The McCaining of Hillary Clinton


For a long time conservative journalists I've talked to thought there was a substantial anti-Clinton vote in the Democratic primaries. The thinking was that if she had 99 percent name recognition and she was only polling at 40-odd percent nationally, literally everyone else was dead-set against her.

Of course, this wasn't true. Most Democrats like the Clintons. In New Hampshire 83 percent of Democrats had a favorable impression of Bill Clinton, even though Hillary Clinton won only 43 percent of them. Seventy-four percent of voters had a favorable impression of Hillary. It couldn't have been more different than the Republican contest, where the de facto frontrunner, John McCain, had and has fractious relations with the Republican mainstream and the party elite. It's always been possible for a Republican like Mitt Romney to build an anti-McCain coalition, as may be happening right now in Florida. But it wasn't possible for Obama, or anyone else, to build an anti-Clinton coalition in Democratic primaries.

Until now. Bill Clinton's humiliating, self-defeating campaign in South Carolina and Hillary's offputting performance in the last two debates have really started to eat away at the residual support of Democrats. TNR and LA Times columnist Jonathan Chait wrote the best column on this, wrestling with his own anti-Clinton stirrings:

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.

And they're rather blatant about it. What could be motivating Clinton aides (and Bill Clinton himself) to go on record saying they're defining Barack Obama—who a lot of Clinton voters would be comfortable nominating after Hillary gets her 8 years—as the descendent of Jesse Jackson? Just plain arrogance. It's turning Democrats against them in a way they haven't been since the shaky days of early 1998 and the Lewinsky scandal.

The first liberals to abandon Clinton back then were, of course, the liberal punditocracy. They've already started jumping ship. There is palpable rage and disgust at the Clntons for the race they've run: It's starting to reach the levels of ire that conservative journalists have for John McCain. But for Obama to actually defeat Clinton he needs that large, soft chunk of the Democratic electorate who generally like the 42nd First Family, and who wish they were still in the White House, to become more comfortable with him then they are with them. The Clintons might be ensuring that change.

NEXT: The South Carolina Democratic Primary Thread

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  1. You know, if y’all in the media beat up on her too much shes going to play the victim and get big wins on Feb. 5th. You know that, right?

  2. if y’all in the media beat up on her too much shes going to play the victim and get big wins on Feb. 5th

    The difference between coverage of Clinton before New Hampshire and the coverage now is that the old coverage was of the “she’s doomed, she’s weak, her campaign is over” variety. That’s the stuff that generates sympathy. The coverage of the Hillary-Bill demolition derby doesn’t generate any sympathy for her.

  3. I wonder if our friends at the National Review are going to be as hard on the Clintons for race-baiting as they were on another candidate for letting someone else do it with his name.

  4. “Barack Obama sold me cocaine” white female victim should come forward at the beginning of February.

  5. I prefer the Neo Know Nothings (Obama) to the Know Everythings (Clinton).
    Tabula rasa, and all that.

  6. Ted Kennedy is going to endorse Obama tomorrow…huge slap in the face for Hillary.

  7. SIV,

    I must admit I am getting tired of that particular prediction on your part.

    Ain’t ya got nuthin’ new in that bag?

  8. It would be nice to see a thread title which included McCain, Clinton and some form of tainting or taint. Now get busy!

  9. I’ve been saying this for months: support for the Clintons among Democrats is a mile wide and an inch deep.

    Chris Potter, I’m pretty sure the National Review is going to have no problem being mean to Hillary Clinton, and I don’t believe they ever mentioned the Ron Paul Lunacy Report.

  10. As goes joe, so goes the party.

  11. One problem with having Bill do the dirty work is that the Clintons can’t just fire him from the campaign.

  12. neu,

    I’m just acclimating everyone so they won’t be shocked. The Hillary Campaign ” raised the issue” of cocaine dealing for a reason.

  13. SIV, if she goes down that road people are going to wonder if Bill used coke. I remember back in the ’90s there was a rumor he used to use it with his brother Roger.

