Dems Finally Hate the Clintons, But What Have They Really Learned?

by Gina Cobb | January 26, 2008 11:59 am

Democrats who apparently support Barack Obama are becoming angrier and more vocal by the day in their condemnation of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

First up for your reading pleasure is Jonathan Chait at the Los Angeles Times, with Is the Right Right on the Clintons[1]?

Something strange happened the other day. All these different people — friends, co-workers, relatives, people on a liberal e-mail list I read — kept saying the same thing: They’ve suddenly developed a disdain for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but I think we’ve reached an irrevocable turning point in liberal opinion of the Clintons.

The sentiment seems to be concentrated among Barack Obama supporters. Going into the campaign, most of us liked Hillary Clinton just fine, but the fact that tens of millions of Americans are seized with irrational loathing for her suggested that she might not be a good Democratic nominee. But now that loathing seems a lot less irrational. We’re not frothing Clinton haters like … well, name pretty much any conservative. We just really wish they’d go away.

The big turning point seems to be this week, when the Clintons slammed Obama for acknowledging that Ronald Reagan changed the country. Everyone knows Reagan changed the country. Bill and Hillary have said he changed the country. But they falsely claimed that Obama praised Reagan’s ideas, saying he was a better president than Clinton — something he didn’t say and surely does not believe.

This might have been the most egregious case, but it wasn’t the first. Before the New Hampshire primaries, Clinton supporters e-mailed pro-choice voters claiming that Obama was suspect on abortion rights because he had voted “present” instead of “no” on some votes. (In fact, the president of the Illinois chapter of Planned Parenthood said she had coordinated strategy with Obama and wanted him to vote “present.”) Recently, there have been waves of robocalls in South Carolina repeatedly attacking “Barack Hussein Obama.”

. . . . The Clinton campaign is trying to make it seem as if the complaint is about negativity, and it is pointing out that Obama has criticized Hillary as well. That’s what politicians are supposed to do when they compete for votes. But criticism isn’t the same thing as lying and sleaze-mongering.

Am I starting to sound like a Clinton hater? It’s a scary thought.

Mind you, Chait quickly draws back from the horrifying thought that conservatives might have been right about the Clintons all along by reassuring himself that the attacks Clinton made on conservatives back when Bill Clinton was having his bimbo eruption-Monica Lewinsky-perjury problem were surely well founded. Yet he admits what has finally become obvious to him:

But the conservatives might have had a point about the Clintons’ character. Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinsky jeopardized the whole progressive project for momentary pleasure. The Clintons gleefully triangulated the Democrats in Congress to boost his approval rating. They do seem to have a feeling of entitlement to power.

If Hillary wins the nomination, most of us will probably vote for her because the alternative is likely to be worse. But what happens if she’s embroiled in another scandal? Will liberals rally behind her, or will they remember the Democratic primary?

Next up for your reading pleasure, from Bruce Feirstein at Vanity Fair: Bill Clinton, Nasty Man[2]

Time to face an inconvenient truth: Bill Clinton is running for a third term.

. . . . In watching Bill Clinton’s latest mini-meltdown on CNN–set off by a reporter asking him to comment on a complaint by the former head of the South Carolina Democratic party that the 42nd president was engaging in the “politics of deception” used by the late (and much reviled) Republican strategist Lee Atwater–Clinton’s response offered an unusual lens into the powder-keg that is our former commander-in-chief: Starting with an almost jocular dismissal of the accusation, he then proceeded to wind himself up into a finger-pointing fury, attacking Barack Obama, painting himself as the victim, and generally blaming the press for everything, before walking away with the taunt, “Shame on you.”

It was not, well, presidential.

By now, we’ve all seen the Clinton ground game in South Carolina and can pretty much map out the dance steps: Anticipating a loss, Hillary scoots out of town; her minions start downplaying the importance of the contest (at least until they get called on it, and have to unwind the spin), while Bill trots around South Carolina like some kind of thuggish company hit-man, attacking Obama’s character, provoking him on race, dissembling about his record, and attempting to diminish–and dismiss–the appeal of Obama’s candidacy by predicting that he’ll win because of the black vote. Ergo, he’s a single-constituency candidate. And the goal is to triangulate him into oblivion.

It’s the same old Clinton game, over and over: The Iowa caucuses were important until they weren’t; South Carolina was key until they were going to lose. There is no yesterday that can’t be rewritten; there is no consideration about the blowback from all this tomorrow. The only thing that matters is winning, or appearing to win, at no matter what cost, today.

