Among the Hillary haters


While reading this, I felt like I was having PTSD flashbacks. This is what politics has come down to: who can lie most effectively. Ugh.

And just in case it’s not obvious, all these accusations were eventually discredited.

But a host of other anti-Clinton groups and individuals operate by the anything-goes rules of the 1990s. In 2008, Citizens United brought us Hillary: The Movie, in which Kathleen Willey, one of Bill’s alleged mistresses, claimed that the Clintons contracted someone to murder her cat. The group’s upcoming Benghazi movie is likely to be comparably over the top. The New Hampshire–based Hillary Project, meanwhile, describes itself as dedicated to “waging war on Hillary’s image.” So far, this has primarily involved putting lewd captions on unflattering pictures of Clinton (“Learned Foreign Affairs From Bill: Won’t Pull Out Until Finished”).

Garrett Marquis is a senior adviser at the Stop Hillary PAC. He is only 31 years old, but he can reel off the 1990s scandals as fluidly as R. Emmett Tyrrell can. His goal, he says, is to introduce Millennials to “the reality of who she is, not who she says she is.” (The group’s treasurer, Dan Backer, is blunter still: “The Hillary brand is bull——,” he told The Washington Post.) An ad the group shot last year, using the kind of ominous voice-over and grainy footage that the History Channel reserves for major war criminals, offers a stroll down memory lane: Whitewater, Vince Foster, Travelgate, the Rose Law Firm, Benghazi. (The Rose Law Firm—gives you shivers, right?) With the exception of Benghazi, it’s hard to envision any of these gaining much traction with the voting public. They didn’t, after all, back when Bill Clinton was president, and now they have the added problem of being ancient history—especially for Millennials. “Conservatives will recycle old scandals, and it will hurt them, just like it did in the ’90s,” says Christopher Ruddy, who is rueful about the excesses of his reporting at the time. “People like me constantly firing at her made a lot of other people rally to her support.”

“Women cut other women a lot of slack when it comes to infidelity,” says one GOP operative. “We just have to be careful we’re not doing anything that makes [Clinton] a sympathetic character.”
But even the Stop Hillary PAC ad declines to mention the more memorable scandals, involving Bill’s infidelity: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and Monica Lewinsky. Conversations on this topic prompted the most agony in the researchers I spoke with. On the one hand, revisiting those old sex scandals—and perhaps even uncovering new ones—could be rich territory in an era with much less tolerance for sexual harassment. Jones and Lewinsky, for instance, would look more like straightforward victims now; lumping them together as “bimbo eruptions” (in the Clinton aide Betsey Wright’s infamous phrasing) would be highly offensive.

On the other hand, Bill is not the one running for office, and many in the GOP think talk about his sex life could backfire. “Women cut other women a lot of slack when it comes to infidelity,” says Katie Gage. “We just have to be careful we’re not doing anything that makes [Clinton] a sympathetic character.” Some women could see her as a victim, and others—including the married white women whom Republicans want to hold on to—could identify with her as a fellow scarred warrior on the battlefield of marriage. Some might admire her for keeping her marriage intact for so long, and ultimately winding up as the spouse in a position of power.

Figuring out which of the Clinton scandals still feel relevant and which don’t is a work in progress, and The Washington Free Beacon functions as a kind of laboratory for throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. The online paper’s editor, Matthew Continetti, is also in his early 30s, but he has that young-old-man look in the way of conservatives: sport coat, shellacked hair, everything but the bow tie. We met for lunch at the Bombay Club, where he dines often and the waiters know what he likes. Continetti started out at The Weekly Standard and became the son-in-law of its founder, William Kristol. But he split off on his own because while he was interested in Republican trench warfare, he was also interested in pop culture and GIFs and memes and generally operating with a faster metabolism.

The Free Beacon has experimented with pretty much every form of Clinton attack: she’s an old radical; she makes excuses for her cheating husband; she lied about Benghazi; her book sales tanked. In September, the site published a newly discovered 1971 letter from an adoring young Hillary Clinton to the left-wing organizer Saul Alinsky. “Dear Saul,” she began. “When is that new book [Rules for Radicals] coming out—or has it come and I somehow missed the fulfillment of Revelation?” The story was accompanied by a familiar photo of college-age Hillary with her Gloria Steinem hair. Continetti says he published the correspondence “because it’s something we haven’t seen before.” But so far, it hasn’t gotten much traction. Hillary the radical college leftist mostly just creates cognitive dissonance with who she is now, a distinguished elder, an ex-senator and ex–secretary of state with a sometimes hawkish bent who has banked $5 million in speaking fees and a rumored $14 million advance for Hard Choices.

