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Greg Saunders

Greg Saunders

Posted: March 30, 2008 05:12 PM

"I Refuse to Join any Club That Would Have Me as a Member"


I've been as outspoken as anyone over the last week in pointing out Hillary Clinton's dishonesty, but theWall Street Journal's glee over Clinton's emerging reputation as a serial exaggerator is incredibly disturbing :

Hillary Clinton's been all the news this week, after she "misspoke" about Whitewater, Travelgate, missing files, suspicious pardons, Johnny Chung and cattle futures. Oh wait, after she "misspoke" about Bosnia. Oh wait, same thing.

That's one way to make sense of the unrelenting, unforgiving, 24/7 news coverage of Mrs. Clinton's fictional telling of Bosnian sniper fire and the subsequent debunking of her every word. In a nasty primary battle that has already featured racial slurs and Chicago slum lords, missing tax documents, and a "monster," you might expect this slip-up to have been yet another blip in the media cycle.

But that would have been to deny the press, the pundits, Democrats, and even Barack Obama, the catharsis of finally -- finally! -- getting a chance to confront the Clintons' questionable mores. Hillary's and Bill's scandals have been the elephant in the primary room ever since she first signaled a run. Yet up to now everyone has been too scared, or too loyal, or too weary to touch the ugly past. Her Bosnia misspeak is now serving as proxy for all the truths about the Clintons' non-truths, allowing even liberals to break free from their Clinton dependence.

I take no pleasure in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Clinton campaign. In fact, I've even found myself invoking a Democratic version of Reagan's 11th Commandment, biting my tongue instead of leveling criticism, lest I find myself in a situation in November in which I support a candidate that I've spent months slamming. As an Obama supporter who has written multiple posts highlighting Hillary Clinton's dishonesty, let me go on the record as saying the characterization above is absolutely false.

There's a big, big difference between the criticism that Clinton is receiving now and the nasty, prurient, partisan muck of the 90s. The fact that there are people who have been breathlessly waiting for a return to the days of the Whitewater, Travelgate, and the Lewinsky scandals is a de facto admission of sleazy and trivial journalistic instincts that are better suited to write Penthouse Letters than grace the op-ed pages of the most influential media outlets in our nation. Indeed, the threat of a return to this gossipy media landscape is one of the reasons I feared a return to the Clinton years in the first place.

Having said that, with Clinton's recent embarrassment regarding Tuzla, NAFTA, and others, she's simply being hoisted by her own petard. Put aside the biggest difference (that these new charges are true and the older ones are almost universally false), the fact is that Hillary Clinton has based her own campaign around her (a) toughness and (b) experience. That her campaign is now being tripped up by the latest string of revelations is a good indicator that both claims are hollow.

Taking the "toughness" claim first, Hillary has spoken endlessly on the campaign trail about how she's been sent through the ringer by the right-wing noise machine and that she questions whether or not Barack Obama is tough enough to win a general election. While this is undeniably true (see above), the implication is that Clinton isn't easily tripped up by personal attacks. Yet here we are seven months before the general election and Clinton has been making one demonstrably untrue statement after another on the campaign trail. Considering how well documented her life has been since 1992, lying about her accomplishments is incredibly stupid. These are the kinds of mistakes you'd expect of a political rookie, not someone who claims 35 years of experience.

That "experience", upon which she's built her entire campaign, is the trait she's used to take out her Democratic rivals, so when it's revealed that she's been lying on her resume, it's the kind of hypocrisy that's fair game, especially in the no holds barred style of politics in which Clinton excels. The experience candidate lying about her experience is every bit as relevant as an anti-gay crusader trying to get laid in an airport men's room or a straight-talkin' campaign reform maverick letting lobbyists run their business from his campaign bus. Clinton's lies aren't merely embarrassing. They contradict the core reason for her candidacy.

So going back to the WSJ piece, let me once again "reject and denounce" (to quote Obama) the implication that the world has been waiting to relive the mainstream media, scandal-of-the-week circlejerk of the Clinton years :

Reporters have dug up every last person who accompanied her on the sedate trip to pour a little more salt in the wound. "The Audacity of Hoax," yelled a blog posting in the liberal Nation magazine, which innocently asked: "What else is she fibbing about?" Bill Burton, Barack Obama's spokesman, gleefully noted that Mrs. Clinton's recent attacks on his candidate were designed to deflect attention away from her "made up" Bosnia story. Heavy emphasis on the "made up" part. No need to mention Vince Foster, Red Bone, Marc Rich or Webster Hubbell. All this will do.
Ummmm...no. I know you guys have been waiting for the opportunity to return to the tabloid-a-go-go 90s, but you and your army of Maureen Dowds will have to find some one else to gossip with. Don't use the "enemy of my enemy" trick to draft Obama supporters into your vast right wing conspiracy. As much as I dislike the Clinton campaign now, it's nothing compared to the seething contempt I have for the pseudo-journalistic scum who dragged this nation through the mud in the 90's.