Hillary gets what she deserves

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking for sympathy, support and political cover as her rivals show the temerity to run aggressively against the Democratic presidential front-runner. But don’t feel sorry for her — Clinton is no stranger to “piling on.”

In fact, she’s an expert at it.

Ask anybody who stood on the marble floor of the state Capitol rotunda in 1990 and heard the click, clack, click of her low-heeled shoes approach the news conference of Tom McRae, a mild-mannered public servant who had the nerve to challenge then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas for re-election.

“Tom!” the state’s first lady shouted. “I think we oughta get the record straight!”

McRae, a former Clinton appointee, stood a good chance of defeating the incumbent until Hillary Rodham Clinton sandbagged him. Holding a sheaf of papers, she crashed the news conference to undermine McRae’s measured criticism of her husband’s record.

“Many of the reports you issued not only praise the governor on his environmental record,” she said, “but his education and his economic record!”

McRae didn’t know how to respond without looking like a sexist bully. His candidacy was over. The Clintons’ dreams for re-election and the White House lived on.

The McRae massacre came to mind this week after the Democratic presidential debate, when Clinton essentially hid behind her pantsuit in response to a public shellacking like the one she gave McRae.

Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination seized on her refusal to give straight answers about Social Security, immigration, her White House-era documents and other important issues. They hope to further the perception that she is slippery and overly political.

Rather than rebut her rivals’ charges or confront the issues with facts and details, Clinton accused her rivals of ganging up on her.

She released a cleverly edited video showing rivals John Edwards, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd uttering her name in rapid-fire succession to the strains of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

The video then cuts to the words, “The Politics of Pile On.”

Her top strategist, Mark Penn, told supporters on a conference call that Clinton needed their help to survive “this six-on-one to try to bring her down.”

In the call, first reported by The Hill newspaper, pollster Penn said he had already detected backlash from female voters.

On Thursday, the senator returned to her all-female alma mater, Wellesley College, and called it a place that taught her to compete “in the all-boys club of presidential politics.”

Clinton’s advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss internal matters, said there is a clear and long-planned strategy to fend off attacks by accusing her male rivals of gathering against her.

The idea is to change the subject while making Clinton a sympathetic figure, especially among female voters who often feel outnumbered and bullied on the job.

As one adviser put it, Clinton is not the first presidential candidate to play the “woe-is-me card” but she’s the first major female presidential candidate to do it.

The victim is a familiar role for Clinton.

In her first run for the Senate, Republican rival Rep. Rick Lazio alienated many women voters when he strode across the stage in their first debate and demanded Clinton sign a pledge banning unregulated contributions known as “soft money” from her campaign.

Analysts considered the confrontation a turning point in the race, generating sympathy for Clinton while making Lazio look like a menacing bully.

Still, her advisers privately concede there is a potential down side to the 2008 woe-is-me strategy: Male and female voters alike want their presidents to be strong — not weak and whining, which is the perception Clinton must be careful to avoid.

The good news for Clinton is that she, unlike many women, has the upper hand.

High name recognition, lots of campaign cash, her husband’s political legacy and her own three decades in public life more than level the playing field — as illustrated by Clinton’s wide lead in national polls.

And this isn’t her first rodeo. Remember, it was Clinton who defined and defied the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and who lashed out — or piled on — critics of her health care reform efforts in the early 1990s.

She has an alternative to the risky piling-on defense. Clinton could undercut her rivals’ criticism by simply coming clean on more issues.

Just what is her stance on drivers’ licenses for immigrants? How would she preserve Social Security? Why would her public views differ from what she says in private?

Why doesn’t she demand that her husband release records from the White House, and donors to his library?

When would she withdraw troops from Iraq? What would cause her to wage war against Iran?

As she told McRae nearly 20 years ago, we oughta get the record straight.


Ron Fournier has covered the Clintons and politics for nearly 20 years.


  1. ekaton

    If you like Bush you will LOVE Hilary. Just imagine her with all the power Bush has usurped. Do you think for a second she would give that up? Elect Hilary, and if she stays in for 8 years we’ll have had 28 years of rule by the Bushes and the Clintons, considerably MORE if you count Daddy Bush’s VP years under Reagan. I hate dynasties.


    Together they have nearly destroyed our country already.

