Photo: Patsy Lynch/REX USA.
If Hillary Clinton plans to run for president, she'd better start amassing her artillery.
It seems an army of nitpickers is preparing a bombardment. Clinton's opponents are busy coordinating a multimillion-dollar attack, planning to dig into records from decades of her work in the public sector, according to the sensational new book Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. The goal: to unearth any missteps or gaffes that could be spun against her in the race.
“Their grand strategy includes early filing of multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for documents from Hillary’s time at the State Department,” author Daniel Halper writes in the book, referring to members of a conservative super-political action committee called America Rising. Super-PACs can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals to tear down or build up political candidates. “Staffers have been assigned to Arkansas to interview former associates and reexamine past scandals. They’ve been combing the archives.”
Hillary continues to rule the polls, with a new survey showing her leading all potential Republican presidential candidates in the key state of Florida. A new CNN poll showed that she would beat Mitt Romney in a hypothetical matchup today, while President Obama would not. (However, in a poll ranking Star Wars characters and popular politicians, she trailed Darth Vader. But, she roundly beat Jar Jar Binks.)
Also working in her favor: A recent poll commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund revealed that access to birth control will be a crucial issue for women voters, following the recent Supreme Court ruling that certain companies can deny insurance coverage of contraceptives based on religious beliefs. Hillary has blasted the ruling, calling it “deeply disturbing.”
And, so her opponents are going into overdrive. But, there’s a “conundrum" in the plan of attack, writes Halper, who is the online editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. The strategy could very well backfire because voters tend to sympathize with Hillary when she comes under heavy fire. “Pollsters have found that there’s a reservoir of sympathy for Clinton, one that traces back to the final years of her husband’s administration and his many womanizing scandals," Halper writes. "Their impression of Mrs. Clinton improves every time she is seen as a victim of attacks, by Republicans, Democrats or the media. It’ll shape how Hillary’s attacked.”
He cites research showing that Hillary’s popularity rose in the wake of Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. So, her opponents will need to be cagey, according to Halper, aiming to “reawaken old scandals with new information” rather than launching a “targeted assault on Mrs. Clinton’s personal life or ethics directly.” He adds, “There is hope that more might even be mined from the biggest and most visible scandal magnet of them all—William Jefferson Clinton.”
Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Hillary has her own battalion of deep-pocketed supporters raising money on her behalf, including a super-PAC called Ready for Hillary, which reportedly raised $2.5 million in the past three months, a 47% increase from the first quarter. The group is getting creative in its fundraising efforts, crisscrossing the country in a big bus and selling an array of "Ready for Hillary" products online, from cuff links and Champagne glasses to onesies and dog bowls.
Halper’s book is one of a trio of unflattering books focusing on the Clintons, including the recent Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas and the upcoming The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents. On his book jacket, Halper touts his tome as “the untold story of strategic calculation, backroom deals, reckless gambles and an unquenchable thirst for wealth and power.” Hillary’s press secretary has reportedly called the books “a hat trick of despicable actors concocting trashy nonsense.” The behavior of the authors "should neither be allowed nor enabled," he said, sparking accusations that he's suggesting a book ban. Hillary, of course, has her own new book, Hard Choices, which enjoyed a run at the top of the New York Times best-seller list before Blood Feud overtook it.
To be sure, every political candidate faces a tsunami of nitpicking and negative coverage. And, we certainly want to have a clear understanding of the records of our elected officials. But, spending unlimited boatloads of money on attacks raises the question: Why would anyone run for high office if we put our candidates through such insanity, dredging up decades-old moments when they misspoke or flip-flopped on some obscure issue? We want our elected officials to have the experience to do the job, but anyone with any real experience comes with a history of wins and fails, both personal and political.
Hillary indicated in a recent discussion with Facebook users that she would be open to the idea of curtailing the spending frenzy of the super-PACs. Good plan. Perhaps the billionaires could find something better to do with their money.
Tell us what you think: Is Hillary being unfairly nitpicked, or is it just to be expected? Is too much money being spent on political attacks?