THE BLOG

Clinton Persecution Complex Redux: The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Strikes Again

Clinton campaign aides have resurrected Whitewater/Lewinski-gate special prosecutor Ken Starr. Like Lazarus, he's risen from the dead. He's come back to persecute the Clintons again--and he's Barack Obama.

That's what they're saying. In light of the Clinton campaign's "Let's throw everything at him but the kitchen sink and see if anything sticks" attacks in the final few desperate days before the March 4th primaries, the Obama camp says it's time to toughen up and fight back. The Democratic front runner (and the title's still his, folks) dared challenge candidate Clinton to (a) define, exactly, what that "vast 35 years' experience" of yours is and (b) pony up--let's see your income tax returns. Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn't like being challenged and the political horse puckey has hit the fan. We're back to the '90s and The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

Senator Obama made his own income tax information public shortly after he entered the race for the Democratic nomination. He didn't have to do it. The argument can be made that most candidates don't until after they've won the top spot. But the senator from Illinois has a real thing going for honesty, transparency and accountability in government. He's sponsored a couple of bills, SB453 and SB2030, in an attempt to do something about deceptive practices in federal elections and hush-hush, unreported bundled contributions by lobbyists and non-lobbyists alike. In promptly releasing his own financial data, Obama underscored his argument that the murky status quo in Washington must be challenged. And changed.

Team Clinton has been dragging their feet about releasing their joint returns. At first Hillary said she'd do it the old-fashioned way, after she wins the Democratic nod. When pressure mounted for earlier disclosure, especially after she lent her own campaign $5 million in January, well, she simply didn't have time to do it. When the Obama campaign asks for the same information other Democrats are wanting to know, the Clinton camp shrieks "He's just like Ken Starr!" Which makes the rest of us, I reckon, the vast right wing conspiracy.

This hyperbolic overreaction to a simple request as "proof of another conspiracy to persecute the Clintons" is peculiar, indeed. Seems Hillary had a similar problem eight years ago with her opponent Rick Lazio (R-NY). They were fighting for the same senate seat and he was awfully slow in releasing his tax returns. It drove her nuts. You know, you just can't trust a guy who won't come clean about his taxes.

But that was then. This is now, it's politics and politics is war. All's fair and desperate times call for desperate measures. In the run-up to March 4th Clinton had lost eleven states and the momentum was all Obama's. Winning Texas and Ohio was a matter of political life and death. She had to take down that uppity speechifier real quick-like. And she did. First she lobbed the terror grenade: BOO! If Barack Obama answers the White House phone at three a.m., your kids are dead meat. Then she did exactly what her campaign said it would do: Threw everything at him. Including the kitchen sink. Her worthy opponent is not the man you think he is. He's a turban-wearin', NAFTA-lovin' liar with friends in very low places. Whoa, Nellie! You can't beat that! When the entire contents of the kitchen are flying, who has time to call foul when the meat cleaver slices and dices whole chunks of truth along with the intended victim? And who cares? It's all about The Win. You have to do what you have to do and you can glue the broken pieces back together later.

But what do you do when the good Senator Obama you trust, the one who refuses to dive into the politics-as-usual gutter, opts to draw the line? What if he really fights back? He could. There's plenty of nasty stuff in the Clinton closet; there's a bogeyman or two hiding under the Clinton campaign bed.

Hillary's eight invaluable years of experience fighting the good fight in the Clinton White House? Fair questions might be these: "What lofty battle was it you spent most of those years fighting and what did you win?" Fair answers might be: "The Great Whitewater/Lewinski Scandal Wars. I fought for personal and political survival. I won the battle, but the country lost the larger war when a backlash of moral outrage paved the way for George W. Bush."

And who will be to blame then, Ms. Clinton, for persecuting you? Who will be responsible for salacious, dirty politics, for bringing up all the old Clinton scandals and reminding the public that, just maybe, we don't want to go back there?

A fair answer might be: You're responsible. The Obama campaign has scrupulously avoided the seamy side of the Clinton legacy. Like a perp's reckless legal counsel who brings up her past record and prior bad acts in a court of law, you're the one who opened the door to a potentially damning line of questions. You're the one who yanked Ken Starr, and everything he represents, out of the Clinton closet. And all's fair...