If Hillary Clinton said that pedophiles should be barred from hanging out in front of elementary schools you can bet that some in the bash Hillary crowd would scream at her for violating the civil rights of molesters. This is not crass hyperbole. The pound Clinton obsession has gotten that silly. Any, and I mean any and every little nasty snippet of gossip, innuendo and rumor about Clinton is instant fodder for the legion of talking head commentators, analysts, pundits, professional Clinton loathers, and many progressives. They take rapturous delight in dredging up, mangling, twisting, and distorting every past and present statement, speech, and item in Clinton's voting record to tar her as a walking political disaster.
Here are her alleged sins. Like hubby Bill, she is a business friendly politician that has taken some dubious, even contradictory positions on everything from the Iraq war to health care reform, wheels and deals with fat cat lobbyists and union top cats, and is a mainline charter member of the centrist Democratic leadership. On a personal note the knock is she is stiff, programmed, standoffish, and didn't dump philandering Bill.
But her two greatest sins are that she's a woman playing the White House game which traditionally has been a game for the big boys, and she plays the game better than most men. The other one is that she can win. Both explain the visceral hatred for her from right to left on the political scale.
It also explains why Barack Obama has surged. No one has benefited more from the anybody-but-Clinton loathe fest than Obama. If she wasn't in the race and his opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination were three staid, centrist white male Democrats, Obama's color and background would make him a curiosity item, but in the end he'd be the just another name in the pack.
But the Bash Hillary mania is so deep and pernicious that it has done the unthinkable for Obama.
It has given him a momentary free pass from the media and much of the public from any of the standard negative racial stereotypes of young and not-so-young African-American males. It has shielded him from the knee jerk double standard nit pick, dirt dig, and doubting whispers about the competence and intelligence of prominent blacks. The Fox Network which has never been accused of biting its collective lip on any politician with the M (moderate) , or L (liberal) words in front of their Democrat tag to progressive publications which routinely slay politicians for their corporate pandering and shilling have applied the hands-off, kid glove treatment to Obama's record and policy faux paus's.
Obama quickly sniffed the stiff loathe Hillary political breeze and has picked at and niggled over every Clinton word and alleged political misdeed in the Democratic debates and on the campaign trail. He shrewdly turned the chase for the Democratic presidential nomination and the White House from a referendum on Bush's gross failures to a referendum on Clinton. When Clinton tried to hit back she was accused of being divisive, polarizing and duplicitous. When a campaign aide rashly and wrongly played dirty political pool and dragged out Obama's alleged use of drugs as a kid, Clinton was forced to do a mea culpa for his bumble and seek absolution from Obama. It meant nothing. She was pilloried in the press anyway. This over the top dose of media cheerleading and gloating wrapped Obama even tighter in the cloak of nobility, a man above the fray.
When Bill dared say that she is a change maker too that was sneered at as a cheap effort to snatch at Obama's self-designated label as the authentic agent of change. Even the most cursory glance at his voting record as an Illinois state legislator and his wafer thin voting record in the Senate shows the exact same penchant for corporate and lobbyist deal making, and reliance on big donor campaign handouts that Clinton is pounded for.
There's a method to the Hillary loathe fest. The tip off came when former Bush political massager Karl Rove dawned his best wolf in sheep's clothing garb and pretended to give sage advice to Obama on how to beat Clinton. He did it for a reason. The GOP strategists see Obama as the softest of soft targets for whoever emerges from the GOP presidential pack. They think that in a head to head contest, Obama will bomb badly in the South and the Red State belt from Texas to Montana. That's a potential loss of nearly 200 electoral votes for the Democrats before the first vote is even cast. And with a beaten, battered and spent Clinton out of the picture, the GOP's big mud slinging mean machine will quickly chisel away Obama's Teflon coat and the subtle race-tinged Obama beat down would kick in with a vengeance.
But first there's Hillary. She has to go and Obama is the chosen one to see that she does.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)