WASHINGTON — Old enemies of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are out in force. Just weeks after she joined the Democratic Party’s flock of presidential contenders, Clinton is being targeted by conservative and Republican-allied activists intent on derailing her campaign before the start of next year’s primaries. They have surfaced with a flurry of planned projects: a Michael Moore-style documentary film, book-length exposes, and websites such as StopHerNow.com and StopHillaryPAC.com. Conservative admirers of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth media blitz that helped torpedo Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential candidacy in 2004 are now agitating to “Swift-boat” Clinton.
I suppose the fact that so many Right-wing thugs are working so feverishly to derail Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations should be taken as indication that they view her as a legitimate threat to take the White House from them. That this is starting so early can, and should, be taken as a barometer of just how ugly this campaign promises to become before all is said and done.
The swiftboating of Hillary Clinton is begnning with an emphasis on her 2002 vote to authorize going to war against Iraq. She’ll no doubt be pilloried for her vote, but I’m not so certain that this is fair criticism. If you remember the hyper-patriotic, revenge-for-9.11 fervor that existed in this country in 2002, you’ll remember the sales effort that was put into convincing America that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. While a Senator would likely have had access to more and better intelligence than your average American, Sen. Clinton may have made the same decision I did in initially supporting the war. She may simply have decided that in a time of perceived grave national peril, sometimes you have to put aside partisan political considerations for the good of the nation.
I initially supported the war. I was willing to believe, given the preponderance of “evidence” presented at the time, that this was a time when we had to be Americans first and partisan ideologues second. It wasn’t until later that the “evidence” presented was demonstrated to be little more than lies and propaganda dressed up like a Potemkin village.
So Hillary Clinton fell victim to the same thing so many of us did. She gave Our Glorious and Benevolent Leader © the benefit of the doubt, just as I and so many others did. At the time, it made sense. While I never believed that Iraq had any connection to 9.11, I was willing to believe that Iraq posed a clear and present danger. While I can’t begin to speak for Hillary Clinton or her decision-making process, I imagine that her vote to authorize the war may well have been made for the same reasons.
So why are Republican Swiftboaters willing to judge Clinton’s 2002 vote using today’s realities? Why? Because they can, and because they know what while people will react to the attacks, most won’t remember the situation in 2002. It’s sad, and it’s unspeakably wrong, but such is the state of Republican politics today. If you can’t compete on the issues, character assassination will work just fine. Whatever it takes, man. Whatever it takes.