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What's with America and Hillary?
Sally Kohn, Susan Faludi, Janet Reitman and Henry Louis Gates.
Facts can’t beat conspiracy theories
No matter how much they try, Republicans can't make Hillary Clinton guilty.
I recently met a student at the University of Wyoming who wanted to know why, during a speech, I said Benghazi is a non-issue. Because, I explained, after 33 hearings conducted by multiple Congressional committees featuring more than 250 witness appearances, and resulting in hundreds of pages of published reports, no evidence of wrongdoing—either by Hillary Clinton or the State Department more broadly—was found.
That is not to say that no mistakes were made. All the investigations found there were things in hindsight that Clinton and the State Department could and should have done differently—important lessons to learn in protecting our diplomatic assets going forward. But the fact is the committees found no breach of duty on the part of Clinton.
But because Republicans didn't like that answer, they launched yet another investigation—which, after two years and more than $7 million in taxpayer dollars, reached the same conclusion. Yet here was this student, insisting in spite of all the findings to the contrary, that Clinton was not only guilty, but that she had deliberately caused the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans. The facts were clearly irrelevant to her conclusion. She was determined to believe in Hillary Clinton's guilt.
The same is true with the emails, despite a thorough FBI investigation finding no evidence that Clinton had intentionally transmitted or distributed classified information. Comey did say that Clinton's use of a private email server was ‘extremely careless‘—a slightly stronger wording of self-criticism that Clinton herself leveled before and since. But the Department of Justice accepted the FBI's recommendations and did not file any criminal charges in the matter.
Despite this, in the first presidential debate, Donald Trump insisted otherwise. ‘That was more than a mistake. That was done purposely,’ Trump said.
Read more at the CNN website
How Hillary Clinton met Satan
'Her famous ‘hiddenness’ is, at heart, her refusal to cop to the crime of purloined male authority. A Spy magazine story in 1995 made that theft succinct: a cover image of a grinning Hillary, her skirt billowing up as in the old Marilyn Monroe photo, to reveal male briefs bulging with a penis. Across her legs ran the headline: ‘Hillary’s Big Secret.’'
It was my third day at the Republican National Convention in 1996, and my notebook overflowed with a one-note theme: ‘You do know that Hillary Clinton is funding the whole radical feminist agenda?’ ‘She had Vince Foster killed.’ ‘She’s behind many more murders than that.’ ‘It’s well-established that Hillary Clinton belonged to a satanic cult, still does.’ The consensus among Pat Buchanan’s supporters seemed ardent and universal, though the object of this obloquy wasn’t even on the opposing ticket.
One of the mysteries of 2016 is the degree to which Hillary Clinton is reviled. Not just rationally opposed but viscerally and instinctively hated. None of the stated reasons for the animus seem to satisfy. Yes, she’s careful and cagey, and her use of a private email server, which the F.B.I. flung back into the news on Friday, was a big mistake. But no, she’s not more dishonest than other politicians, and compared with her opponent, she’s George Washington. Her policies, even where bold, are hardly on the subversive fringe.
Yet she’s cast not just as a political combatant but as a demon who, in the imaginings of Republicans like Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Representative Trent Franks, would create an America ‘where passion — the very stuff of life — is extinguished’ (the former) and where fetuses would be destroyed ‘limb from limb’ (the latter).
Donald J. Trump and his supporters posit their antipathy as a reaction to Mrs. Clinton’s accumulated record over ‘30 years in power.’ It’s important to recall that she was deranging Republicans on Day 1. Understanding her demonization requires admitting her full significance in our political history, for she is not simply a pioneering woman fighting an Ur-misogyny. Mrs. Clinton faces a two-headed Cerberus, an artificial conjoining that occurred in the early 1990s, of wounded Republican invincibility and wounded male prerogative. Our current political crisis won’t be resolved until those forces are separated and the Cerberus slain.
Few current observers seem to recall the wrath that greeted Bill Clinton’s ascension. To the left, ‘Clintonism’ implies accommodation and calculation. But to the right in 1992, it meant usurpation. Reaganism held almost religious significance, and its reign was supposed to be transformative and permanent. For the One True Way to be restored, Clintonism had to be delegitimized.
Read more at the New York Times.
