Loose Lips or Dirty Tricks?
Game Change provides more evidence of the Clintons' shocking behavior during the 2008 campaign.
I have concentrated until now on the race-card material, but this is by no means the whole story. Everybody remembers the later wild allegations made by Sarah Palin about Obama's "palling around with terrorists." But this is how the whole smear started, during a Democratic debate in Philadelphia way back in April when Sen. Clinton seemed to know a huge amount about former Weatherman Bill Ayers and his supposed closeness to Obama (who had been 8 years old when Ayers was doing his revolting stuff):
Clinton's staff was surprised; Ayers hadn't been part of her prep. But Hillary had a number of friends—among them Sid Blumenthal, whose nickname was "Grassy Knoll"—regularly feeding her on the sly negative tidbits of dubious veracity about Obama. (In getting ready for that night, Hillary casually mentioned to her aides that she'd heard that Obama's mother was a communist.)
I don't say any of this as a partisan. I never agreed with those who said that the Obamas had "laid to rest" the problem of their long association with the appalling Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But that was a public question, to be resolved by democratic argument. Whereas the striking thing about all the examples above is how low they are in their tone and the commitment they reveal to the spreading of surreptitious innuendo by grimy, cowardly, and underhanded means.
A bit more than a decade ago, I had a public showdown with Blumenthal, who was then professionally engaged in defaming more than one truth-telling female witness against then-President Clinton. I thought it was wrong for the White House to be involved in such creepy tactics. But at the time, a huge number of liberal and pseudo-left commentators thought of Clinton as a victim rather than a practitioner of "sexual McCarthyism" and even went so far as to utter the absurd, insulting idea that this moral vandal was the nation's "first black president." Now that the exact same team has been exposed as circulating the cheapest sort of racist insinuation against the man who actually did become the first president with an African parent, I wonder if any of that liberal chorus will have the grace to blush. It was the old Bill-Hillary-Sidney gang who handed over the weapons of defamation to the Republicans in the closing stages of the last campaign, and it was they who were not-so-secretly upset when the candidate of their own party actually won. Will there be any belated acknowledgement that one set of dirty tricks led to another? Of course there will not. But meanwhile, keeping score is the next best thing.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.
Photograph of Hillary and Bill Clinton by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.