The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.
News of the Tautological
“Centenarians Proliferate, and Live Longer”—headline, New York Times, Jan. 21
The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations
“People Trust Search Engines More than Traditional Media for News”—headline, ZeroHedge .com, Jan. 20
If this year’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination were a movie, it would be a comedy, a darkly funny satire. The Democratic contest would be a grim suspense/horror film about the central character’s self-destruction. Oh, and it would be a sequel.
If it weren’t for schadenfreude, we’d feel sorry for our media counterparts who feel obliged to try to buck up inevitable Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. They may be the gloomiest cheerleaders ever. Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast has a column whose headline evokes Francisco Franco: “Unfuzzy Math: It’s Still Hillary Clinton’s Race to Lose.” Here are some excerpts:
Her big lead has melted away in Iowa and she’s behind in New Hampshire, the state that rewarded her in 2008 and that made her husband the “comeback kid” in 1992. The possibility that Hillary Clinton could lose the first two contests has revived talk of a “nightmare scenario” where the Democratic primary race drags on to the detriment of the eventual nominee. . . .
There are concerns about [Mrs.] Clinton’s skills as a candidate, and about the baggage she carries after a long career in public life. . . . What [Mrs.] Clinton lacks is the energy and passion that fueled Obama’s race to the White House. . . . Younger women have a hard time seeing Clinton’s possible ascent to the Oval Office as something new.
In case you’ve forgotten, the thesis of this column is that Mrs. Clinton is all but assured of winning. (“Unless something totally crazy happens,” Clift adds in the subheadline. And what are the odds of that in this of all years?) …
Bloomberg’s Al Hunt, in a column whose headline does not include the word “still,” reports that “Hillary Clinton has an unusual message to Democratic voters about Bernie Sanders: Take him seriously.” The campaign, according to Hunt, “believes that an element of her opponent’s appeal is that he’s the perfect send-a-message vehicle. That’s why . . . she’s seeking to paint the Vermont socialist as a risky standard-bearer for Democrats in their effort to retain the White House.”
The Clinton campaign should be careful what it wishes for. “Take Sanders seriously” doesn’t sound like an exhortation to vote against him—quite the opposite. We understand the logic of urging “Vote against Sanders because he may win,” but it’s not exactly an intuitive message. Maybe Mrs. Clinton should try reviving “Vote for the crook—it’s important.”
Perhaps the strongest indication of how poorly things are going for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is this story, from Vanity Fair:
A last-minute town-hall-style event, announced Wednesday by CNN and scheduled to take place just one week before the Iowa caucuses, could be a saving grace for Hillary Clinton, whose presidential campaign has faced an unexpectedly formidable challenge from Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.
The prime-time gathering will air Monday at nine P.M., a huge change from the three debates that the Democratic National Committee scheduled on inconvenient weekend nights.
VF notes that the event “is technically not a debate, since the candidates do not have to address each other,” which matters mostly for regulatory reasons (a town hall can be organized with no involvement from the Democratic National Committee). Democratic debates have been few in number and inconveniently timed, and that is widely understood to be because the party was planning a coronation. The sudden Monday event suggests a change in plans.
Bernie Sanders’s sincere if daft hard-leftism isn’t the only reason Mrs. Clinton’s journey to the White House is (again) going far less smoothly than expected. There’s also the massive complex of scandals, both new and old.
The new scandals continue to metastasize. This week we learned, thanks to Fox News, that “[Mrs.] Clinton’s emails on her unsecured, homebrew server contained intelligence from the U.S. government’s most secretive and highly classified programs, according to an unclassified letter from a top inspector general to senior lawmakers”:
Fox News exclusively obtained the unclassified letter, sent Jan. 14 from Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III. It laid out the findings of a recent comprehensive review by intelligence agencies that identified “several dozen” additional classified emails—including specific intelligence known as “special access programs” (SAP).
That indicates a level of classification beyond even “top secret,” the label previously given to two emails found on her server, and brings even more scrutiny to the presidential candidate’s handling of the government’s closely held secrets.