Hillary v. the hate machine
'Captured on video, it was reported as a 'fainting spell' – even Tom Brokaw suggested that Clinton might want to consult a neurologist – thus giving further credence to Trump's assertion that she lacks the 'stamina' to be president. When Clinton's campaign acknowledged that the candidate had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier but had chosen to press on without informing anyone but her closest allies, the media responded by noting that her 'penchant for privacy', as The New York Times put it, 'threatens to make her look, again, as though she has something to hide.' Running for president is both exhausting and stressful; in 2004, John Kerry also came down with pneumonia during his presidential campaign. Though Clinton has been campaigning and fundraising relentlessly, so much so that her running mate, Tim Kaine, noted he had trouble keeping up with her, almost none of the media reports pointed out that ill or not, she nonetheless showed up to the 9/11 ceremony.'
They were everywhere this summer, the wanna-be statesmen, the failed comedians, the conspiracy theorists and entrepreneurs with political convictions, or absolutely no convictions, selling the national id. In Cleveland, they trawled the streets outside the Republican National Convention, shouting, ‘Hillary's lies matter!’ or ‘Hillary for prison!’—the slogans stamped on buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, decals, trucker hats, hoodies, onesies. At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, diehards in Bernie 2016 shirts held signs reading ‘#NeverHillary’ or ‘Shillary,’ or handed out posters renaming the Democratic nominee ‘War Hawk’ or ‘Goldman Girl’ or ‘Monsanto Mama.’ Everywhere the venom was carefully packaged and rigorously on-message. One button, plumbing the depths of the anti-politically correct, read ‘Life's a Bitch—Don't Vote for One.’ Another promoted a ‘KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts ... Left Wing.’ There were images of an angry Hillary giving America the finger and countless others of her yelling, scowling, looking mean. ‘Hillary sucks, but not like Monica!’ yelled one T-shirt vendor, who told me he'd sold almost 500 shirts in Cleveland with that catchphrase. ‘Trump that bitch!’
While Trump's rise wrecks the GOP, Clinton's success marks the resilience of the Democratic center
A San Diego lawyer I met in July wore a lapel pin depicting Hillary Clinton as Lucifer. ‘She's an evil person,’ he told me. ‘Evil.’ He'd come to this conclusion, he said, after reading Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Clinton, written by former-Bill-Clinton-adviser-turned-National-Enquirer hit-man Dick Morris, which shot to Number Three on The New York Times bestseller list. For much of the summer, three of the top five books on the list were direct attacks on Hillary Clinton (a fourth, Glenn Beck's Liars, is an attack on progressives more broadly). The lawyer admitted that he really had no idea if Clinton was actually evil—he didn't pay careful attention to her record—it was more of a feeling.
Feeling, for lack of a better word, is what drives most Americans' perceptions of Hillary Clinton, one of the most complex and resilient figures in U.S. politics, yet also, after decades of probing scrutiny, less a real person than a vessel for Americans to collectively project their anxieties, fears, frustrations and identity struggles. Across the country, people of every political persuasion—men, women, millennials, baby boomers—told me they were eager for a woman president, just not this woman. Clinton is ‘inauthentic,’ some say, as well as selfish—‘Her eyes are on her own game,’ one Democrat noted—calculating and corrupt. Another told me, ‘She's a fucking liar.’
The pervasiveness of these sorts of terms in the national conversation about Clinton tells us far less about her character than it does about the character called ‘Hillary Clinton,’ the construction of a sustained and well-funded strategy by the right to shape the way we talk about Clinton, what we believe we ‘know’ about Clinton and also how we view her statements, gestures, actions, policies and, most crucially, her mistakes. ‘There's just a huge amount of bullshit, and it's been going on for decades,’ says Bobbie Greene McCarthy, Clinton's friend and former White House deputy chief of staff. ‘This is too important of an election to buy into a false narrative. But the noise just drowns out any sort of critical thinking.’
In November, Americans face a historic choice: Vote for a man who is widely considered one of the most unqualified people to ever run for president, or cast a ballot for a woman whose qualifications for the job exceed those of just about any other candidate in the modern era. Electing the first woman president of the United States will be a revolutionary act, as terrifying to some as it is thrilling to others, but her victory is anything but inevitable. There's a very real chance the visceral hatred, or at minimum the visceral ambivalence, toward Hillary Clinton could hand the election to Donald Trump.
