The (Character) Assassinations of Hillary Clinton

Apparently, Republicans are going to feature Hillary Clinton in their marketing strategy this year. Pointing out Hillary Clinton’s deficiencies has remained a cottage industry for a quarter century. But, why? For those on the right it comes naturally, as the tortured psyche of the typical Trump supporter makes thinking rationally, much less objectively, nearly impossible. But those on the Left have frequently equaled conservatives in their antipathy for Hillary.

Instead of defending her, too many so-called Democrats and progressives allowed the characterizations of her to go unchecked during the election of 2016. And even worse, during the primary campaign of 2008 those same people allowed gasbags like Keith Olbermann and Donna Brazile to call the Clintons racists and white supremacists. This willingness to say something they know to be false made Olbermann and Brazile honorary purveyors of Republican dialogue strategies. Say first. Think later. Repeat.

Not to sound snide—ok maybe a little snide—but Hillary is also actually a Democrat, a term Bernie Sanders has rejected for decades but expediently sought to use only while seeking the presidency. And isn’t political expediency one of the traits the Sanders brigade criticized Hillary for?

Many Democrats thought that nominating and subsequently electing Barack Obama in 2008 would lead to a turning of the page on the politics of personal destruction. It didn’t. Criticisms and attacks, often fabricated, or at least exaggerated, by Republicans, were used to great affect against President Obama (where was he born?). The Right’s machine of hate will never abate. They live to attack. With or without reason. It doesn’t matter to them. Fear has kept the Right alive politically for centuries, so it is all they know.

Admittedly, Hillary is not a so-called natural politician like her husband, or President Obama. And at times, some might have liked to hear her evoke more of the emotionalism that she keeps submerged, or recapture the populism that captivated much of the Democratic base in the latter stages of the 2008 Democratic primaries. Part of Hillary’s inability to fully win-over all Democrats is certainly her own fault. But, there is no such thing as the perfect candidate. Yet, Democrats have rallied around other imperfect candidates, even in recent elections: John Kerry, Al Gore, and yes, even Bill Clinton were embraced by the faithful. Of course they are all men. So, just maybe sexism is at play. Nearly every article written about Hillary, by supporters and foes alike, mentions some shortcoming of hers. Sometimes just as an aside. She’s been around for a while and she’s apparently not attractive according to that stone-cold fox Brit Hume, for example. If Hillary looked old or unattractive, what does that beacon of healthiness Trump look like? And oh yeah, he’s older than her. She’s also been routinely mocked for her appearance, her outfits, and the way she speaks in a manner that none of the other men vying for the presidency are (with the possible exception of that thing on top of Donald Trump’s head).

The problem is that this rush to talk about her shortcomings is often due to the fact that they aren’t her shortcomings at all. Benghazi was not the fault of Hillary Clinton. Certainly not any more than the 13 embassy attacks during the Bush presidency were the faults of Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice. Or President Bush for that matter. And when members of the media question her inability to overcome the Benghazi or email issues they’re conveniently forgetting it is they who keep these issues alive by constantly talking about it and thereby take the Trumpian bait.

So, Democrats, perhaps we could spend less time comparing her to other (male) politicians and start discussing her exemplary record of service and action on behalf of progressive causes for 45 years. Like her first job after graduating from Yale Law School at the Children’s Defense Fund, or the CHIP program which expanded health care coverage for millions of young people, or her role as chief diplomat in the capture of Osama bin Laden. Or her Grammy. But whatever it is, let’s not let the Right continue painting a portrait just because they hate better than us.

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