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The Character Assassination of Hillary Clinton

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The Character Assassination of Hillary Clinton

Watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann used to make me feel a little less alone in the world. I live in New York City, where everyone I know predicted the heinous mess the Iraq War would be long before it was even fully sold to the American public, but it was comforting to see and hear our views broadcast beyond the tiny bubble of Manhattan. After all, my somewhat liberal sister only lives an hour away and she voted for Bush in 2004 because she said he made her feel “safer.” In recent months, however, it’s become increasingly difficult to watch Olbermann, as he seemingly takes some kind of sick pleasure in trashing Hillary Clinton. There is plenty to condemn about the New York senator’s poorly managed campaign, and by displaying a willingness to criticize a Democrat I suppose he thinks he’s proving himself to be an equal-opportunity watchdog, but the smug, venomous bias with which he disparages Clinton for things he might otherwise shrug off if there weren’t someone more appealing running for President reveals an obvious prejudice, if not a specific agenda.

Barack Obama has been touted not only as an agent of change, but as a symbol of hope. But it’s Clinton who has proven to be the true spokesperson for hope—or, if her most recent declarations that she can still win are any indication, she’s refusing to acknowledge that the Kool-Aid even exists. Perpetual calls (Olbermann calls them “few”) for Clinton to drop out of the race when she has every right to stay, even if there weren’t less than a 2% spread in the popular vote between the two candidates in either direction, rightfully angered some of her supporters. The Democratic primary season ends on June 3rd and there’s no reason why anyone vying for the nomination should bow out until all the votes, super or mere mortal, have been cast. If Democrats think the primary season is too long, they should shorten it. And Clinton’s support is such that it can’t—and shouldn’t—be ignored. There’s a reason both candidates have endured this long without toppling the other, and it’s not simply because Clinton’s supporters are racist and Obama’s are sexist.

That said, my support for Clinton has gradually eroded with every bombastic claim of potential victory and with every seemingly opportunistic Clinton/GOP collusion against Obama. I find myself more and more convinced of Obama’s electability and competence every time I hear him speak, not to mention each time I see him referred to as “BHO” on FOX News’s screen crawl. (As if having a Muslim name—or hell, even being Muslim—should be a deal breaker to be a viable presidential candidate anyway.) If Clinton should have dropped out by now, it’s not because her chances of winning the nomination are slim to none (they are at this point), but that the consequences of her becoming the nominee would likely be too catastrophic, too loaded with potential resentment and whispers of conspiracy, racism and theft for the party to overcome. So it is with complete and confident objectivity that I say: Leave Hillary alone.

I’m once again feeling alone. The country at large has finally come around to truths about the Bush administration and the wars it has waged that some of us have known for years. But the demonization of the Clintons, especially Hillary, by supposed liberals is mind-boggling. When radio talk show host and Obama supporter Joe Madison told Chris Matthews last night that “some people” believe Clinton might have been delivering a “coded” message to would-be assassins when she cited Robert F. Kennedy’s murder during the 1968 Democratic primary as a reason to remain in the race, Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh’s head practically exploded—and rightfully so. Never mind that “some people” is itself essentially coded language for talking heads when they want to make a point about something they believe without having to actually take credit for it. It seems Walsh is one of the few rational thinkers thinking out loud in the media right now.

I removed myself from’s mailing list shortly after the organization officially endorsed Obama. Not because I didn’t support Obama (I did, and do), but because I was tired of constantly receiving newsletters with headlines trashing another candidate I also supported. It’s like getting emails from your dad talking smack about your mom right after the divorce. Apparently unbeknownst to MoveOn, there are actually people out there who both support Clinton and believe the Bush administration is one of the most destructive things to happen to our democracy (and possibly the world) in at least a generation. You don’t need a law degree to know when something stinks like bullshit and the 2000 election, the war in Iraq, the Hurricane Katrina debacle, and almost every other piece of domestic and foreign policy enacted by George W. Bush and his cronies were just that. When Mom and Dad are fighting, however, picking sides can get real messy real fast, and Oprah’s plummeting favorability ratings in the months since she endorsed Obama might be proof of that.

Walsh is dead-on when she says it’s the Clinton-hate that’s damaging the Democratic party, not the actual candidates, and the supposedly “liberal” media is the worst offender. With the guttural force, condescension and indignation he typically reserves for our country’s most morally feeble political minds (Bush, Cheney, Rove, O’Reilly, Limbaugh), Olbermann scolded Clinton during a “special comment” last week as if she were Ireland Baldwin, calling her “heartless” but stopping short of “thoughtless little pig.” “You actually used the word ’assassination’!” he scoffed with incredulity. Once again in America, the actual word is the offense, not thinking it, nor implying it, nor conjuring it obliquely as she has frequently between March 6th, when she told Time magazine almost the exact same thing, and her comments to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board. The Time quote makes it perfectly clear that in both cases Clinton was using the date of RKF’s assassination as evidence of why “having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual [so get off my fucking back already].”

The emphasis was on June, not assassination. Had she not been battling a constant drumbeat to drop out of the race, she may never have had reason to evoke the 1968 election, which has been compared to the current primary contest by those in the media (Limbaugh even publicly called for blood in the streets at the Denver convention in August) almost as many times as Obama has been likened to RFK, who—guess what?—was assassinated. Obama was armed with a Secret Service detail earlier than any other non-former First Lady candidate for a reason, and it wasn’t to keep Bill O’Reilly away.

Olbermann closed his special comment by citing a litany of statements, misstatements, blunders and contradictions he claims “we” have forgiven Clinton for when it’s clear he has not forgiven or forgotten about any of those transgressions. His rants are usually well-composed, thoughtful, incisive and justified, but this one seemed jumbled, hastily thrown together, and, worse, arbitrary, like he’d been licking his chops and waiting for that one final statement, ad or mistake to pounce and deliver the final blow in his Clinton character assassination. I can forgive you for many things, Mr. Olbermann. But I cannot forgive you this:

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.