Hillary Clinton has been toxic for Bill Clinton’s legacy.
Since he left the White House, his history has been one of sharply declining favorability ratings whenever she runs. Those ratings recover afterward, then decline when she runs again.
And in 2017-18, the #MeToo movement has caused his ratings to drop even further.
The trends are dramatic and leave no room for doubt.
A legacy that once rested on the solid achievements of welfare reform, balancing the budget, covering children with health insurance, and family and medical leave now stands forever tarnished due to the effects of Hillary’s failed presidential candidacies and his own sexual misconduct.
Gallup’s ratings show that Bill Clinton left the White House with only a 39 percent approval rating. The reasons for such a low number were obvious: his plea to perjury in the Paula Jones deposition and his subsequent disbarment, Hillary’s decision to keep the china she and Bill got as gifts during his tenure, and his pardons at the end of his presidency in return for fees paid to members of his and her families.
From 2001 to 2007, Bill arduously rebuilt his image with an assist from President George W. Bush. Serving at Bush’s request as a goodwill ambassador to Haiti and the victims of the Asian tsunami, Clinton’s approval rating improved to 63 percent by 2007. His early work with the Clinton Foundation — yet to be exposed as the fraud it was — bolstered his ratings as well.
Then Hillary ran for the White House.
By the end of 2008, Bill’s approval dropped to 47 percent, a decline of 16 points over the course of his wife’s campaign and her defeat for the Democratic presidential nomination by Barack Obama.
Bill caught a break when Obama appointed Hillary to be secretary of state. During her tenure, when Bill largely stayed out of the limelight, his approval rose all the way to 69 percent by 2013.
Then, Hillary left the Obama administration and began her second run for president. By the time she lost, Bill’s approval had dropped back to 50 percent amid charges of pay-for-play at the State Department, the exposure of his huge speaking fees, and the increasing evidence of corruption and bribery at the heart of the Clinton Foundation.
Since then, Bill’s image has been damaged further, this time through no fault of his wife. The #MeToo movement has cast an increasingly harsh light on his infamous affair with then 22-year-old Monica Lewinsky. By the end of 2017, his approval was down to 45 percent and likely has fallen further this year.
This table summarizes the changes:
Bill Clinton’s Approval Ratings (Source: Gallup)
- 2001: 39% (term ends)
- 2007: 63% (Hillary starts presidential campaign)
- 2008: 47% (Hillary loses bid for Democratic nomination)
- 2013: 69% (Hillary named Secretary of State)
- 2016: 50% (Hillary loses presidential election)
- 2017: 45% (#MeToo Movement)
Ironically, many people believe that Bill encouraged Hillary to run, believing that her election might wipe out the stain of his own impeachment and cast a more benign light on the disastrous second term of his presidency.
But the opposite happened. Her candidacy triggered a close inspection of the couple’s efforts to make money while she was out of office and the exchange of favors between donors to the Clinton Foundation and the State Department under her tenure.
The Clintons did not stand up well to the scrutiny. His ratings suffered and his legacy was tarnished.
Is the damage permanent? Who knows. His achievements are solid enough to merit better, but Hillary and his personal immorality keep getting in the way.
His current terrible poll ratings make it clear that he must now be considered as a very bad president.
But history always takes a second look.
Today, Bill Clinton is a bit like the retired baseball player who, tarnished by his use of steroids, fails admission to the Hall of Fame and must wait for the Veterans Committee to reconsider his case in future years.
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