The Clintons, immune to scandal
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Ever since Bill and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Parkland school shooting as 'false flag' event on Facebook Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS CNN poll: Melania Trump leaving office as least popular first lady ever MORE publicly inoculated themselves on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Super Bowl Sunday in 1992 by admitting to "problems" in their marriage, they have been largely immune from a steady stream of maladies that might have killed most politicians.

From Gennifer Flowers to Paula Jones to Monica Lewinsky, it helped them survive a series of so-called "bimbo eruptions" — as Betsey Wright, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump stock performance falls short of Obama, Clinton Press: Biden must go big and bold The challenge of Biden's first days: staying focused and on message MORE's deputy campaign chair in 1992, referred to them — that could have blocked or ended Bill's presidency.


As a bonus side-effect, the injected serum produced a thick skin and the keen ability to display pluck, defiance, combativeness and a skill for bending the truth that helped weather a long string of '90s scandals and controversies. They included Bill Clinton's past efforts to avoid the military draft during the Vietnam War, the questionable Whitewater land deal, various controversial presidential pardons, playing fast and loose with campaign fundraising rules, mishandling FBI background files on Republicans and "renting" the Lincoln bedroom to contributors.

And now, that serum seems still effective against a fusillade of charges focused on Hillary Clinton's secretive handling of her emails while secretary of State, her reaction to the Benghazi attack in Libya, her high-priced speaking fees and the financial sleight of hand between the couple's charitable foundation and foreign donors seeking approvals from the U.S. government while she was in the Obama Cabinet.

If any one of the current band of 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls was faced with just one such allegation, chances are they would be shamed and forced out of the race, hounded by a news media and a political opposition that would not let them talk about anything else.

But Hillary Clinton skates on in her 2016 Democratic bid for the White House largely immune. Despite the well-publicized controversies, polls show that although ratings of her character and integrity have taken a big hit, she still would beat any one of her many potential GOP rivals in the 2016 election. The serum is still potent.

It wasn't long ago that far-smaller transgressions than the Clintons' brought lightning-quick ends to presidential candidacies. Hillary Clinton need look no farther than the current vice president, Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Scalise bringing Donna Brazile as guest to Biden inauguration Sidney Powell withdraws 'kraken' lawsuit in Georgia MORE, who had his 1988 run for the Democratic presidential nomination brought down in flames in 1987 by charges of plagiarism and exaggeration of his academic record.

Democratic front-runner Sen. Gary Hart (Colo.) was chased out earlier that same year for having an extramarital affair with model Donna Rice.

And the end came quickly. An embarrassed Biden quit the race just two weeks after the plagiarism charges surfaced. A defiant Hart was out in less than a week, only to return six months later in a woeful comeback attempt.

Biden, then a U.S. senator, said in his dropout statement that the incessant pressure from the news media hampered his ability to campaign and at the same time chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was then considering President Reagan's controversial nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.

Some might argue that Biden and Hart flopped in a far different time, and that such behaviors might be more easily tolerated in today's evolving live-and-let-live atmosphere. But then again, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) resigned in 2008 when it was revealed that he hired prostitutes. And New York Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) quit his House seat in 2011 after texting suggestive photos and messages to young women. Ironically, Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, is a top aide in Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Which brings us back to the Clintons, and more specifically Hillary and her various ethical and veracity problems, not to mention questions about her competence to serve in the highest office in the land. By far, the most serious allegation against the Clintons is that they extorted millions of dollars in speaking fees and six-figure donations to their charitable foundation in return for State Department favors while Hillary was secretary of State.

If that could be proved, such behavior might bring criminal charges and possibly prison terms. But with Hillary Clinton having sole control of her government and personal emails, and having said that she destroyed those emails she deemed personal, legal proof of a quid pro quo would be nearly impossible to secure. The only other way would be if donors were willing to talk under oath in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

A recent high-profile case has some parallels. Former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), a rising GOP star, and his wife, Maureen, were found guilty last year of public corruption after they were charged with providing preferred government treatment to Johnnie Williams Sr., a businessman with a dietary supplement to sell. Federal prosecutors charged that Williams bribed the McDonnells for state favors with golf outings, fancy vacations, expensive gifts such as a Rolex watch and $120,000 in sweetheart loans. Williams, who had immunity, testified against the McDonnells, saying they helped him set up meetings with state officials to pitch his product.

The gifts and loans to the McDonnells are chickenfeed compared to the money lavished on the Clintons and their foundation. Yet, the McDonnells, whose convictions are on appeal, are facing prison terms. No federal prosecutors appear eager to look into the Clintons' case, as they were to investigate the McDonnells. Could that be because President Obama is their boss?

Talk about immunity.

Benedetto is a retired USA Today White House correspondent and columnist. He now teaches politics and journalism at American University and in the Fund For American Studies program at George Mason University. Email him at or follow him on Twitter @benedettopress.