Long Before Hillary Decides for 2016, Scandal Trolls Are Coming Back
A Commentary By Joe Conason
By all accounts, Hillary Rodham Clinton has not yet decided whether to seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. But the prospect of her candidacy, combined with her undeniable popularity, is agitating certain commentators so deeply that they simply cannot withhold their bile.
Consider the reaction of David Frum, a former Bush White House aide who often writes for the Daily Beast/Newsweek, CNN and other outlets about his dissatisfaction with the Republican Party. Frum can be both candid and thoughtful, although his latest attempt to justify the deceptive campaign leading up to the disastrous Iraq occupation seemed weak and inappropriate, even a bit cowardly.
Like so many conservatives of his cohort, Frum was no foreign policy expert. He made his right-wing bones in relentless "scandal" attacks on the Clinton presidency, eagerly appearing on television to spout the daily stream of angry nonsense. Unlike some who participated in that long, nasty jihad, he still has not accepted the national verdict on the Clintons.
Sounding today like a manic concern troll, Frum writes worriedly that her candidacy would "reopen embarrassing ethical disputes" from her years as First Lady. "One particular quarrel that a Hillary Clinton nomination would bring forward is the quarrel over the ethical standards of the Clinton White House -- and, maybe even more, of the Clintons' post-White House careers." Evidently Frum thinks that Bill Clinton shouldn't have earned millions delivering speeches while his wife served as Secretary of State -- neglecting to mention that the Obama White House carefully vetted every dollar he had earned before sending her nomination to the Senate.
Such insinuations -- devoid of any factual basis or reporting effort -- reflect the customary intellectual standards of the old Clinton crazies. The obvious purpose is to evoke a shadow of scandal, without fulfilling the burden of a serious accusation.
At this point, someone will inevitably wag a finger and mention "Lewinsky." And true, there was Monica Lewinsky. Guilty of an extramarital affair that he attempted to conceal, Bill Clinton paid a heavy price for his impulsive misconduct. And despite an astonishing torrent of accusations, including every conceivable crime, he was guilty of nothing more.
As for Hillary, every allegation against her -- from Whitewater to "Filegate" to "Travelgate" and so on -- simply evaporated under tens of millions of dollars worth of prosecutorial scrutiny. It is easy to forget that Kenneth Starr, the Republican-appointed special prosecutor, and his successor Robert Ray, spent upwards of $50 million on their pointless investigations, victimizing many wholly innocent Arkansans.
The investigation's moral denouement came in February1997 -- following Clinton's second inauguration -- when Starr announced that he would resign to pursue a sinecure at right-wing-funded Pepperdine University. He had confided to gullible reporters only weeks earlier that he was about to indict Hillary Clinton, but the obvious truth was that his effort to derail the Democrat's re-election had failed.
This was one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of American law enforcement and jurisprudence, with an "independent counsel" extending and expanding a hollow probe for blatantly partisan purposes. More honest journalistic veterans of the anti-Clinton crusade have looked back on their participation with regret.
But just as we can expect to hear repeated justifications of the horror of Iraq, so we can anticipate more of the same old scandal slime, if and when Hillary runs. Based on past performance -- as Frum might say -- that won't intimidate her or her husband.
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