By Michael Sainato
All of a sudden there has been a recent surge in news stories on Bill Clinton. On June 26, the Huffington Post reported, “Bill Clinton Zings Trump Administration At Alec Baldwin Roast.” Politico published an article on June 24 reporting remarks Bill Clinton made at a conference in Miami Beach criticizing Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement. The Hill reported on the same remarks and published a separate article touting comments Clinton made about the Opioid crisis. On June 20, CBS News, CNN, Time Magazine and several other mainstream media outlets published other articles reporting on comments Clinton made at a forum in Washington DC. All of these stories were reported uncritically, serving as a public relations campaign to help refurbish Bill Clinton’s brand and legacy after a tumultuous 2016 Presidential Campaign in which his appearance on the campaign trail was a liability and public relations disaster for Hillary Clinton.
Shortly after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, several media outlets began circulating rumors that Chelsea Clinton was going to run for office. These rumors quickly capitalized into a separate rehabilitation campaign for the Clintons, where Chelsea Clinton became more politically vocal on Twitter and several media outlets reported on nearly every thing she had to say on the social media platform. Now it appears this same rehabilitation has begun for Bill Clinton, one that George W. Bush has already exploited to bolster his presidential legacy during the Trump Administration despite the Iraq War and the 2008 economic recession tarnishing his tenure. Bush now has a 59 percent favorable rating according to a recent Gallup poll.
For Bill Clinton, similar favorability never manifested while serving as a campaign surrogate for Hillary Clinton. His first campaign speech for his wife in New Hampshire was an awkward one at best. He drew intense criticism for tip-toeing the line on electioneering laws by entering a polling place in Massachusetts during the Democratic Primary election, and nearly did the same thing in Illinois. He condescendingly defended his disastrous 1994 crime bill to Black Lives Matters protesters in April 2016. In September 2016, Bill Clinton mocked coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky. “The coal people don’t like any of us anymore,” Bill Clinton said during a rally. “They blame the president when the sun doesn’t come up in the morning now.” While Hillary Clinton focused her campaign on illuminating Donald Trump’s character flaws, the Trump Campaign countered to sexist comments and allegations by trolling the Clinton Campaign with the women who have purportedly either have alleged or confirmed sex scandals with Bill Clinton. Not only did Bill Clinton serve as a liability to the Hillary Clinton campaign, but Hillary Clinton’s record resurfaced many of the flaws in Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Bill Clinton’s recent appearances and the subsequent uncritical press release type reporting that has come with it are an attempt to capitalize on the Trump Resistance for public relations benefits. This is a negative symptom of a Trump Resistance that focuses too much on opposing Trump the person rather than opposing distinct policies of Trump and Republicans while working to contrast those policies with viable alternatives. It renders an opportunity for people like Bill Clinton, who have suffered drops in popularity, to reboot their own brand, using Trump’s unpopularity as an easy punching bag for political expediency.