Hillary Clinton's potential presidential campaign is triggering a new round of political warfare.
Clinton is mostly avoiding controversial public comments as she assesses whether to run in 2016. But there is plenty of activity on her behalf, such as fundraising and recruitment of supporters; her opponents are increasingly critical of her, and everything she says and does is closely scrutinized.
She made a bit of news Thursday during a forum at New York University. She said the most important advice she could offer women in public life was the suggestion of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt: "Grow skin like a rhinoceros." She added: "When you look at the challenges of being a change-maker and being willing to buck the establishment, it's important to learn how to take criticism seriously but not personally," according to Politico.
And she is getting lots of opportunities to test that advice. The latest surge of Clinton scrutiny is based on one of her most searing experiences as first lady – the scandal over President Bill Clinton's lying under oath about his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. This episode happened 16 years ago, culminating in Bill Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives in December 1998 and acquittal by the Senate in February 1999. It is getting extensive media coverage again because of newly discovered notes of conversations that Hillary Clinton had with her friend Diane Blair during the scandal. In Blair's recounting, Clinton emerges as angry, smart, tough, practical and emotionally wounded all at once.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said bringing up former President Clinton's sex-and-lies scandal to tarnish his wife is offensive and wrong. "It's stunning that the Republican leadership is so obsessed with Hillary Clinton and anyone's personal, private family business that they would drudge up 20-year-old issues like that," Wasserman Schultz told MSNBC. "Its not only not fair game, it's offensive."
Wasserman Schultz's remarks were prompted by comments by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who said former President Clinton's actions regarding Lewinsky were "predatory," and Paul accused the news media of going easy on him. Paul is considered a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, later said "everything's on the table" when assessing Hillary Clinton's potential candidacy, including the Clintons' views on the government role in health care, which was a big issue during his presidency, as it is today.
Media commentators have been fuming and fulminating about Hillary and Bill all week, and the fuss shows no sign of letting up in the blogosphere and in the mainstream media. Columnist Kathleen Parker wrote in The Washington Post that Hillary Clinton is "endlessly fascinating in that love-her-or-hate-her way. To some, she is an intelligent woman who has weathered a 20-year assault with relative grace. To others, she's a pushy broad whose dagger gaze reminds them of a disapproving teacher, or worse."
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile wrote on the CNN website that the media sometimes live in a "time warp." Brazile said there's too much focus on Hillary Clinton's past and not enough on current issues and developments, such as the potential for other women candidates to win Senate races in Georgia and Kentucky.As first lady from 1993 to 2001, Clinton was one of the most polarizing figures in the country. In recent years, she managed to break away from that image. She worked harmoniously with other legislators as a U.S. senator from New York and developed international respect as secretary of state during President Obama's first term. But now, as she moves toward what is expected to be another run for the White House, Clinton is again a lightning rod. So far, she is ahead of all other potential candidates in polls of presidential preference for 2016.