Defending Hillary

Why shouldn’t a Democrat preview Republican talking points against a rival and try to suppress the youth vote?

I’m sure the perception that the Clinton style involves fighting dirty in the clinches is just a product of Clinton Derangement Syndrome among the mainstream media, and I’m thoroughly ashamed of myself for being taken in by it. After all, if the right wing hated Eleanor Roosevelt and the right wing hates Hillary Clinton, it must follow that Hillary Clinton is Eleanor Roosevelt, and anyone who doubts it suffers from “blind, irrational hatred.”

For example, no reasonable person could consider it in bad taste for one Democratic candidate (acting through a key surrogate in an early-primary state) to preview Republican attack ads about another candidate’s drug use from college days, or inappropriate for a Democrat to suggest George W. Bush’s stonewalling as a model other Democrats ought to emulate. And of course anyone who ever used drugs must have been selling them, right? Especially if he’s black. So why not hint that your opponent was a dope-dealer? At worst, you can make him deny it. If you can keep your fingerprints off the story by pushing it privately to reporters, that’s best, of course, but if that doesn’t work and your opponent is pulling ahead, just go ahead and have someone say it. You can always disavow it later. Throw enough mud, and some of it is bound to stick.

And of course you can disavow the statement without actually parting company with the person who made it. After all, the candidate has no responsibility at all for the actions of campaign officials, and it wouldn’t be reasonable for a candidate to get rid of a state campaign co-chair (and spouse of a Senate candidate) as if he were merely a county co-ordinator. (You were expecting, maybe, leadership? In your dreams!)

Now if Obama were to start mentioning cattle futures or Marc Rich or Norman Hsu, that would be a different matter entirely, and would prove that the ambition he has been harboring since kindergarten has finally gotten the better of his commitment to a new style of politics. And the fact that he hasn’t been doing any of that, even while HRC has been implying that Obama has a “character problem,” just shows how viciously devious he is: no doubt a product of his education at a madrassa.

And of course it’s perfectly natural for one Democratic candidate to use decade-old questionnaire responses from a state senate race to paint a Democratic rival as “too liberal” because he supported abortion rights, gun control, and single-payer health care and opposes the death penalty. Any suggestion that doing so helps the Republicans is plainly absurd.

It would be equally absurd to think that raising baseless vote-fraud charges as a means of vote suppression is a trick Democrats ought to leave to Republicans. If Iowa college students who come form Illinois want to take advantage of the Iowa state law that clearly allows them to register and caucus at their college addresses, of course any candidate not from Illinois should try to discourage them from voting and try to stir up Iowan xenophobia against them. And of course it’s even better if you can get a friendly columnist to raise the issue for you. (The New York Times reports that David Yepsen had dinner with Hillary Clinton last Friday evening; no doubt it was mere coincidence that he penned this slimy farrago of innuendo and half-truth, picking up on HRC’s “Iowans-only” theme, the following Tuesday.)

After all, aren’t Democrats traditionally the party that wants to have as few people as possible, and especially as few young people as possible, coming to the polls?

All Democrats not victims of CDS should join together and defend our former First Lady against these vicious and desperate attacks. The rest of us should just STFU.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: