In a word, no.
This is wrong on multiple levels.
It simply is not true that Bill Clinton was our first President of less than sterling character. One would have a hard time arguing that he is any less personally admirable than, say, Lyndon B. Johnson or Richard M. Nixon.
Nor is he our first President to be a world class swinger, although admittedly he may have been our first President whose philandering ways were public knowledge when he was elected. Furthermore, Democrats still don't consider simple promiscuity to more than a private failing, so long as it is all consensual.
And although Clinton always had a vaguely sleazy vibe, Republicans spent four years examining every aspect of his life in microscopic detail, and the only grounds they could find for impeachment was his attempt to conceal foolish but consensual affair. Significantly, all attempts to trash Hillary were for post-Presidential conduct, the Clintons' conduct before and during their stay in the White House having been thoroughly examined and turning up nothing, at least on Hillary.
I am willing to concede Clinton's detractors a few points:
- Democrats, after losing three successive elections by landslides and fearing they would be permanently shut out of the White House, were probably too quick to circle the wagons around their leader.
- Small lies, like claiming that he smoked marijuana but didn't inhale, can be signs of a more serious honesty problem.
- It is becoming increasingly clear that men who are unrestrainedly promiscuous are often none too fastidious about consent.*
- The affair with Monica Lewinsky, though consensual, was inappropriate on many levels.
- Clinton's post-Presidency behavior -- monetizing his name and connections -- is sleazy but all too common among former office holders. Doing so while his wife was was still an office holder really is a new level of impropriety.
Still, comparing Clinton to Trump is absurd. Consider:
- Bill Clinton is knowledgeable about policy and issues. Trump knows nothing, shows no interest in learning, and holds his ignorance up as proof of virtue.
- Clinton's past career was thoroughly combed over by Congressional Republicans and Ken Starr while he was in the White House for any impropriety, all to no avail. Much of Trump's past career remains secret, but journalists using public records have found ample evidence that it is rife with fraud. Congressional Republicans, of course, are indifferent.
- Clinton's career in the White house was also thoroughly investigated for abuse of power, and none was found. Once again, Republicans are studiously ignoring all evidence of abuse of power in the Trump White House even when it is screaming in their faces.
- Clinton told many petty, over-technical lies, like saying that he smoked but didn't inhale, and or that he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky but it didn't meet the technical definition of sex. His lies nonetheless at least (A) had some basis in fact and (B) had discernably rational motive. Trump, on the other hand, spouts so many outrageous whoppers that it is by no means clear he has any concept of the distinction between fact and fantasy.
- Clinton made not attempt to use the Justice Department to protect his friends and persecute his enemies.
- Clinton did not claim that the Attorney General's proper job was to protect the President when he was accused of wrongdoing.
- Clinton did not have extensive investments the world over that constantly created the impression of at least the appearance of impropriety.
- Clinton never treated the federal government as his own private property.
But the most important difference is not so much in the leaders as in the followers. No one, so far as I know, supported Bill Clinton because they admired his promiscuity and lies so much. They supported Clinton because they liked his policies, or because they were desperate to know that some sort of Democrat could be elected President. His lies and philandering were merely distasteful baggage that went along with the good stuff.
I realize that most of the conservative/ Republican elite feels the same way about Trump.
But his "base" are a different matter altogether. Simply put, they like Trump because all the people who they hate hate him. They like Trump because he pisses off liberals. They like him because he sides with Us against Them. And in the end, championing Us against Them is all that matters. And once it comes down to that, the only morality is maximum immorality towards one's enemies. Every evidence of what an immoral guy Trump is is seen as a plus by his supporters because they know he will direct it all against their enemies. In other words, they love him, not despite all the worst traits in his character but because of them, and the worse Trump is, the more his supporters like him.
And that really is something new and unprecedented.
*This includes Bill Clinton, who has been plausibly accused of rape by Juanita Broaderick, although this did not become public until after the impeachment trial.