  14. I want to see how the Clintons try to get African Americans to vote for her after her smear campaign. What are they going to say, “Hey a lot of my friends are either dead or in jail too.”

  15. Lev-

    Shes depedning more on hispanics in the general to give her a victory (Nevada, Arizona if McCain isn’t running, Colorado, New Mexico).

  16. “Barack Obama sold me cocaine” white female victim should come forward at the beginning of February.

    Negro cocaine fiends!!

  17. Cluelessness is sure amusing, huh?

    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.

    I have added the emphasis to the quotation. It’s pretty remarkable to see someone dismiss dislike of the Clintons as “irrational” even though he’s started to dislike them now himself. Back when other people didn’t like her, the only logical conclusion following from that observation was that she might not be the best person to get the Democratic party back into power.

    It’s been fairly apparent they’re sleazy for a long time… but it takes Chait pretty much his whole column and all his space for real substantive argument to get around to admitting what’s really important about the Clintons:

    They do seem to have a feeling of entitlement to power.

    Hello! This is DEMOCRACY! The whole point is that no one is entitled to power over any other person. If this isn’t a fundamental, top-priority reason to feel repulsed by politicians (regardless of how “sleazy” or “greedy” etc. someone is) then … well … gosh …

    … it means you’re admitting you don’t want democracy or self-determination. It means you embrace being ruled by someone who wants to rule you, instead of someone who respects you and would rather defer his values to yours.

    The odd thing is that a lot of Dems do, I think, dislike G. W. because he also acts a little to entitled to his power. And Repubs certainly want to be ruled in some interesting ways…

  18. The odd thing is that a lot of Dems do, I think, dislike G. W. because he also acts a little entitled to his power. And Repubs certainly want to be ruled in some interesting ways…

  19. It’s weird that the press never jumped on all the terrible stuff the Bush campaign did to everyone else during the last two elections but for some reason Bill and Hillary are doing something terrible, when all they’re doing is campaigning. Obama is an unexperienced pie in the sky idiot. Wait-so is GW. Oh well-maybe the press just hates the Clintons because the Clintons know how they are and play them.

  20. It’s weird that the press never jumped on all the terrible stuff the Bush campaign did to everyone else during the last two elections

    Press never jumped on Bush, huh? That’s rich.

  21. Press never jumped on Bush, huh? That’s rich.

    Its arguable that the press went easy on Bush in 2000. But I don’t think the same case could be made for 2004.

  22. “I’ve found my own voice,” his name is Bill
    I just smile while he lays down swill.

    Trivia question: Who won the Michigan Democratic Primary in 1972, and lost the nomination?

  23. “touche!”

    If Billary were to shake her head, it would fall off.

    Long Live President Obama and his VP, C. Powell!
    Black Power! I love it!


  24. I don’t think Clinton’s comparing Barack Obama in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson is all that far-fetched or terrible. I hear all of this heat an outrage and various nonsense. Heck, Bill was just telling the truth. Do you think Obama got 80% of the black vote in South Carolina because black people see a vast difference between his policies and Hillary’s? Of course not, they voted for him because they want to see a brother in the White House and he has a legitimate shot. Obama is different in substance and character than Jackson, but that isn’t why he got the votes. It was the color of his skin.

    Actually, the rules are that if women vote for Hillary because she is a woman and black people vote for Obama because he is black, it is identity politics. If a white male notices that this is going on, it is racism. By the way, since we white males have been so thoroughly indoctrinated that it is wrong to vote for or against someone because of their race or gender, we split pretty evenly between the three candidates in South Carolina. We didn’t all go vote for John Edwards, for example. So give Bill a break. For once, the bastard was telling the truth.

  25. SIV,


    [thrums fingers on the desk]

    Did you say something interesting?



