How Hillary Clinton became the First Lady of American scandal

It's been a dirty fight to the finish line - with both opponent Donald Trump and her indulging in no-holds-barred attacks.

 |   Long-form |   05-11-2016
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With Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee for president, every Clinton scandal — from Whitewater to the state department emails — is under the microscope. From being the first lady to the secretary of state - the 68 year old legal eagle turned politician has donned many hats. Like her Republican rival Donald Trump - Hillary is no stranger to controversies but she’s managed to tiptoe her way around a mine-filed of explosive scandals in the race to the White House.

From running almost nine points ahead of her Republican rival, 20 days before voting, democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s popularity has suddenly taken a hit - bringing her neck and neck with Donald Trump.

The FBI’s announcement to re-open the e-mail server case against the former secretary of state – barely a week ahead of D-Day – is being viewed as politically motivated by many. Hillary and her campaign staff are, of course, crying foul given the timing of the decision. The FBI claims new emails were discovered after the bureau seized electronic devices belonging to former Republican congressman Anthony Weiner, who till recently was married to Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide.

The probe agency claimed it stumbled upon more confidential emails from secretary Clinton while investigating a separate case - pertaining to sex messages – allegedly sent by Weiner to a 15-year-old. The FBI’s investigation has given Trump’s campaign a new lease of life. "Hillary Clinton’s corruption is of the scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the oval office. I am so grateful that the FBI and the justice department are willing to right the horrible mistake that they made," said Trump, welcoming the move.

Here’s a look at what the controversy is about.

From 2009 to 2013, Hillary Clinton reportedly used a personal server and email address, during her tenure as secretary of state. She also reportedly set up email addresses for her aide Huma Abedin and the chief of staff for the State Department Cheryl Mills. Critics claim Clinton compromised national security as she exchanged classified information on a personal server. Experts argue that this is a legally grey area as federal laws during the period were unclear about use of private emails and did not set any punishment for violations. The story, however, has been a central election issue.

The FBI’s decision has come as sort of shock since the probe agency had in July this year, ruled out charging Clinton because it could find no evidence of intentional misconduct. Top democrats are now accusing FBI director James Comey of undermining a convention that government agencies don’t make political interventions - within 60 days of an election. Making a departure from the norm, the FBI chief even made a statement - explaining his actions.

With more than 6,50,000 emails set to be re-examined, the chance of getting a resolution before voting day can be easily ruled out.

This, however, is not the only controversy the Clinton camp has had to deal with. From reportedly waiving off security clearance requirements for the CIA facility in Benghazi to charges of intimidating women who allegedly had sexual relations with her husband - former president Bill Clinton, Hillary’s campaign has so far overcome many scandals. In fact, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which first erupted in the late '90s, continues to haunt the former first lady till date. "It was very difficult, I was supported by my friends... it was something you just had to get up and deal with while dealing with public responsibilities. It was very very difficult," said the former first lady in a television interview.

Here’s a closer look at skeletons from her husband’s and her own closet that Hillary has had to deal with - during her campaign. In 1995, 21 year old Monica Lewinsky, an intern in the office of the President’s Chief of Staff reportedly started having an affair with President Bill Clinton. The two reportedly had intimate sexual relations – but the affair ended in 1997 after another former Clinton worker Paula Jones accused the President of sexual harassment. Bill Clinton rejected the allegations, but was later investigated by a grand jury and admitted to having inappropriate intimate contact with Lewinsky.

And it wasn’t just a personal setback for the Clintons back then. In 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction to justice during a law suit against him - both relating to Monica Lewinsky. He was acquitted by the US Senate in 1999. Bill Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval ratings of any US President since World War II- and many say - it was partly because of the front that he managed to maintain with his wife.

From standing by and supporting her President husband as he faced charges of sexual misconduct - Hillary has come a long way to even joking about her experiences in public. While taking oath for Secretary of State in front of a packed audience, Hillary said ‘I couldn’t have come this far without the three people who are standing by me…my mother…my daughter who I’m bursting with maternal pride over and my husband who understands the responsibilities ...I’m so grateful to him for a lifetime of all kinds of experiences.’

