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Monday, June 02, 2008

The invisible impeachment


Bill Clinton, Feb. 12, 1999
President Bill Clinton arrives in the Rose Garden to make a statement after being acquitted of all charges in his impeachment trial in the Senate Feb. 12, 1999.
Photo: AP

As the Democratic primary season nears a close, the candidates have talked about dozens of policies, fended off a host of attacks and studiously avoided one topic: the impeachment of President Clinton.

Whether that’s a product of self-control or self-preservation, the tactical decision by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s opponents to steer clear of any direct reference to what may have been the defining moment of the Clinton White House seems remarkable given the duration and intensity of the 2008 primary campaign.

While Republicans signaled early that it would be a major issue should she win the nomination, it has been a forbidden topic for her primary rivals since early 2007, when David Geffen, a former Clinton ally and a Hollywood supporter of Barack Obama, felt the wrath of the Clinton camp — and received a scolding from the Obama campaign — after raising it in an interview.

The reasons for the silence are both obvious and subtle.

Raising it could do more harm than good — particularly in a Democratic primary — since most party activists still view the painful saga as an act of supreme hypocrisy and partisan overreach by congressional Republicans.

“Voters don’t have much of an appetite for this,” said Peter Hart, an independent Democratic polling expert. “There’s nothing about this election that suggests people want to wallow in the past.”

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