Hollywood Struggles With Bill Clinton’s Past as 2018 Midterm Elections Loom

“The toxicity level of Bill Clinton is rising,” Jack Pitney, professor of government at California’s Claremont McKenna College, tells TheWrap

Last Updated: February 15, 2018 @ 3:50 PM

Gearing up for the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats are finding themselves in a conundrum: what to do with former President Bill Clinton?

Clinton, a prolific fundraiser, has a history of sexual misconduct accusations, a history that has become a liability for Democrats looking to embrace the #MeToo movement as a direct rebuke of President Donald Trump, himself accused of misconduct by multiple women.

“The toxicity level of Bill Clinton is rising,” Jack Pitney, professor of government at California’s Claremont McKenna College, told TheWrap. “As the #MeToo movement continues to gain steam, people are reflecting on what Bill Clinton did in the ’90s.”

Politico reported Wednesday that Democrats are keeping the former president “on the bench” in stark contrast to the 2010 midterms when Clinton made over 100 appearances and was as one of the most sought after surrogates on the campaign trail. During his re-election campaign in 2012, former President Barack Obama went as fas as calling him his “explainer-in-chief”

But Dems in Hollywood, long considered the party’s fundraising hub, say that sidelining Bill Clinton in order to embrace the #MeToo movement comes with its own set of problems.

“If they’re going to attack Trump, they’re going to open up a whole can worms in California and and across the country,” longtime Democratic fundraiser Dr. Howie Mandel (no relation to the comedian of the same name) told TheWrap.” “Because you and I both know, there has been abuse in government on both sides for years. It’s just really problematic.”

Mandel said the same issues are now playing out in California’s governor’s race, where both Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have wrestled with sex scandals in the past. As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom was going through a divorce when he had a consensual relationship with his secretary. Villaraigosa faced criticism for an affair with a TV news reporter while he was mayor.

“I don’t think people who consider themselves feminists should be pushing against Trump [on this issue] because its not just one party,” Mandel added. “It’s not a political issue. If you attack Trump, you’re making something that’s a societal issue into a political issue.”

Other Democratic fundraisers say they do not expect Clinton to be an issue during the midterm.

“In the races I am focused on, Bill has not come up and I don’t expect he will,” Los Angeles-based attorney and former Hillary Clinton fundraiser Dana Perlman told TheWrap. “As to the accusations against Trump, I have not heard the Democratic candidates I am following bring them up and I hope they don’t. I want candidates that give people something to be for; not just someone to be against.”

Questions about Bill Clinton’s effectiveness as a campaigner are not new. Back in 2015, the New York Times published a piece called: “To avert repeat of 2008, Clinton team hopes to keep Bill at his best,” suggesting he was no longer the political slam dunk he once was. The former president also had a few hiccups while campaigning for his wife during the 2016 presidential race, that had some asking whether he was beginning to be a liability for her second bid for the White House.

But two people familiar with Clinton’s schedule told Politico Wednesday that the former president has already received a several requests from campaigns for advice and events.

“It’s obviously complex but I still hear people talking about the good days of the Clinton administration,” Democratic strategist Donna Bojarsky told TheWrap.
“The problem for the party is that Clinton has had the ability to connect with Democrats better than most politicians.”