The Whitewater scandal is another skeleton that Hillary is often cornered on- where the Clintons were accused of impropriety- concerning improper campaign contributions in 1992, political and financial favours and tax benefits. The various controversies surrounding the Clintons have made Hillary an easy target- for her Republican opponent Donald Trump- who never seems to miss out an opportunity to call her corrupt. ‘Have you been seeing the Hillary Clinton documents released by wikileaks? The election of Hillary Clinton will lead to the destruction of our country- and she would be the most dishonest and corrupt person elected to high office’, Trump was heard saying at a convention.

More recently, Clinton’s health became a major election issue after the Democratic nominee seemed to have collapsed during a nine-eleven memorial service. This video of her being almost carried to her car followed up a coughing episode. It led to conspiracy theories about the 68 year old hiding a serious ailment. Her opponent Trump was quick to pick up the incident and use it to showcase how the democrat was a weak and old woman- compared to his testosterone filled- chest thumping self.

"Here’s someone who needs to deal with important things and she can’t even walk 15 feet to her car. She’s home resting. She’ll wake up three days later and make a 15 minute long speech," Trump said while vigorously gesticulating a day after the incident. The attack on Hillary’s health and physical capabilities to take on the responsibilities of the US President were clearly sexist in nature- and saw President Barack Obama coming out and making a strong statement in support of his party candidate.

Speaking to a television network Obama said Hillary’s temperament and health were being played up in the same fashion as his birth certificate. "I think the equivalent will be - 'She’s tired. She’s moody. She’s being emotional. When men become ambitious, its considered okay, but when women become ambitious she has to face sexist stereotypes’ the president said.

Critics say the choice for the American people in this election is between the lesser of two evils. While Hillary Clinton brings with her a huge baggage – from decades spent in public life – Trump is the showman who believes in shooting from his mouth and has hit headlines for hate-provoking sexist and racist comments.

The race to the White House and never been so exciting and scandalous before with both nominees managing to side-step allegations of all sorts - from sex crimes to compromising national security.

It's been a dirty fight to the finish line - with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump indulging in no-holds-barred attacks. Here’s a look at some of the dirtiest personal attacks we’ve seen on the campaign trail. This exchange between the two during a presidential debate displayed how vitriolic the campaign has become.

Donald Trump: "When you talk about apology - you should be apologising from the 33,000 emails that are missing - if I win - I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your case... you acid wash emails... you ought to be ashamed of yourself."

Hillary Clinton: "Please do a fact check, we’re just glad someone like Trump is not incharge of our country."

Donald Trump: "Yes, because you would be in jail."

After the Washington post recently published a 2005 audio recording of Trump speaking about women in lewd terms and boasting about sexually assaulting them, he promptly issued an apology but couldn’t leave Hillary out of it. Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff were quick to pick on the controversy and as expected gave the Democrat’s prospects a huge boost.

The slander apart, crucial domestic issues like the economic slowdown, increasingly unemployment, health care and social security will play a crucial role. However, it is the foreign policy projections of the nominees that other super powers are eying. For India – experts say – Trump won’t spell a boom in bilateral ties.

The Republican’s announcement of initiating a tough immigration policy and hiking the minimum wage paid to H1B visa holders would not only reduce job opportunities for Indians but also decline remittance that India receives from NRIs. Trump saying that he will ban Muslims from entering US has also sent alarm bells ringing in India which has the second largest Muslim population in the world. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, enjoys personal relationship with India which started with her first visit in 1995. It is widely believed that she played an important role in reviving the India-US relationship when her husband was the US President. Hillary co-haired the Senate India Caucus and supported the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement.

Her strong stand against Pakistan for failing to act against terrorist on its soil has won her a lot of support in India. In fact, experts also say that if elected President, Hillary Clinton could ease the H1B visa application process for Indians.

In a toss up between the two, the democratic nominee is likely to find more support in India compared to her Republican counterpart - but then again it's not a call that Indians have to take. A young girl from a humble background who rose from being the star of Yale Law School to the secretary of state of the United States of America, Hillary Clinton, has come a long way. She’s known for breaking stereotypes - right from demanding an office for the first lady in the West Wing to unabashedly making her political ambitions clear from the start - in a world where women, especially first ladies, were seen mere companions to the most powerful men in the world.

She’s the first woman to be elected as the nominee for a major political party and a win for her will make her the first woman president of the United States.

Writer

Seemi Pasha Seemi Pasha @seemi_pasha

Associate Editor/Anchor at India Today Television.

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