What the Republicans Chasing Hillary Should Learn From Wile E. Coyote
A Commentary by Joe Conason
As the Republican right's fear swells in advance of Hillary Clinton's anticipated presidential campaign, conservatives' feverish smears increasingly resemble the desperate gambits of a certain Wile E. Coyote. The latest episode in their cartoonish crusade appeared in The Washington Free Beacon, which headlined "The Hillary Letters" the other day with an ominous subhead: "Hillary Clinton, Saul Alinsky correspondence revealed."
Not only did Clinton become acquainted as a young woman with the legendary community organizer -- a fact mentioned in "Living History," her own memoirs -- but also she apparently wrote at least two letters to him in the summer of 1971. At the time, she was working as a legal intern for a well-known left-wing law firm in Berkeley, California -- another item noted in "Living History," which was published 11 years ago.
Now the Free Beacon, a neoconservative online publication, has dug up those two notes that she sent to Alinsky, which prove conclusively that she was interested in the man's books and ideas and enjoyed talking with him.
For those who don't know much about Alinsky, he was an iconoclastic activist who sought to improve the lives of poor families by showing them how to demand and win the same kind of services enjoyed by their middle-class neighbors. William F. Buckley once described him as "very close to being an organizational genius," and more recently, the leaders of the tea party have admitted that they consult his works for organizing tips. He famously disdained all forms of totalitarian ideology, including communism, working more closely with religious institutions than political parties of any complexion. Consistently, the heirs to his Industrial Areas Foundation have forged strong alliances with local church leaders, including the U.S. Catholic bishops. No doubt Pope Francis would have loved him.
In the most telling passage from the letters Clinton sent to Alinsky during that turbulent summer more than 40 years ago, she writes: "The more I've seen of places like Yale Law School and the people who haunt them, the more convinced I am that we have the serious business and joy of much work ahead -- if the commitment to a free and open society is ever going to mean more than eloquence and frustration." (She doesn't sound much like a communist, either.)
But like the hapless Looney Tunes varmint brandishing his Acme dynamite sticks, the right-wing pamphleteers are so furious in their fruitless pursuit of Clinton that they will seize any and every bomb to throw at her, no matter how many times they blow themselves up instead. Those angry, soot-covered boobs never seem to understand why their attacks leave her completely unscathed -- and often even stronger than before.
Nor do they realize that their shrill condemnations of Clinton sound contrived, confused and even contradictory: Sometimes she is a secret radical, as the Alinsky "scoop" was meant to insinuate, and sometimes she is a tool of Wall Street and corporate interests, as a silly release from the Republican National Committee claimed on the opening day of this year's Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York.
That same day, on a stage at a Sheraton hotel in Manhattan, the former secretary of state conducted a lively discussion with two other notorious radicals -- Ginni Rometty, the first female president of IBM, and Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank.
So while her ideological opponents continued to make themselves look ridiculous, she was publicly exploring a few of her own lifelong obsessions: how to improve the lives and health of working people, how to empower women and girls around the world, and how to advance America's commitment to "a free and open society." That suggests why, despite decades of vilification by media outlets and the far right, she remains among the world's most admired leaders.
Should Hillary Clinton choose to run for president again, she is certain to stumble and make mistakes, like any other politician. But unless her dull-witted adversaries somehow begin to comprehend who she really is, she will remain perfectly safe from them.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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