For weeks, Donald Trump has dredged up stories from the 1990s about Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs. Then Trump went a step further, reviving an unsubstantiated rape accusation against the former president.

Even for Trump, the anything-goes showman whose insults left rivals reeling in the Republican presidential primaries, the attacks have a searing personal dimension, pushing boundaries and forcing his presumed Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, to relive the humiliation of her husband’s adultery.

His almost daily reminders of Clinton melodramas darken the glow that the former first couple often puts on their White House years, an era of economic prosperity.

Trump is open about also using the personal attacks to blunt attempts by Hillary Clinton and her allies to go after him over his repeated derogatory remarks about women.

Charlie Black, a veteran Republican campaign consultant who supports Trump, said the former president’s history is fair game when Trump is fighting the Democrats’ accusations.

“A lot of voters are so young they don’t even know about this stuff,” Black said. “And the ones who are old enough to remember, it probably doesn’t hurt to remind them of it – that (Hillary Clinton’s) cooperation with him in trying to cover up these things is just not a pro-women stance.”

Still, there is additional risk in revisiting the tumultuous past: reminding voters of the Republican hypocrisy surrounding the White House sex scandal.

Newt Gingrich, the House speaker who led the charge for Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, admitted later that he was having an extramarital affair at the time.

Gingrich’s successor, Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, gave up the post just before Clinton’s Senate trial after acknowledging his own extramarital affairs. Republicans then gave the speaker’s job to Rep. J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who was sentenced last month to 15 months in prison for financial crimes committed in his effort to cover up his sexual abuse of high school boys on a wrestling team he coached.

As noted by Paul Begala, a senior White House adviser to Bill Clinton, the result was a backlash that resulted in a surprising gain of Democratic seats in the 1998 congressional election.

“It didn’t work when it was hot and new, and about the guy that was president,” said Begala, now a strategist for a pro-Hillary Clinton political action committee. “I don’t think it’s going to work when it’s old and stale and about the husband of the woman running for president.”


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