    Get back to me when you have something to contribute…

  26. The Clintons are like the abusive spouse of pants wetting liberals like Chait. The Clintons made feminists into hypocrites by Bill’s womanizing. Now they are going to slime Obama as a black candidate and torpedo the most charismatic progressive candidate since Kennedy. But it won’t matter. Chait and his ilk will all vote for Hillary in November and cheer her on as her and Bill do the same thing to a Republican. Who is Chait kidding when he says “Conservatives might have had a point about the Clintons’ character”? What he just figured this out? What a joke. He always knew clear through the 90s what kind of people the Clintons were and he didn’t care. Now he cares that they are doing it to a liberal. Well too bad Chait you can’t complain because if they win everyone knows you will be justifying and defending their sleaze come November.

  27. John,

    I can’t even follow the logic of this….

    The Clintons made feminists into hypocrites by Bill’s womanizing.

    How does this make feminists hypocrites?

  28. I think it means that feminists gave Bill a pass for behavior which they pushed people like Bob Packwood out of office (although the case against Packwood was a lot more clear cut)

  29. “Barack Obama sold me cocaine” white female victim should come forward at the beginning of February.

    February arrives early:

  30. Bim-
    wow I thought that guy with the Clinton gangstalking thing a few weeks ago was cuckoo for cocoa puffs. This dude is fruitier than a Dole plantation.

  31. A president using his position of authority — a position which Hillary supporters specifically lament traditionally belongs to males — to obtain sexual favors from an extreme subordinate like an intern is a poignant example of men being in charge and using women for cheap pleasure. It is not a shining example of equality in the workplace, of viewing women workers as workers rather than the traditional patriarchal view of women workers as sexual adornment in a workplace that is functionally male.

    And quite aside from the professional aspects of Bill’s behavior with Lewinsky, Bill’s apparent womanizing and Hillary’s apparent faithfulness suggest an asymmetry in their marriage that is well in line with some very misogynistic views of women. Women are possessions to be owned, but men are held under no reciprocal moral expectations. Feminism, if we define it from a woman’s point of view as a full and assertive self-respect, is directly and completely opposed to continuing to support a husband who disrespects and disregards his wife so viciously.

    …But why did she stay with him? Well, there’s yet another nonfeminist answer to that question. Hillary is a significant politician mainly because of the man she attached herself to, and what she really wants is to be a powerful politician, not a woman respected by her husband. She stands to become a mark of women’s progress in America because of some very nonfeminist choices in her own life.

    That being said, it’s not the highest form of evil to care more about politics than being loved by your spouse. It’s somewhat quaint really, harkening back to the day when most aristocratic marriages were political, couples had separate bedrooms by standard practice, and no pretense was made of exclusivity (by the husband) or love. Just don’t be thinking Hillary is a woman who shares the values most of us do.

  32. Still though, I’m not sure about the Clintons makign feminists hypocrites. Feminists who think H-Clint is a feminist role model are pretty well off the mark, but I don’t know that feminists ever had that much invested in Bill (except as a president who would not be likely to endanger their reproductive rights).

  33. That being said, it’s not the highest form of evil to care more about politics than being loved by your spouse.

    Perhaps not, but no one with priorities like that should be allowed anywhere near the seat of power.

    I’m not sure about the Clintons makign feminists hypocrites.

    In the sense of showing them up for having double standards when it is to their benefit, its hard to be anything but sure.

  34. “The Clintons made feminists into hypocrites by Bill’s womanizing.

    How does this make feminists hypocrites?”

    See RC’s comment above. Feminists spent the 1990s defending Bill Clinton for doing all of the things (having sex with subordinates, cheating on his wife, using his position of power over women for sexual pleasure, treating women like sex objects and so forth) they had spent the last 40 years claiming were wrong and would have destroyed any Republican who dared to get caught doing half of it. The fact is that when it comes to male sexual misbehavior, the feminist spent whatever moral capital they had defending Bill Clinton, a man who, at least in his personal life, represented all they claimed to hate.

