IS THERE A more reviled public figure in America today than Hillary Rodham Clinton? Well, okay: Scott Peterson. But in the large and growing class of Politicians Thinking About Running for President, the junior senator from New York is surely the most controversial and — yes — the most despised.
Not everyone hates Hillary. According to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 53 percent of respondents said they were either "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to vote for her if she runs for president — an impressive showing, and a considerable improvement over a year ago. But those who hate her really, really hate her. Only seven percent said they were "not very likely" to vote for her. But a whopping 39 percent said they were "not at all likely" to support a Hillary-for-president campaign. When it’s more than three years before the next presidential election and four out of every 10 prospective voters hate your guts, that’s usually not a good sign.
Dry statistics cannot begin to plumb the depths of Hillary-hating. Right-wing Web sites such as FreeRepublic.com and NewsMax.com revel in every negative tidbit their readers are able to dig up (or make up) about her. There’s even a site called BlogsAgainstHillary.com, an online gathering place for venting against the former first lady. The wingnuts were bitterly disappointed late last month when former Clinton fundraiser David Rosen was acquitted of corruption charges. Her "chief accuser," a man named Peter Paul, told NewsMax, "This is by no means an exoneration of Hillary’s campaign." No, of course not. It never is.
The sensation of the moment is a forthcoming book by Edward Klein, The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go To Become President (Sentinel). Unfortunately for Hillary-haters, Klein — a former editor of the New York Times Magazine — is already under heavy siege for what appears to be some dubious journalism. The July issue of Vanity Fair includes a long, intriguing excerpt about Clinton’s frosty relations with the late New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and his wife, Liz. Hillary comes off as an unappealingly slippery political naif who gradually overcomes on the strength of Bill’s advice and her own daunting intelligence. So far, so good. But MediaMatters.org has published plausible evidence that parts of the excerpt had been lifted from Sidney Blumenthal’s book The Clinton Wars (2003).
And that may be the least of Klein’s woes. Last Friday, the New York Post — hardly friendly to the Clintons — reported that two women described by Klein as lesbians who had, uh, influenced Hillary during her Wellesley College days were publicly denying Klein’s insinuations. One woman, indeed a lesbian, said she didn’t come out until 20 years after she left Wellesley. The other, married to a man, has retained a lawyer — never good news.
Then, this past Sunday, Matt Drudge posted an item claiming Klein’s book will allege that Hillary became pregnant with Chelsea only after Bill raped her. (It was picked up immediately in the British press, but, so far, not in the US.) Drudge quoted a source reportedly close to Senator Clinton as saying that Klein would "rot in hell," adding, "Mrs. Clinton told me she was considering suing him for outright libel. This is the right-wing attack machine on crack!"
‘It will be really savage’
Kristen Lombardi, a former Phoenix reporter who began covering Clinton for the Village Voice earlier this year, says she’s never seen a phenomenon quite like Hillary-hatred. "It’s too visceral to be about her policies," Lombardi says. "We’re not talking about Dennis Kucinich or somebody like that. I really don’t think it’s related to any rational analysis of her as a politician."
Not that there’s ever been anything rational about the intensity with which the Clintons’ enemies loathe them. Which is why the Democrats should be wary before choosing Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate in 2008. The swift-boat lies about John Kerry and the false, smirking charge that Al Gore claimed to have "invented the Internet" will look like ineffectual spitballs compared to what would be unleashed against Clinton. It would be war — just as it was throughout the 1990s, when the Clintons were accused (and cleared) of charges involving real-estate chicanery, savings-and-loan crookedness, even murder (remember Vincent Foster?), only to be laid low by the revelation that Bill Clinton had enjoyed the sexual favors of a young intern named Monica Lewinsky.
"If Hillary runs, we’re in for an extreme rehash of the ’90s," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. "And I say extreme because people were hesitant at first to broach some of the family-oriented questions about the Clintons. This time around, there will be no hesitation at all. It really will be savage. It’s something that she has to consider and that Democrats have to consider."page 1 page 2
Issue Date: June 17 - 23, 2005
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