This stuff is so secret, NBC News notes, that McCullough had to obtain a “special clearance” before viewing it as part of his investigation.
Mrs. Clinton’s response is essentially a reprise of her effort in 1998 to deflect questions about President Clinton’s affair with White House underling Monica Lewinsky. That was when she introduced the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy” into the American political lexicon. The McClatchy D.C. Bureau reports:
Hillary Clinton’s spokesman accused the Intelligence Community Inspector General Wednesday of working with Republicans to attack the Democratic presidential front-runner.
“I think this was a very coordinated leak,” Brian Fallon said on CNN. “Two months ago there was a…report that directly challenged the finding of this inspector general, and I don’t think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited.”
If the conspiracy in 1998 was at most half-vast, this one is two-winged. As McClatchy notes in its headline, McCullough is an appointee of President Obama.
As for the old scandals—involving Mr. Clinton’s adultery, sexual harassment and alleged sexual violence—they didn’t come up much in 2008. Sen. Obama stayed away from the subject, and most of the media treated it as a taboo. This time around, however, the taboo has been broken, with credit going to Donald Trump. Even the New York Times waddles in today with a piece from Amy Chozick, which (among other things) mentions Juanita Broaddrick—a first in the Times’s news pages since 2006.
Chozick opens with this telling-if-true anecdote, “relayed by several people with knowledge of the discussion who would speak about it only anonymously”:
This month, Lena Dunham, wearing a red, white and blue sweater dress with the word “Hillary” emblazoned across the chest, told voters how Hillary Clinton had overcome sexism in her political career.
“The way she has been treated is just more evidence of the fact that our country has so much hatred toward successful women,” Ms. Dunham, the creator and star of the HBO series “Girls,” said at a Clinton campaign event in Manchester, N.H.
But at an Upper East Side dinner party a few months back, Ms. Dunham expressed more conflicted feelings. She told the guests at the Park Avenue apartment of Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, that she was disturbed by how, in the 1990s, the Clintons and their allies discredited women who said they had had sexual encounters with or been sexually assaulted by former President Bill Clinton.
Chozick offers several examples, the first one straight from Clintonland:
“We have to destroy her story,” Mrs. Clinton said in 1991 of Connie Hamzy, one of the first women to come forward during her husband’s first presidential campaign, according to George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton administration aide who described the events in his memoir, “All Too Human.” . . .
When Gennifer Flowers later surfaced, saying that she had had a long affair with Mr. Clinton, Mrs. Clinton undertook an “aggressive, explicit direction of the campaign to discredit” Ms. Flowers, according to an exhaustive biography of Mrs. Clinton, “A Woman in Charge,” by Carl Bernstein.
Mrs. Clinton referred to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who had an affair with the 42nd president, as a “narcissistic loony toon,” according to one of her closest confidantes, Diane D. Blair, whose diaries were released to the University of Arkansas after her death in 2000.
Ms. Lewinsky later called the comment an example of Mrs. Clinton’s impulse to “blame the woman.”
Bloomberg has a story today titled “Campaigner-in-Chief Bill Clinton Is Worried.” The quotes from the former president are pretty vague: “This has turned into an interesting election. We’re fighting it out in Iowa. . . . We’re on a home-field disadvantage here.” And, in New Hampshire: “I know we’re in a hard fight here and I know we’re running against one of your neighbors.”
It occurs to us that Bill has a reason to be worried that the Bloombergers don’t touch on. Hillary has spent decades defending her husband from allegations of sexual misconduct, including unfaithfulness to her, at least some of which we now know to have been true—and in the process, been unfaithful to her own professed feminist principles.
The defense of him was successful: Not only was he elected and re-elected president, but he dodged removal from office for perjury and obstruction of justice. But it is increasingly possible that all this ugly history is catching up to her, and will deprive her of realizing her ultimate ambition.
If that happens, Bill Clinton may find himself facing a tense situation at home, or at least in the Clinton Foundation boardroom.
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