  35. Bill Clinton’s greatest accomplishment? Getting the feminists to shut up about sexual harassment.

  36. Yes, if you didn’t agree with the impeachment campaign, it means you were approving of Bill Clinton’s affair. There can’t actually be a position where you disapprove of them both. No, like the Iraq War, if you don’t march in the lockstep with the Party, you’re on the other side.

  37. Getting hit on by a subordinate and having an affair with her is not sexual harrassment. Sexual harrassment involves using your power to get what you want. Monica Lewinsky was not a victim here.

    People who actually give a crap about gender equality and sexual harrassment didn’t have any trouble understanding this. People claiming Clinton’s scandal was a case of sexual harrassment are just advertising how little they know or care about the subject.

  38. Bob Packwood tricked unsuspecting women into meeting with him, held them down, and groped them.

    It’s astounding to me how little the concept of consent matters to conservatives when they attempt to wade into the issue of sexual harrassment.

  39. Oh God Joe. Monica may not have been a victim, but don’t tell me for a moment that feminist wouldn’t have considered her a victim had the perpertraitor not been Bill Clinton. Further, you disageed with impeachment but object to the affair? What did you think should happen? Basically absent impeachment, there is nothing you can do the President. What you are really saying is, “I think it is wrong but nothing should happen to him and I will still defend him and his wife no matter how many lives they destroy and no matter how many awful things they do.” Don’t you get tired of defending the indefensible with them? At some point, liberals like you are going to have to go to a battered women’s shelter and get some help. The make up sex just isn’t worth the abuse the Clintons put you through.

  40. Which feminists? There are quite a lot of them, you know, and you can pretty much find some that will say anything.

    Further, you disageed with impeachment but object to the affair?

    What did you think should happen? A while lotta bad press. I though Bill Clinton was going to spend the last two years of his presidency as a disgraced lame duck, but he was blessed with arrogant, over-reaching enemies.

    But, of course, you don’t need any logic or arguments like that. blah blah blah liberals blah blah blah

  41. Yes, John, if I don’t go along with every political maneuver people who don’t care about sexual harrassment engage in when they use sexual harrassment as a cover, that means I’m a hypocrite. And also, Pat Leahy hates Catholics.

    God, you’re a reliable tool.

  42. Joe,

    The bottomline is thanks to Bill Clinton any politician Republican or Democrat who is caught banging his subordinates or harrassing women gets a free pass. No one can say a word without looking like a hypocrite if they defended Bill Clinton. I don’t see how anyone can think that is a good thing.

  43. It’s amusing to see the liberal pundit class wringing their hands about the Clinton’s treatment of Obama.

    The Clintons are doing the same thing to him that they’ve been doing for years to anybody that they felt posed any kind of a threat to them – Republicans, Ken Starr, Paula Jones, etc., etc., etc.

    Those same liberals never had any problem with any of that. It’s only BAD when the target is another liberal democrat.

  44. Nobody had any trouble saying bad things about Bill Clinton in 1998, John. People can say all the bad things about sexual harrassers and poon hounds they want.

    But if you try to impeach ’em for it, it isn’t going to work.

    You don’t get the decide “the bottom line” on issues you don’t actually give a damn about.

  45. Was Bill Clinton Ron Paul’s ghostwriter?

  46. Feminists spent the 1990s defending Bill Clinton

    That’s just made up…maybe by the vast right wing conspiracy.

    I don’t think John knows what a feminist is…

  47. Some recent feminist writing on the Clintons…
    “Why I’m still not for Hillary Clinton”

    But whatever the reason, there is no evidence that Clinton’s feminist history currently influences her thinking about women, or that it is any further advanced than Obama’s and Edwards’ thinking.

  48. Hey, it’s my favorite game!


    OK, Neu Mejican, but why don’t they do it MORE?

  49. “I don’t think John knows what a feminist is…”

    Waste of time?

  50. Joe,

    The trick is to redefine “defending” and “feminist” so that “defending” = “not supportive of impeaching” and “feminist” = someone who would vote for Clinton over Santorum.

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