Over the weekend I made the serious mistake of linking from Slate to an op-ed in the Washington Post by a Fellow named Peter Wehner about why Republicans like Obama. It reminded me of the old expression "Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas." I mean, that's how I felt after I read it -- itchy, squirmy, and a little disgusted at how I had contaminated myself by reading the piece. The gist of the Fellow's argument was that Republicans dislike Hillary Clnton because they remember the "mendacity and ruthlessness of the Clinton machine." He called the Clintons "unprincipled." My God! Compared to whom? Those lions of integrity, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice. Michael Mukasey, Alberto Gonzalez, Karl Rove, Michael Gerson? For sheer mendacity and ruthlessness, not to mention actual lawbreaking criminality, you can't really beat any Republican you can name. (For real outrage, I recommend Glenn Greenwald's Saturday column on the subpoena issued against James Risen of the New York Times.)
Anyway, Wehner yammers on about Obama transcending divisions and moving away from the "politics of rage." But Wehner has a warning for Obama -- if he continues to adhere to all the the views that have defined him in the public mind, and all of the beliefs that he has hitherto demonstrated, Republicans won't be able to support him. In other words, Obama is a great guy, and all he needs to do to get elected is to become a Republican.
Now, no one is surprised when a Republican advocates political and personal corruption -- that's what Republicans live for. That's why they can write pieces like this one for the Washington Post and still work for thinktanks such as the one the Fellow Wehner works for, "The 'Ethics' and Public Policy Center." From his op-ed, you know that the Fellow Wehner, Senior though he may be, wouldn't recognize an ethic if it whacked him in the face.
Here is why Hillary Clinton is mistrusted by liberals. It has nothing to do with ruthlessness or mendacity, except insofar as she has done exactly what Wehner advocates for Obama. In his HuffPost blog on January 30, Robert Scheer put it better than anyone:
"Isn't it disturbing that Sen. Clinton has received more money than any other candidate of either party from the big defense contractors? Why have the war profiteers given her twice the campaign contributions that they sent to McCain, if not for the expectation that she is on their side of the taxpayer rip-off that has seen the military budget rise to an all-time high? It's for the same reason that the bankers, Wall Street traders and other swindlers who produced our economic meltdown fund Clinton."
And this in addition to her continued lack of shame over her support of the Iraq war. In other words, Clinton did do what the Fellow Wehner advocates -- she failed to fight for liberal principles and she accepts money from enemies of liberal policies. Not content with one corrupt Democrat, the Fellow Wehner wants the other, more charming one to corrupt himself, too.
That at this late date there exists a human being, such as the Fellow Wehner, who admits that he once accepted blood money from the Bush administration and helped the administration promulgate lie after lie and crime after crime, does boggle the mind, and in fact is sufficient reason in itself for the "politics of rage" to last, like McCain's Iraq war, for a hundred years, or at least until the mess the Fellow Wehner and his cronies have managed to make of the government and the world while in power is cleaned up. Can Clinton do it, in spite of being in the pocket of the war machine and the finance machine? We don't know. Can Obama do it, in spite of not really seeming to understand the vicious ruthlessness and mendacity of the Republicans?
We don't know that either.
The underlying question of this primary and this election and the next four years is this -- was it the Clintons themselves who aroused the ire of the rightwing to such an extent that the administration they formed was unmercifully harassed from before the inauguration of 1992 to after the 2000 election, or were the Clintons simply the Democrats who happened to be there when the rightwing decided to take over? Everything the rightwing (and the media) latched onto about the Clintons, from Travelgate to the runway haircut to Monica Lewinsky seemed to me at the time to be merely a gambit in a slow-moving coup d'etat that was crowned in 2000 with the Supreme Court selection of the unelected George W, Bush. The one virtue of the Bush administration has been that their policies are so bankrupt and their members so incompetent that all but a few Americans can now understand the emptiness of the Republicans and their avid desire to destroy the U.S. in the pursuit of corporate power. The real danger of the next four years, as I see it, is that the election of any Democrat will trigger the rightwing deathsquads in all their different guises -- the media deathsquad, that hounds the president with nonsensical stories of scandal and distracts him from his business; the survivalist NRA deathsquads that pull off home-grown terrorist attacks, like the Oklahoma bombing; the lobbyist deathsquads, that gut all socially conscious or beneficial legislation, such as universal healthcare; the religious deathsquads, that harass and torment anyone who doesn't conform to a narrow and authoritarian social model; the thinktank deathsquads that propound deadly theories about the perfection of the "free market" or the horrors of "islamofacism" or the non-existence of climate change. It would actually be nice if the Fellow Wehner is telling the truth, that it is the Clintons personally that are the problem, because then the election of Obama would indeed signal a change. But if the goal of the corporatocracy is what it has seemed to be -- the permanent replacement of American democracy with a global imperialist empire and oligarchy of wealth, then Obama doesn't have a chance -- he will either be corrupted or destroyed.
The Fellow Wehner and his cronies are warning us already, but the warning is hard to read. A lot depends on your sense of how ruthless they are. My sense is that they are deadly ruthless. I hope I'm wrong.