A curious parallel is emerging between Kenneth Starr's ill-fated prosecution of Bill Clinton and Robert Mueller's attempts to get Donald Trump.
Both special prosecutors initially pursued serious allegations: The Whitewater scandal and Russian collusion with Trump. Both indicted, convicted, and sent important ancillary figures to prison: Jim Guy Tucker, governor of Arkansas and Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager.
And then, when their investigations stalled, they sidetracked into a sex-related scandal: Lewinsky and Michael Cohen's payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels.
The public reacted angrily to Starr's focus on Monica. They questioned why tens of millions of tax dollars were being spent on a sex scandal. As hard as Republicans tried to make the case that it was about perjury, the public still believed it was about sex.
Despite impeaching the president, Republicans scored no gains in the 1998 midterm election.
Now, I believe, Americans may question why Mueller is spending our tax money to go after Cohen for his payments to Daniels. As much as the Democrats try to say it’s about election law violations, the public will say it’s about payments to cover up sex. And it may backfire on Mueller and the Democrats.
The reason for the backlash in 1998 and, possibly, in 2018 is the same: American parents do not want sex scandals to play out in front of their children on the nightly news. They don't want to see it, read it, or hear about it.
The mainstream media does not understand their point of view. To them, such scandal is daily fare and nothing unusual or repellent. They report the developments with a straight face.
But, in flyover country, they don't treat it that way.
They understand that Trump may have cheated on his wife (wives) and that he might pay to try to keep it quiet. They don't think its a big deal and are not about to change their opinion of a president who is so manifestly succeeding because of these changes, anymore than they were willing to turn their backs on Bill Clinton's record of economic achievement because of his involvement with Lewinsky, no matter how much Republicans shouted perjury.
The same may be happening now.