    — Kent Shaw

  2. Helen Rainier

    As much as I would love to see someone other than a white male be the next President of the United States, I simply cannot and willnot vote for any of the options if I believe they have either tap danced their way around issues or have taken positions that go against either the will of We, the People and/or the principles of governance in the US Constitution.

    Unfortunately, both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama now have presented themselves in ways on some positions that I simply cannot condone by voting for either one of them.

    It is very perplexing for me because I really don’t want to have to vote for the “lesser of two evils” in this next presidential election yet again. One thing I know for sure, is that based on the performance of the Republican Party at large over the past six years particularly, I will NEVER vote for any Republican candidate again — even if it’s for Chief Commode Cleaner.

    They have allowed and contributed to the decline of our country and our Constitution and do not merit my vote for anything.

  3. DejaVuAllOver

    PLEASE, dear Democrats, DO NOT NOMINATE THIS CRAVEN, POWER-HUNGRY, SELF-SERVING, WARMONGERING, SOUTHERN-CHRISTIAN LIAR! You really deserve much better than this. I think…..

  4. yarply

    The Politics of Pile On?

    That sounds like something a whore might say after she got gang banged.
    You have got to hate the feminist movement who keep harping on equal rights for women and how they want to be treated “just like everyone else”, then pull this, you are treating her unfairly crap. Women who act like men and then complain when they get punched in the mouth,, I have no sympathy for her or them. They say there is already a backlash from female voters (what a sexist comment) and I heard on the news this morning that among the polled women the majority think Hillary is a woman of integrity. What??? Are they stupid? Hillary Clinton and integrity shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence, except to say she doesn’t have any.
    I would like to ask thoughs who think she does what they think integrity actually means, because I think they don’t know.
    On the news this morning they asked Obama whether or not it was fair to gang up on a woman like that. What???? Hell I was waiting for him to reply,,,, Hillary’s a women? Oh,, I didn’t know that.

  5. SEAL

    If they want to attack Hillary, why the hell did they pick such a chickenshit issue as the correspondence between her an her husband while he was president? As far as I’m concerned, conversations between husband and wife are nobody’s damn business and I would have supported Hillary if she had told them so.

    OK. She is running on her record and her involvement in Bill’s presidency is fair game. But that is handled by, “Bill and I talked about it and this is what we decided.” The conversation used to arrive at a decision is irrelevant.

    There are many other issues that are more pertinent to her qualifications for being president. They did touch on some of those. But much less timewise or attitudewise. Issues on which she is much more vulnerable like Iraq and Iran and social security. She has never made any statements about what she plans to do about those. Saying she is against the war and then voting to give the Holy Bushit an excuse to start another war should be very loud in her competitors rhetoric.

    I don’t understand why these polititions don’t understand that we (the public) are sick and tired of stupid lines like “turn the page.” We want straight talk. They continually allow each other to rave on at length and say nothing. Hilllay is the worst and they need to call her out on it. Push her until she has to make a commitment.

    That is the only way they can defeat her because her real position is not going to be what the public wants. That is the only way to break the strangle hold she has on a very large number of women who are voting for her ONLY because she is a woman. They think that her being a woman automatically means she will deal with and support issues that are of concern to women. But I do not see her doing that at all. Those women need to take the gender blinders off and listen to what she says and, more important, what she does not say.

    Now, all the women can attack me for being a male chauvinist pig. But while you’re doing that, understand I don’t give a shit what her bra size is or when she has her period. What I care about is what she is going to do about the disaster that has been created by the criminals currently in power.

  6. acf

    She’s the race leader. The attackers are behind, and becoming more so, as time passes by, and the numbers seem to be firming up. Attacks are their best chance to bring her back down to their level. Attacks are SOP for political races by the trailing candidate. What’s the axiom, attack upward, never downward? It’s petty, but what other choice do they have? Their stump speeches haven’t gone over well enough? What disturbs me, is the hypocrisy of their responses to her complaint, plus the complicity of the new media in the attacks. In the last debate, the questions posed by the moderator facilitated the attacks, and even continued them.

  7. SEAL

    “In the last debate, the questions posed by the moderator facilitated the attacks, and even continued them.”

    That makes it more entertaining and, therefore, more newsworthy for several days. The next day they have a whole new controversy – the “boys club ganging up on a woman.” Ratings go up and they charge more for the advertizing. That’s the business they are in – advertizing.