FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
Why such hatred?
February 5, 2008
Hillary Clinton wrapped up her campaigning before Super Tuesday, when 24 states hold primaries or caucuses, by arguing that she is the most electable Democrat running. (The Washington Post, free registration) But, as GQ magazine chronicled in January, Clinton’s strong base of support is countered by a vibrant culture of “Hillary Haters” who will never vote for her. (GQ)
What the commentators said
Hillary hating is nothing new, said Stanley Fish in his New York Times blog (free registration). But its virulence never ceases to amaze. There are rational reasons to oppose here candidacy, but the “personal vituperation” of Hillary haters, on the right and left, is so “unconnected to, and often unconcerned with, the facts,” that in comparison “the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry was a model of objectivity.” There is no rationale behind the hatred because, like anti-Semitism, “nothing drives it; it is that most sought-after thing, a self-replenishing, perpetual-energy machine.”
No rationale? said Rich Lowry in National Review Online. Hillary Clinton is “saddled” with so many “inherent weaknesses” that Republicans “nearly everywhere” are cheering for her to win the nomination, because they know she’ll be the “weakest” potential Democratic nominee in November. “Her political persona ranges from grim to charmless,” and, even though she insists she’s an “agent of change,” she’s “emblematic of an entire era of search-and-destroy partisan politics.”
“I’m not a Hillary hater,” said David Brooks, in The New York Times, but it’s true that “there are certain moments when her dark side emerges and threatens to undo the good she is trying to achieve.” In 1993, for example, she tried to “crush” proponents of a health-care reform plan that rivaled her own, instead of reaching out. It’s certainly “legitimate” for people who have been “burned in the past” to “wonder” whether she has changed.
Why doesn’t anyone ask Barak Obama or John McCain to change? said Jane Hamscher in The Huffington Post. When the media talks about Obama, they discuss his youth and star quality; “they pick apart every detail of Clinton.” It’s like after “16 years of being the target of misogny and hatred,” they think she somehow “didn’t get the memo—middle aged women are supposed to dry up, go home and be invisible.”
Her problem is that she’s a Clinton, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post (free registration). It is “mostly unfair” to wonder how much of a decision-making role her husband, Bill Clinton, would play in her White House, “as if the Clinton marriage were out of a 1950s sitcom.” But she is largely running on his accomplishments, and his active and self-referential role in her campaign doesn’t do much to calm worries that “Bill Clinton is grasping at the chance for an Act II.”
That she is “a creature of her husband” is a problem, said Richard Cohen, also in The Washington Post. President Bush is similarly “the product of nepotistic politics,” as are the Kennedys, for that matter. But Clinton’s “refusal—her inability—to simply confess poor judgment” about, say, her vote on the Iraq war resolution, makes her suspect.
“If you hate Hillary it says more about you than her,” said Matt Cooper in Portfolio.com. The hatred on the right “is easier to understand” than that from the left, though. Sure, she “waffled in Iraq,” but “her piorouettes seem modest compared to the transformation of DLCer John Edwards into a populist.” What makes the most sense is that “rage is a free-floating quality,” and Obama will get hit by it if Hillary misses the nomination. After 16 years of writing about it, “I can’t explain Hillary hatred but it’s out there.”
of The Week magazine.