The New, Cool Hillary-Hate

Hannah Rosin’s long, long piece at The Atlantic about past, present and future slimers of Hillary Clinton is painful, sometimes confusing, and yet an essential re-entry vehicle into the dark world of Clinton-haters, who will assume an inevitable and perhaps high-profile role in the current presidential cycle. She begins and ends the piece quoting the hoariest of the obsessive Clinton-bashers, R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr., of the once-powerful American Spectator. She ultimately talks a great deal about America Rising, a group created in 2013 to provide a central but hands-off repository and shaping lab for GOP oppo research (they are best known as the people who discovered that a friend of Bruce Braley had posted a YouTube video of the Iowa congressman speaking to Texas trial lawyers, which proved to be his undoing).

Throughout, Rosin seems unable to convince herself, much less readers, that HillaryHate 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever it is will maintain a cool professionalism free of the culture-war passions and overreach that made such attacks ultimately fail or even backfire in the past. Perhaps it’s because conservatives haven’t quite proved that a decentralized messaging operation can work in a presidential contest, particularly one against the Clintons:

If she runs for president in 2016—as all evidence suggests she will—Hillary Clinton will face something more like a vast right-wing conglomerate. This time around, the groups will be well funded, solidly professional, and thoroughly integrated into the party establishment. America Rising, which employs more than 50 people, is a new opposition-research group that’s preparing a Clinton strategy for the Republicans far in advance of the campaign. It sends “trackers” with portable video cameras to all her events, in hopes of catching a gaffe, and uses polling and focus-group research to determine ways to define her before she has a chance, once again, to define herself. The Free Beacon has its own research division and a “war room” for what it calls “combat journalism”—most of it, recently, directed at Clinton. The small but busy Stop Hillary PAC is putting together a “grass-roots coalition” that aims (as its name suggests) to ensure “Hillary Clinton never becomes president.” Citizens United, the group that won the Supreme Court case allowing a flood of new campaign spending, is producing a movie about Clinton’s performance as secretary of state, focusing on whether she did enough to protect the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, where militants killed ​the U.S. ​ambassador to Libya and ​three other Americans in 2012. Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the Koch brothers, turned its conference last August into a forum for a wide range of Hillary bashing.

Sounds more like a “conglomerate” designed to produce soft porn for people already convinced of Hillary’s evil than a surgical strike on her popularity. But pure malice is hard to control.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.