Nixon down. People identified with Mr. While Mr. Clinton was not, in the end, ousted from office, his public image was permanently altered by the highly graphic — and more to the point, specific — descriptions that Mr. Starr and his team provided. Approximately one year later, when George W. Bush campaigned for president on a message of restoring dignity to the Oval Office, it resonated — and forced Al Gore to distance himself from Mr.
Clinton — in part because voters could not unsee what Mr. Starr had told them about his target. At the time, Mr.
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Starr justified the inclusion of that explicit material by saying it was necessary to legally prove that Mr. Clinton had perjured himself. But the details served a political — and narrative — purpose too. An abstract, vague summary of Mr.
Lewinsky would not have left remotely the same mark on Mr. That distinction between legal relevance and political impact came up again after the election between Mr. Bush and his Democratic opponent, Mr. Gore, ended with a statistical tie in the state of Florida. As the recount process that was supposed to resolve the deadlock revved into action on Nov. It was an elegantly tragic story, particularly since Mr.
Making a Way Out of No Way
And while it turned out to be legally insignificant — there was no remedy for the problem, and no way for the lost Gore votes to be given back to him — the butterfly ballot became an instantly iconic symbol of everything that had gone wrong in Florida. And, as close observers of the recount learned over the course of those 36 days, there was a lot that went wrong in Florida — but most of it was quite bureaucratic in nature and difficult for Democratic spokespeople to explain with any flair or emotion.
The butterfly ballot, on the other hand, was easy to understand, and it provided Mr. Gore a strong basis on which to keep fighting what was otherwise an uphill battle.
Roughly 20 years later, the butterfly ballot is still the main thing most people remember about the election. Which brings us to Mr. Trump, a political figure whose instinctive feel for suspense, spectacle and phrasing has made him a permanent resident in all of our brains. Over the course of his almost three years as President, the former host of The Apprentice has demonstrated an ability to prevail upon damning allegations, strangling them in the cradle while hanging all kinds of impossibly sticky story lines and conspiracy theories around the necks of his political opponents.
Over the past week, however, Mr. One way to understand how this happened: Mr. Trump took what had been a devilishly tricky and sprawling narrative about election interference and collusion — one that special counsel Robert Mueller struggled to effectively explain in his page report — and boiled it down to one brief, secret phone call. As Mr. Trump probably knows, it makes for a damn powerful story. Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter.
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