shouldn't the Clintons get very rich while they did good for the world? Didn't they deserve it? Believe me, their defenders asked these questions constantly -- and indignantly.
The Clinton model of doing good should be an uncomfortable one for the left -- one in which extremely wealthy people and countries with questionable human-rights records come together and freely give their money away to further their agendas and burnish their reputations, convincing each other all the while that concentrations of wealth can be a good thing so long as the wealthy are civic-minded.
I can't believe what the Clintons made Democrats defend
All these big-money entities made it impossible to tell where the Clintons' public activities ended and private interests began.
During her last months in Hillary Clinton's State Department, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin was even allowed to work on the payrolls of the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, and Teneo Group -- all simultaneously.
Abedin presumably needed the extra money to support her pervert ex-congressman husband, whose actions would ultimately doom Hillary's presidential campaign in spectacular Shakespeare-meets-Alexander-Payne manner. I can assure the conservative pundits: Accommodating this arrangement proved not the least bit convenient for Democrats.
After finishing her service as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton made a set of decisions that would put Democrats in the ridiculous position of having to argue that it was appropriate and normal to spend a two-year hiatus before your presidential campaign giving high-dollar speeches to interest groups.
No, this is not something that "everybody does," goddammit! This buckraking behaviour was highly bizarre -- so bizarre, Yglesias has noted, that it led some people to assume Hillary was not going to seek the presidency after all.
When I complain about this stuff, this is usually where Clintons' defenders will say that she was running against Donald Trump. How can I complain about her financial conflicts of interest when her opponent was Trump?
This is absolutely the wrong question.
The right question is: How could Democrats possibly have been so stupid as to nominate a candidate who could not gain a clean advantage on independence from moneyed interests over Trump? Could they not find anyone who had not taken $US675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs?
Democrats got what they deserved -- but the country didn't
The core problem is that Democrats decided the Clintons were their people, and then reasoned backwards to their principles. If Hillary took speaking fees from Goldman, then taking speaking fees from Goldman was ok. If Bill got a blow job from an intern, then getting a blow job from an intern was ok.
Look at Reines' tweet attacking Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for saying Bill's affair with Monica Lewinsky was resignation-worthy behaviour.
"Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons' endorsements, money, and seat," Reines said. "Hypocrite."
Reines doesn't talk about New York's Senate seat as having belonged to Hillary Clinton. He talks about it as having belonged to the Clintons -- jointly.
This is a cult.
In a way, Democrats have gotten exactly what they have deserved for accommodating the Clintons' nonsense. Their antics have cost Democrats not one but two presidential elections.
One great irony of Hillary Clinton's career is that she became a senator by elbowing another woman out of the way. If she had not become the first female senator from New York, Rep. Nita Lowey would have.
If that had happened -- if the Clintons had agreed to go off into a normal post-presidency instead of holding Democrats hostage in an emotionally abusive relationship for 16 more years, or if Democratic voters had insisted that they do so -- that would have been decidedly more convenient for the party.
There would probably be a Democratic president right now -- maybe even a female one.