Election 2008

A Challenge to Hillary Bashers: Explain Why You Hate Her

The loathing of Hillary Clinton unites everyone from the ultraright to the ultraleft -- but why?
The occasion was a symposium on the presidential candidates held by the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, which sponsors a weekly public policy discussion series in Los Angeles. Midway through a heated discussion over the relative merits of Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton a member of the audience let loose with an impassioned I can't stand Hillary blast and punctuated it with the quip, I'd vote for anybody but her. I asked him a simple question: Why do you hate Hillary?

He sat with his mouth wide open and a perplexed glaze on his face, no sound issued from him. His mute response was no surprise. My question to him is the same question to the legions that slam Hillary; tell me specifically what terrible thing she's done that stirs such froth around your mouth. Skip the personal attacks, vitriol, innuendos, slurs, and don't repeat hearsay, gossip, or what you heard someone say about Clinton, and that includes Bill. Give me one tangible thing that she has done to piss you off so much that you are proud to be a charter member of the anybody but Hillary club. Name one tangible thing?

I asked the man in audience to tell me one thing that she's done politically or even personally that ticked him off so that without batting an eye he'd say that the thought of her winning sends him into a paroxysm of rage. The question continued to dangle for a long and pregnant moment with no response.

He, of course, is no different than the swarm of other Hillary bashers. The visceral dislike, even loathing of her, is so deep and broad that it welds together a strange mesh of the usual suspect Hillary haters from the Christian fundamentalists, ultraright Republicans and conservative talking heads, through a bevy of her former Hollywood pals and Bill Clinton campaign bankrollers, all the way to self-styled progressives and ultraradicals. They have absolutely nothing in common other than the ecstasy they get from pounding Hillary for her alleged political and personal sins.

But what are they? And what did she do that has earned her the label of everything from the devil incarnate (the late Jerry Falwell) on the right to branding her a shill for fat cat lobbyists and corporations on the left. That's just cheap shot name calling, trashing, and vilification from the rank and file. But the press has also gleefully jumped in on the Clinton beat down. It spins, twists, massages in reverse and blows to smithereens any and every piece of nasty Clinton gossip or dig.

I asked the Hillary hater a third time to name one specific thing that she's done to earn his obsessive enmity. The silent Hillary denouncer after some fishing, fumbling and stalling, said that she cheerled Bush on the Iraq war when she voted to authorize it, OK. But so did her Democratic presidential rival John Edwards, and though Obama says that he wouldn't have voted for it if he had been in the Senate then. However, in two subsequent votes he backed spending measures that continued war funding. If the other top gun Democratic presidential contender Bill Richardson had been in the Senate he almost certainly would have backed war authorization.

In fact, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus was sharply divided over support of the original Iraq war resolution in 2002 that gave Bush authority to wage war. Edwards later apologized for backing the resolution. Obama joined with thirteen other Democratic Senators to oppose the crucial big money Iraq war appropriations bill in May. One of the other thirteen senators was Clinton. She is no different than other Democrats that have cut and run from Bush's war. They all recanted when public opinion turned sour on the war and Bush and it suddenly became politically fashionable and popular to do so.

The Iraq war support certainly doesn't explain the vehemence of the Hillary targeting. Her centrist, cautious, and sometimes fuzzy stance on health care, education, taxes, and immigration are legitimate issues to dissect, debate, and criticize. But these are issues that all of the contenders can and should be held to the fire on. They are fair game for that. But intense political debate and disagreement on the crucial public policy issues in and of themselves is simply not enough to stoke visceral dislike of a candidate, let alone explain the intense hate for Hillary.

My challenge then to all Hillary bashers is the same as it was to the guy at the Urban Policy Roundtable in Los Angeles; tell me exactly why you hate her so much?
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 and Hispanic Economics New York).