Five Amazing Political Comebacks
Politicians who went from disgraced public figure to treasured leader.
Comebacks of the political or entertainment realm tend to puzzle audiences. They’ll ask, “How is it that this person came back from that?”
Singer Chris Brown can enjoy pop music success after his violent fall from grace. Actors can land Oscar-winning roles after a string of low budget flops. Politicians can become better known for their work after leaving office in scandal.
These phoenix moments happen, I think, because the sorts of mistakes made by these public figures are relatable. While not everyone will sympathize, a good portion of the public can look beyond a figure's transgressions if it appears image rehabilitation is attempted in earnest. A full recovery doesn’t always happen, but any progress helps in a state of infamy.
Here are five examples, in no particular order:
He’s D.C.’s “mayor-for-life.” (Granted, you may have no clue who this guy if you were born in the 1990’s.) Marion Barry was first elected mayor of the nation’s capitol in 1979. After enjoying great success and popularity in his first term, the two terms drew nasty criticism and questions of Barry's drug abuse. A videotaped FBI drug sting caught the Barry in the infamous “b*tch set me up” moment. After a 6 month federal jail, the ever-popular Barry later went back to mayoralty and serving on D.C.’s city council.
It was Lewinskygate to bring down the nation’s 42nd president. Bill Clinton enjoyed popularity as a well-liked, personable politician in the early 1990’s. His tryst with a 25-year-old White House intern turned the people’s house – and Washington’s political establishment – upside down. When the dust settled, Clinton finished his second term in office and launched some of the most impressive humanitarian efforts attempted by former U.S. presidents. The Clinton Global Initiative was key in mobilizing aid to Haiti, following the massive earthquake in 2009.
Believe it or not, Newton Leroy Gingrich has made a political comeback that rivals the others on this list. Gingrich was Speaker of the House during President Bill Clinton’s second term in office. Gingrich saw political success for his “Contract with America,” a plan that championed welfare reform, among several other conservative aims. But Gingrich fell out of favor after he was sanctioned for ethics violations as Speaker. He also led the charge to impeach Clinton for lying about his Monica Lewinsky, while also carry out his own affair. Gingrich’s rise and viable presidential bid stems from his unmatched political experience and policy expertise. Regaining favor with Washington’s insider crowd as a lobbyist didn’t hurt either.
As the 45th Vice President of the United States of America, Al Gore took several shots for President Bill Clinton. Gore was the ultimate casualty, when the Clinton administration finished its second term in office writhing from the sting of a sex scandal and impeachment. Still, Gore built up enough favor to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2000. His loss to President George W. Bush, as dictated by the U.S. Supreme Court, dealt an even bigger blow. Some in the general public felt Gore did not fight vigorously enough to see his win of the popular vote prevail over suspicious counting errors in Florida. Fast forward years later, Gore is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, an Oscar winner, a Grammy winner and founder of a successful cable TV channel.
This two-term mayor of New York City was despised by constituents before national tragedy struck. Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994 and led an unprecedented clean up of city crime. Although much of it was a sharp reduction of minor offences, New York City saw its crime index drop below the national average. Minorities, the working class poor and immigrants were the hardest hit by the crackdown. They and many other New Yorkers soured on Giuliani’s leadership, despising him as mayor until Sept. 11, 2001. Giuliani became a nationally beloved figure for a media image, portraying him as a consummate protector and comforter of those affected by the attacks at the World Trade Center. Giuliani enjoyed that popularity right up until a failed bid for president in the 2008 election cycle.