For me, the most damning part of this week’s mini-meltdown wasn’t the lecture about the media being at fault for everything, or even the seemingly offhanded, passive-aggressive swipe that “When he put out a hit job on me at the same time he called her the senator from Punjab, I never said a word. And I don’t care about it today. I’m not upset about it.” Because, for me, the really damning thing was a series of sentences he uttered just before the Punjab remark, referring to complaints about the Clinton campaign in Nevada:

“It’s okay. And we’re not hung up about it. And we won anyway. We fought hard. And we won.”

In other words, We are running for president. Not Hillary. Not the junior senator from New York. But We–Bill and Hillary–in a de facto end-run around the 22nd Amendment.

Watching the Democrats debate in South Carolina, I was struck by the heated “I’m here. He’s not” exchange between Senators Obama and Clinton because it so perfectly encapsulates the problem with the two Clintons: Bill is out there with a shiv–presumably with the full countenance of his wife–while Hillary deftly manages to avoid being held accountable for him, or taking any responsibility herself. And therein lies my real issue, should this hydra-headed candidacy succeed: Bill Clinton will always be there. He’ll always be larger than life. And, if the last few weeks have demonstrated anything, we’ll never know who’s really calling the shots.

From where I sit in California, where Senator Clinton is currently ahead in the polls, Bill Clinton’s behavior over the past fortnight has struck me as sordid and undignified. And his de facto back-door attempt to retake the presidency is nothing short of unseemly.

The epiphany on the left is all fun to watch, but I have a few reservations. The most important of them is that Democrats who are slowly coming to hate the Clintons are doing exactly what the left does all too well in recent years — they hate.

They hate. They burn with hate. They are furious..

The list of people they deeply loathe is wide and deep. It goes on and on and on.

President George W. Bush. Vice President Dick Cheney. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Paula Jones. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Rick Santorum. Karen Hughes. Karl Rove. Tom Delay. Rush Limbaugh. Sean Hannity. Newt Gingrich. Ann Coulter. Bill O’Reilly. Dennis Hastert. Mitch McConnell. Paul Wolfowitz. Lynne Cheney. Donald Rumsfeld. General David Petraeus

Hatred is so easy for today’s left. And it’s not minor dislike; it’s total loathing. The left is strong in hate.

So finally, belatedly, and only when it suits their immediate political interest in electing Barack Obama, some Dems hate the Clintons. They finally understand what they deliberately chose not to understand when their embarrassment of a president embarrassed the nation.

But the left is still missing the most important part of what conservatism has to offer. They’ve missed out on the optimism, the realistic hope, and the belief in the competency of individuals that is at the heart of conservatism.

They don’t understand. They don’t understand that every human being has the spark of excellence, that there is such a thing as a “soft bigotry of low expectations,” that no child should be left behind or need be left behind, that no child should be sucked down an abortionist’s sink, that every life is precious, that 95% to 99% of adults are perfectly capable of supporting themselves without handouts, and that government is not the answer to every problem.

They don’t understand that our best days are still ahead of us, that America is still a shining beacon of hope to the world and a city on a hill whose light cannot help but shine to the farthest corners of the world, that free markets work and that freedom is America’s strength . . . they still understand little or none of this.

Many of them haven’t been to church, synagogue, or other place of worship in years, if ever. Many of them hate the church, too. If there is a religious imperative against carrying smoldering embers of hate within one’s chest 24/7, they are unaware of it.

Has the left always been this filled with hate? I don’t think so. Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to teach a form of nonviolent resistance that specifically involved repaying unkindness with decency. I can’t speak to that era entirely, so I won’t. I’ll give the left the benefit of the doubt that in its past there were plenty of moments of charity, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and decency. But where has it gone?

Today, the passion of the left is reserved for hate. Today’s angry left finally sees the Clintons’ pattern of deceit, but does it know anything of the alternative? Those on angry left are mired in their cesspool of hate, compounded by a large does of hopelessness and despair.

Nobody can live that way for long. When Democrats held the Congress and the presidency — or at least one of the branches — they could get by. Angry Democrats were still filled with hate, but at least they felt they had a measure of power and could try to improve the world in the way that they understood it.

If Obama wins the nomination, don’t look for any changes on the left. But in the more likely event that Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, there will be an agonizing turning point. Democrats who have realized who the Clintons are will have to decide to support Hillary Clinton and turn the full force of their hatred back on the right again. But can they? A mind, once stretched, doesn’t always fit back into its previous container.

It will be interesting to see how this struggle on the left between hatred and optimism, between denial and realization, plays out.


Gina’s website is here: GINA COBB[3]

  1. Is the Right Right on the Clintons:,0,7890763.column
  2. Bill Clinton, Nasty Man:

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