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It's Not 'clinton Hatred'

I'm not going to debate David Greenberg point by point on the recent media trials of Bill Clinton. But I do think his broader argument, that any and all of the negative coverage Bill--and, by extension, both Clintons--has been receiving is "most assuredly not a product of the former president's purported negative campaigning against Obama" but rather the result of latent Clinton hatred merits a firm, if qualified, rebuttal.

First, the qualification: Yes, undoubtedly there are some people working in the political media who have had it in for the Clintons for years and are now seizing the opportunity to slip in the knife. Don Hewitt may be one of them, but I'm quite confident Ryan Lizza is not. Nor am I, nor are most of the pro-Obama writers here at TNR, nor most of the Obama-leaners in the liberal blogosphere, nor in the Democratic party itself. Yet many of us have soured, to a greater or lesser degree, on both Clintons over the past few months.

To take my own case for a moment: As recently as December, I was agnostic about the Democratic primary. I had leaned Obama earlier in the year, but had been disappointed by his (apparent) failure to generate any kind of meaningful momentum throughout the fall. I was entirely happy with what then seemed the extreme likelihood that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. Over time that feeling has changed, and while I will still vote for Clinton in November if she is the nominee, I very much hope she is not. In part, this is because I have been impressed by Obama's performance, but equally it is because I have been depressed by Clinton's--the idiotic and self-serving spin ceaselessly emanating from her campaign, the destructive post-facto lobbying to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates, and on and on. (Yes, Bill's South Carolina comments would show up on a comprehensive list of what disappointed me with his wife's candidacy, though it wouldn't be near the top.)

Now, David Greenberg no doubt disagrees on all these particulars: He believes Bill's comments were entirely innocent, that Hillary has campaigned no harder or dirtier than Obama, and so forth. And that's fine. But many people do agree with me, and in many cases the trajectories of their sentiments regarding the Clintons have been parallel to mine. You can see it here at TNR, where several writers who were on the fence or leaned toward Clinton have moved, to varying degrees, toward Obama. You can see it among liberal bloggers such as Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Ezra Klein, and Matt Yglesias. You can even see it in poll numbers which, through most of the primary season, trended decisively toward Obama and away from Clinton. (She obviously had a much higher starting point.)

Again, Greenberg has every right to defend the Clintons from what he sees as unfair critiques--and in some cases I will likely join him. But the idea, which one frequently hears from Clinton partisans, that these critiques are motivated primarily by some pool of long-simmering Clinton hatred is false on its face, and it renders his narrower arguments less, not more, persuasive.

Christopher Orr