There are valid criticisms to be made about Clinton.
Read more at Rolling Stone.
Hillary hating (back in 1996)
Henry Louis Gates
'It is often said that in ancient times a man who stood accused of breaking an urn that he’d borrowed from a neighbor was permitted to make the following tripartite defense: that it was already broken when he borrowed it, that it wasn’t broken when he returned it, and that he never borrowed it in the first place. ... In the course of a single conversation, I have been assured that Hillary is cunning and manipulative but also crass, clueless, and stunningly impolitic; that she is a hopelessly woolly-headed do-gooder and, at heart, a hardball litigator; that she is a base opportunist and a zealot convinced that God is on her side.'
We’re sitting together at one end of a long mahogany table in the Map Room, on the ground level of the White House. A little awkwardly, the table is set up for twelve, with a White House notepad by each chair; it seems that nobody has been around to pick up since the President held a meeting here just before Christmas. Half a century ago, the American conduct of the Second World War was largely overseen from this room; here President Roosevelt could send messages to commanders around the world and receive up-to-the-minute reports from the battlefields. More recently, the once top secret room had fallen into disuse; Hillary Rodham Clinton tells me that its restoration was one of her pet projects when she first arrived. A red damask sofa stands off to one side, and there are half a dozen pleasant, undemanding oils and engravings on the walls. But what draws your eye is a map of Europe, hand-labelled ‘Estimated German Situation,’ which was prepared and posted on April 3, 1945. Areas under Nazi occupation were outlined in red, with blue arrows to indicate invading enemy troops. It was the last situation map seen by President Roosevelt, who died nine days later.
All these years after, the map still lends an aura of the war room—of tactical maneuvers against desperate odds, of moves and countermoves. In the light of the First Lady’s embattled position, it may also lend the comfort of control, the assurance that V-E Day is around the corner. You’re almost tempted to stick different-colored pins in the thing, the way generals in old war movies mark enemy battalions: over here, a Senate panel and an independent counsel clustered together; over there, a Times columnist; and, in scattershot formation, a Fifth Column of disaffected ex-supporters. Maybe it isn’t war, but it is hell. ‘I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,’ she says. This morning’s William Safire column happens to be the one that pronounces her a ‘congenital liar.’ She has just been out taking a long walk by herself—which, given the recent blizzard, shows real determination, or maybe need.
Actually, the strain isn’t visible. With nearly flawless skin, she defies all logic by looking younger than she does in photographs. She’s in what you might call her civvies: she’s wearing a purple turtleneck and a blue St. John’s knit suit (‘It’s great to travel in, you can crumple it, and it doesn’t show wrinkles,’ she offers, in a hints-from-Heloïse spirit), and her hair is pulled back with a black velvet headband. I’m impressed by her equipoise. She explains that she’s been trying to practice something called ‘the discipline of gratitude,’ and refers me to a book by a Jesuit priest, Henri Nouwen. ‘The discipline of gratitude,’ Father Nouwen wrote, ‘is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.’ She points to a bowl of pink roses on the table and says, ‘I mean, you look at those flowers and you think, my gosh, if my life were to end tomorrow, how lucky I’ve been that nearly all my life I’ve been surrounded by flowers.’ If you are Hillary Clinton, the discipline of gratitude means reminding yourself that you are not a Bangladeshi peasant foraging for grains of rice—you are the First Lady and there are fresh-cut flowers in every room of your house. As with any mental discipline, however, concentration sometimes wavers and the press of daily life intrudes. These days, what with one thing and another, Bangladesh may not be entirely without its attractions.
Earlier, I had asked Maggie Williams, who has spent the past three years as the First Lady’s chief of staff, whether she would do it all over again, knowing what she knows now. It wasn’t something she had to stop and think about. ‘Absolutely not,’ she replied, lolling her head. ‘Are you kidding?’ I put the same question to Hillary Clinton, whose daily schedule now has to accommodate things like depositions with Kenneth Starr, the Independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation. ‘Absolutely,’ she says, and she speaks of the sense of adventure. ‘I wake up every day just wondering about what’s going to happen next.’ She’s not the only one.
Like horse-racing, Hillary-hating has become one of those national pastimes which unite the élite and the lumpen.
Read (a lot) more at The New YorkerImage: Partial reproduction of illustration by Philip Burke.