Sunday, March 30, 2008

The vast right-wing conspiracy hugs Hillary Clinton

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Last week, it was the reverse: "Hillary Clinton hugs the vast right-wing conspiracy" -- Hillary conducted an interview with the editorial board of right-wing media baron Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, with Dick Scaife himself sitting right next to her, and she used the occasion to bring up the Obama-Wright controversy and otherwise to cozy up to a man, as I put it last week, who took it upon himself to spend much of the '90s trying to destroy the Clintons and who has spent the past several decades trying to destroy liberalism and the Democratic Party.

("Anything to win." -- The motto of the 2008 Clinton presidential campaign.)

Well, it looks like the feelings are mutual, or, rather, that Clinton and Scaife have established a mutual admiration society ahead of the April 22 Pennsylvania primary. In a column published in today's PTR -- headlined "Hillary, reassessed," suggesting that positive views are forthcoming -- Scaife praises Hillary for taking the time to meet with his newspaper ("it said something about the New York senator and former first lady who hopes to be America's next president") and, well, says some really nice things about her. Such as:

-- "The very morning that she came to the Trib, our editorial page raised questions about her campaign and criticized her on several other scores. Reading that, a lesser politician -- one less self-assured, less informed on domestic and foreign issues, less confident of her positions -- might well have canceled the interview right then and there."

-- "Her meeting and her remarks during it changed my mind about her."

-- "Sen. Clinton also exhibited an impressive command of many of today's most pressing domestic and international issues. Her answers were thoughtful, well-stated, and often dead-on."

And so on and so on. To be fair, Scaife isn't your mainstream conservative on, say, Iraq, and so he agrees with the Democratic position (shared by Obama and Clinton) that the troops should be withdrawn. The only domestic issue he brought up to show his agreement with Clinton was "the utter failure of federal efforts to rebuild New Orleans since the Katrina disaster," an issue that finds agreement across the spectrum, hardly a divisive social wedge issue. And though he praised Hillary for "[identifying]what we consider to be the most important challenges and dangers that the next president must confront and resolve in order to guarantee our nation's security," he only specifics he offered were "an increasingly hostile Russia, an increasingly powerful China and increasing instability in Pakistan and South America" -- Yes, but what to do about them? Is it enough to just to identify these threats?

In the end, Scaife does not endorse Hillary -- "not yet, anyway," and he wants to hear from Obama -- but notes that he left the meeting with "a very favorable" (and "counterintuitive") impression of her.

Which is pretty much an endorsement. It seems unlikely to me that Obama will prove to be more to Scaife's liking than Hillary, the new Hillary, the desperate Hillary who needs to win the Pennsylvania primary and who will do anything to win it, including selling her soul to a devil who has long tormented her.

Hillary will likely win Pennsylvania -- with or without a PTR endorsement. She has the party establishment behind her, for the most part, she has a big lead over Obama among socially conservative white working-class voters, and, of course, the Clintons have a long history in the state. A PTR endorsement -- a Scaife endorsement -- would help but would not be decisive.

And yet a Scaife endorsement would be telling -- which is to say, it would say a lot about Hillary, about what she has become. Based on this column, after all, an endorsement would be a genuinely positive call, not a hesitant, reluctant pick of the lesser of two evils. Put another way, it would be pro-Clinton, which is what Scaife now seems to be. Should not Democrats be concerned that a leading right-wing media baron is firmly in Hillary's camp?

Now, a cynic might suggest that Scaife, ever the partisan, wants Hillary to win because she is the weaker candidate and that he is saying such nice things about her only to undermine the Democratic Party. In this sense, the cynic might suggests that he is just doing what, say, Rush Limbaugh, has been doing. To which I say: yes, it's possible. Come November, after all, it Scaife will no doubt support McCain, Iraq notwithstanding.

Either way, though, Hillary is cozying up to the vast right-wing conspiracy of which she herself has been a target. Indeed, either way, are we not right to question Hillary's judgment? Either she now appeals to Scaife, in which case there is cause for concern, or she is allowing herself to be played by Scaife, in which case there is cause for concern of a different kind.

Either way, she has lost perspective. Either way, it is all about herself. Either way, there is no way she should be the Democratic nominee for president.

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