MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews did something that I thought would be as likely as a blizzard in the Sahara in August. He had the guts to take back some of the sewer assassination of Hillary Clinton. Matthews like so many other yakking heads has gorged off the Hillary loathe industry. The industry has been by far the biggest growth industry in recent American politics. The motley assemblage of Hillary loathe profiteers includes the hundreds of swiftboat-like stop Hillary websites, the gaggle of shock jock hosts, ultra-conservative and Christian fundamentalist political hatchet men, grudge-holding Democrats, vendetta-driven self-styled progressives, and all-or-none feminists that claim Hillary is a corporate shill in a skirt.
Then there are the pollsters that were so blinded by their Hillary loathe that gloated about her Iowa loss and then rigged their poll questions to get results that showed Hillary would go down to a crashing defeat in New Hampshire. The loathe Hillary obsession that Matthews kind of, sort of admitted to reached lunatic proportions when some even tried to claim that her win in New Hampshire was rigged, stolen or a mistake.
But it's been the Clinton-Obama joust that's shoved the Hillary loathe even deeper into the absurd. A textbook example of that was Clinton's recent Martin Luther King, Jr. tiff with Obama. Clinton merely said that Lyndon Johnson gave final impetus to the push to get the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Bill through Congress. That straightforward and complimentary comment got twisted, mangled, and distorted to read that Clinton dissed Dr. King by minimizing his towering role in the civil rights movement. Clinton was talking solely about the Congressional fight for passage of the bill, not the civil rights movement. But it didn't matter. The Obama camp sniffed yet another chance at a Hillary bash ran with it. But they weren't finished. They picked up on a stray remark by BET founder Robert Johnson about Obama's days as an organizer on Chicago's South Side to imply that Obama did all kinds of nasty, insidious things in his younger days.
But here's the rub. Johnson was forced to apologize to Obama for his real, imagined, or likely manufactured slight. Yet as of this writing there's no sign of any like apology from the Obama camp for distorting and then blowing up Clinton's King compliment. His much touted agreement with Hillary to tone down the race attacks is not the same as an apology. Don't bet that that "truce" will last.
But any attacks on Hillary no matter how wild, way out, and silly will get plenty of air time, and plenty more finger points and loose lip gabbing about Hillary's alleged personal and political sins. But let Hillary even utter even the most tepid word in her defense and she will be battered for dirty campaign tactics, sleazeball slandering of her opponents, and plying the so-called Clinton Machine to steamroll her opponents.
The Hillary loathers assure with absolute certainty that she's so corrupt, crooked, and dishonest that she will figure out a way to beg, borrow, or steal the Democratic presidential nomination. Then they smugly turn right around and assure with just as absolute certainty while wringing their hands in giddy delight that she will be trounced by whichever Republican emerges from the pack. Why. Because the country knows what Clinton hasn't figured out and that's that people don't want her brand of slick, venal politics in the White House.
This would all be laughable tripe, except in the vapid, smoke and mirrors world of presidential campaigning where style, media hype, and canned Madison Avenue speeches and sound bites masquerade as substantive politics, it's anything but funny. Matthews at least in a moment of epiphany had enough decency to admit that his own anti-Hillary bile was biased, one-sided, and unbecoming of someone who nightly craves to be seen as a serious, thoughtful political commentator and interviewer. We'll see how long that epiphany lasts. Now if only the other Hillary loathers had the guts to have their moment of epiphany and knock off their Clinton dump. A summer blizzard in the Sahara is still a much better bet to happen before that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).