For some reason, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait has a column in the Los Angeles Times. His latest is very revealing. About Chait.
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.
No, actually, you are frothing. And then he goes through the usual litany of Clinton crimes against humanity, most of them dumbed down to the Hillary-hater talking points.
I crossed the Clinton Rubicon a couple of weeks ago when, in the course of introducing Hillary, Clinton supporter and Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson invoked Obama's youthful drug use. This was disgusting on its own terms, but worse still if you know anything about Johnson. I do -- I once wrote a long profile of him. He has a sleazy habit of appropriating the logic of civil rights for his own financial gain. He also has a habit of aiding conservative crusades to eliminate the estate tax and privatize Social Security by falsely claiming they redistribute wealth from African Americans to whites. The episode reminded me of the Clintons' habit of surrounding themselves with the most egregious characters: Dick Morris, Marc Rich and so on.
Agreed that the Clintons should have nothing to do with Johnson, but perhaps Chait should pay more attention to his own words. Johnson's an asshole and a loose cannon; no one needs put him up to anything. As Walter Shapiro wrote:
It is implausible that Clinton (or anyone else in her campaign) whispered to Johnson backstage, "Bob, be sure to mention that coke thing." As political surrogates, billionaires -- just like big-name actors -- are the sort of ego-driven figures who are far too self-assured to follow the make-no-waves scripts provided by a campaign.
But Chait blithers on:
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.
Senator from Punjab? Axelrod on Bhutto? Jesse Jackson, Jr. on Hillary Clinton's tears, and Katrina? Of course, Hillary usually apologizes when her surrogates go off the rails. Obama?
Am I starting to sound like a Clinton hater? It's a scary thought. Of course, to conservatives, it's a delicious thought. The Wall Street Journal published a gloating editorial noting that liberals had suddenly learned "what everyone else already knows about the Clintons." (By "everyone," it means Republicans.)
It made me wonder: Were the conservatives right about Bill Clinton all along? Maybe not right to set up a perjury trap so they could impeach him, but right about the Clintons' essential nature? Fortunately, the Journal's attempt to convince us that the Clintons have always been unscrupulous liars seemed to prove the opposite. Its examples of Clintonian lies were their claims that Bob Dole wanted to cut Medicare, that there was a vast right-wing conspiracy, that Paula Jones was "trailer trash" and that Kenneth Starr was a partisan.
Um. Yes, you are starting to sound like a right wing Clinton hater. Reading some Obama bloggers is more and more reminiscent of reading Peggy Noonan or Ken Starr. And Chait fits right in. And that says everything. But not about the Clintons. Who remain very popular, overall, despite the recent media pile-on.
Except Dole did vote to cut Medicare, there was a vast right-wing conspiracy and Starr was and is a rabid partisan. ("Trailer trash" is, of course, a matter of opinion, and it's a cruel thing to say, but as far as whether it's a lie -- well, it's not like they called William F. Buckley "trailer trash.")
Now, I don't like the "trailer trash" pejorative, but it is, essentially, why the Beltway crowd never liked the Clintons. They see Bill Clinton as what they deem to be "trailer trash."
So maybe the answer is that the Clintons would have smeared their opponents in the 1990s, but lying is unnecessary when the other party is doing things such as voting to slash Medicare to pay for a big tax cut for the rich.
Okay, I'm confused, here. So, Clinton's lies weren't actually lies, but he would have smeared if he'd had to smear? Because he's just that kind of guy, right?
And then there's more shrill opinion, Monica's name is invoked, along with "triangulation," "a feeling of entitlement," and everything else. And he closes with more hyperbolic speculation: will liberals again support the Clintons, should Hillary be "embroiled in another scandal?"
Here's a clue, Jon: the Clintons are probably the most-investigated couple in American history. The only scandals were the media's endless attempts to create some. For all the time and money the FBI, the rabid Republican Congress, and Ken Starr spent investigating the Clintons, all they came up with was the blue dress. Get it? Even if you think our great National Fellatio Crisis actually mattered, that makes one scandal. Singular. And yet, Chait and everyone else continues to blather about scandals- plural. So, maybe a President Hillary Clinton won't become "embroiled" in "another" "scandal" if the media doesn't again help create the illusion of one.
I'm not supporting Hillary Clinton for president, but the more the usual suspects resort to their usual tactics, the more I warm to the idea her winning.