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JOAN VENNOCHI

Has Bill Clinton outrun the statute of limitations?

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press/File 2017

By Globe Columnist 

How long can Bill Clinton get away with this?

“Americans must decide who we really are,” reads a headline over an opinion piece written by the former president. No, Clinton isn’t addressing sexual misconduct — the topic currently dominating the national conversation, and one with which he has personal experience. Instead, he’s promoting high-minded public policies that promote “cooperation over conflict and build an economy, a society and a politics of addition not subtraction, multiplication, not division.”

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Clinton’s op-ed — an argument against the travel ban which just got the go-ahead from the Supreme Court — was published on the same day President Trump tweeted that Alabama should support Roy Moore, an alleged sexual predator of teenage girls who, if elected to the Senate, will back the Republican tax plan. It also coincides with an op-ed by Billy Bush confirming — in case anyone doubted it — that Trump really did say “Grab ’em by the pussy” on that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.

When it comes to allegations of sexual misdeeds, Trump and Clinton have a lot in common. Through the power of strong but very different personalities, both were also able to make ideology not morality the priority for voters. Now, with the leverage of the Oval Office and a Congress controlled by Republicans, Trump can deliver on campaign promises like the tax package – all the more reason for his backers to ignore the allegations dredged up by Bush in his damning op-ed.

But the former president is in a much different place. After Hillary Clinton’s loss, the wheels are finally coming off the Clinton bus. The breakdown of the Clinton machine comes as the country processes a mishmash of post-Harvey Weinstein sex scandals. That in turn has produced a long-delayed day of reckoning for Clinton relative to his past transgressions. “The end of shame in America began with Bill Clinton,” wrote Marc A. Thiessen for The Washington Post. New York Times op-ed writer Michelle Goldberg said she believes Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who accused Clinton of raping her. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who occupies the Senate seat once held by Hillary Clinton, said Bill should have resigned after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s accusers showed up at the National Press Club last week to remind the public of their charges against the former president. And Trump is said to be relying on a variation of the legal strategy used by Clinton back in the 1990s, as the president fends off a defamation lawsuit filed by a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who claims he sexually assaulted her.

With all that, is a Bill Clinton op-ed still a “get” worth getting?

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Will any future Democrat want Clinton to make the case for his nomination, as the former president did so brilliantly for Barack Obama at the 2012 convention?

On the anniversary of Trump’s win over Hillary, Clinton fielded friendly questions on Conan O’Brien’s show. How long can Clinton count on hosts willing to skip awkward queries for the prize of booking him as a guest?

Since 2007, Clinton has been hosting meetings with students, university representatives, experts and celebrities at college campuses around the world, to engage what the Clinton Foundation calls “the next generation of leaders.” Such a meeting was convened just recently at Northeastern University, featuring Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright. Will a college president say “no” to such a gathering, on the grounds that Clinton isn’t a role model for young people?

Or, has the statute of limitations more or less run out on Clinton, so that he doesn’t really get lumped in with all the recent bad actors? This is supposedly a watershed moment, with commentators saying sexual harassment will never again be swept under the rug. If true, I’m not so sure Bill Clinton will be included in the disgraced-forever basket of deplorables.

As Clinton writes, Americans must decide who we really are and what we really care about. He — and Trump — probably understand us better than we understand ourselves.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com
Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.