Matthew Continetti, Bill Kristol's son-in-law.
Matthew Continetti, Bill Kristol’s son-in-law.

The Free Beacon is perhaps most true to its Millennial self when it drops the Little Rock excavation and just pokes fun at Clinton. As Continetti explains, “I see her as a high-school teacher I really dislike, who can do you harm but you can still snigger about behind her back.” The clearest image that emerges from The Free Beacon’s coverage is of Clinton not as a radical leftist or an injured wife or even a jet-setting member of the global elite, but rather as just a boring old politician. Continetti recalled listening to Bill Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention and, despite himself, nodding along. “I couldn’t help myself!” But Hillary “lacks that hypnotic quality,” he told me. When Hard Choices came out, The Free Beacon took the rare step of quoting a liberal CNN commentator, Sally Kohn, because she said the memoir looked like “a yawner.” In a 2014 column, Continetti wrote that Clinton “represents the past,” which is among the gentlest ways the paper has referred to her age. Other articles have proclaimed: “Affluent Grandmother Is 2016 Frontrunner,” “Memory Problems Could Doom Hillary’s White House Run,” and “Grandmother Hillary Clinton, 67, is vying to become one of the oldest world leaders in history.” When People magazine put her on its cover, The Free Beacon’s editors gleefully dived into the debate about whether she was leaning on a walker in the photo. (Her hands were, in fact, on a patio chair.)

But while this age-based approach may work for an online newspaper that delights in tabloid antics, whether a GOP presidential candidate can adopt it is another question altogether. The 2016 Republican field has the obvious advantage of including several faces who are younger and newer to politics. Marco Rubio, the 43-year-old senator from Florida and a possible contender, did recently try out a more dignified version of the age critique, calling Clinton “a 20th-century candidate” who “does not offer an agenda for moving America forward in the 21st century.” Katie Gage, from Burning Glass, advises staying far away from direct questions about Clinton’s age. She told me that even Republican-leaning women her firm talks with immediately cite some version of “Ronald Reagan was old, and he ran for president.” The idea that women have an expiration date and men don’t is especially sensitive. At the same time, Gage says there are tactful ways to suggest that Clinton is out of touch: “You can talk about the age of her ideas,” as Rubio did. It’s also fair to point out that she hasn’t generated much excitement or buzz, “that young women don’t necessarily feel even the connection with her that they felt with Barack Obama.” And, Gage adds, “when [Clinton] talks about how she and her husband sit around and watch Antiques Roadshow, well, it’s just not seen as that cool.”

6 thoughts on “Among the Hillary haters

  1. Reading that was a waste of six minutes of my time that I’ll never get back. The point of it escapes me.
    We all know that the Right hates the Clinton’s. Hell, the Right hates anybody who isn’t the Right. We all know that those on the Right will never vote for any Clinton. So what?
    Clinton’s problem isn’t with the Right. Her problem is with the Left.
    In 2016 the Left will do one of two things. They will vote for a third party presidential candidate or they won’t vote at all if Clinton is the nominee. They will not vote for Clinton. If the Clintonites and the Democratic Party believe that they can beat the Republican candidate without the support of the Left then more power to them. But if they don’t, then the Democratic Party had better rethink nominating Clinton.
    Sanders in 2016. Either as a Democrat of as an Independent.

  2. Sanders? Dream on IM.

    That smug idiot who hated his high school teacher and sniggered at her behind her back because he’s a cowardly little weiner that’ll never get the girls? He can kiss my flabby white 60-year old as$.

  3. Nicely-Nicely, the object of this exercise may not get Sanders elected, but it will defeat Clinton. That’s the goal if the Democrats don’t straighten up and fly right. No more Clinton’s or Bush’s. We’ve had enough of dynastic politics.

  4. I won’t vote her, Though I will vote. I saw too many guys dir forty years ago not to.
    I don’t know how much of the amplication of the past thirteen years, or of the earlier Clinton years I can handle without turning to a real raging asshole, as opposed to the raging asshole I pretend to be here. That those who support her would put the rest of us through that demostrates they have as little interest in the good of the country as the Retards.

  5. Not my pick for President, but like W-S in Florida I don’t see a challenger bucking the Quisling wing of the party. We’re in for one helluvan unsubtle segue from racism to sexism on Faux Spews and the 1%’s echo chamber over the next year.

  6. >As Continetti explains, “I see her as a high-school teacher I really dislike, who can do you harm but you can still snigger about behind her back.”

    I’m so old I remember Spy magazine. One issue had as its cover story, “Life really IS like high school”. Continetti just proved Spy magazine’s 30-year prescience.

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