Robert Harbison/TCSM/File
Monica Lewinsky poses for a photo during at a book signing at Brentano's book store in the Century City Mall, Los Angeles, 1999.

Lynne Cheney says Clintons behind Monica Lewinsky story. Really?

The point of such a move described by Lynne Cheney would be to inoculate Hillary Clinton against a sudden return of the Monica Lewinsky story during any 2016 presidential campaign.

Is it possible that the Clintons pushed for the publication of Monica Lewinsky’s new autobiographical essay in Vanity Fair? Yes, that seems far-fetched at first hearing, but that’s a theory Lynne Cheney pushed on Fox News on Tuesday after the Lewinsky piece was announced.

The point of such a move on the part of Clintonland would be to inoculate Hillary Rodham Clinton against a sudden return of the Lewinsky story during any 2016 presidential campaign. It’s an old political tactic: If there’s a negative story pending on your candidate, release it yourself, on your terms. Then dismiss it as “old news” and attempt to get the media to move on.

“I really wonder if this isn’t an effort on the Clintons’ part to get that story out of the way. Would Vanity Fair publish anything about Monica Lewinsky that Hillary Clinton didn’t want in Vanity Fair?” said Mrs. Cheney, an author and wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Look, Mrs. Cheney probably heard White House communications folks talking in just this manner during the presidency of George W. Bush. Where do you think she got this idea in the first place? But in the current instance, we think it’s pretty unlikely this happened.

That’s because the idea of such a scheme assumes the Clintons are more powerful and efficient than they really are. They’d have had to think of it, first of all – and if the Lewinsky story needed preemption, what about all the pre-scandals that led into it, such as the Whitewater real estate deal, the firings in the White House travel office, and so forth? Will they get a Clinton-leaked story in time?

And yes, maybe they could cook up a deal with Vanity Fair, but they’re smart enough to know that once a story passes beyond the first outlet, it becomes uncontrollable. Recently released documents from the Clinton White House show that Ms. Clinton in particular has little regard for the media, calling reporters full of ego with little in the way of brains. She’d avoid reporters if possible, instead of involving them in some grand preemption scheme.

Also, the Clintons would have had to conceal their involvement from Ms. Lewinsky herself, given the latter’s evident feeling that the Clinton White House tried to trash her reputation after the affair became public in 1998. So the whole thing just becomes too complicated. That’s the trouble with most conspiracy theories: They assume the world operates with the efficiency of “The Bourne Identity,” when it’s really bumbling along like “Anchorman 2.”

That said, it’s interesting how wary many Republicans are about the possible political ramifications of the return of the Lewinsky story. While some see it as an opportunity, others see it as a trap, reports BuzzFeed’s political reporter McKay Coppins on Wednesday.

That’s because some see it as a distraction, a way to lure the GOP away from a more exclusive focus on Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State and such substantive issues as the now-problematic “reset” of relations with Russia.

The BuzzFeed piece quotes top GOP operative Grover Norquist as saying that Republicans should show restraint when talking about Lewinsky, as reporters will try to get them to do.

“It’s like in baseball, if they throw out a bad pitch and you swing at it, then you’re an idiot,” Mr. Norquist tells Mr. Coppins.

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