Bob Franken: Hillary or time wasted

I’ll tell you what: If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run for president, a bunch of people will have wasted a whole lot of energy. Why else would Vanity Fair resurrect Monica Lewinsky so we could revisit the tawdry case that blemished the family’s first White House go-around?

 

There is a wide body of thinking that has it that rather than being Monica’s Revenge, the article by “that woman” actually will help Hillary when she runs (yes, the word “when” was intentional), because it will put an end to discussion of the dark period once and for all, declare it “old news” and remove it from the campaign plate.

As someone who covered that awful scandal for more than a year, and struggled during live TV shots to keep a straight face while using euphemisms about the infamous blue dress, I certainly hope the story finally does move into the “who cares?” zone. Nobody would give a hoot now, were we all not convinced that Hillary had risen from her mortification as first lady to making a run at the big prize, where her husband, Clinton the former, would be referred to as something like the “first gentleman.” Come to think of it, maybe that would be Hillary’s revenge.

Republicans certainly are convinced that she’ll be their opponent. They have made it absolutely clear, with the formation of their select committee on Benghazi. The committee will focus on one matter only, and that would be the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three traveling companions in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Yes, there will be a harsh airing, still again, of accusations that the Obama administration engaged in a cover-up just a couple of months before the election and lied in the process, but expect that the major focus will be on Steven’s bosses and handlers back in Washington at the State Department.

I don’t need to remind you who was secretary of state at the time. And if there ever was a sure thing, it would be that former Secretary Hillary Clinton will be called to testify. And even if there’s another missing plane, the news networks will take it live.

The GOPs can protest all they want that they are strictly motivated by a desire to present the “truth” about the tragedy, but this is really just a transparent effort to stick it to the Dems, particularly the one who will be their 2016 standard-bearer.

Actually, it’s a risky strategy. When it comes to brawling, Hillary Clinton is no slouch. When her hearing is all said and done, it may be the Republicans who are left bleeding, exposed as shameless bullies who got a whuppin’. However it turns out, it’ll be the TV blockbuster of 2014 or 2015.

We already know what it will be in 2016. As hard as they try to control the GOP debates, the Republican National Committee will not succeed in its effort to add some dignity to their comedy shows. The party leaders are insisting that they will control the format and, by implication, even the questions to be asked, but they are courting a PR disaster the first time they tell one of their candidates who has not been preordained that he or she will not have an equal chance at television glory.

And that’s the Republican blessing and curse this time around. The party doesn’t have a real leading light. While the ones we always hear mentioned are spread out from establishment to rabble rouser, the leadership wants to rein them into a cluster that extends only from right to extreme right.

Usually, it’s the other way around; it’s the Democrats who are turning on one another. But it looks like they already have their candidate. If Hillary bails, then they don’t have one.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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