At Shakespeare’s Sister, certainly one of our most erudite, and refreshingly pithy blogs, Mustang Bobby joins the brilliant blogger Digby in pondering the question that simply isn’t asked enough either by the media or by most Americans who unthinkingly buy into the fashionably negative patter about the Clintons:
Following up on the story of MSNBC reporter David Shuster being suspended for his comments about Chelsea Clinton, Digby has it right: why are the Clintons held to a different standard than every other candidate?
It hasn’t been just the self-important elite class who annoint, from on high, who meets their tight-nostriled criteria. It extended even to the White House staff. When the Clintons moved in to the White House in 1993, they “ordered that portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman be hung prominently,” writes Sidney Blumenthal in his book about the Clinton presidency:
But the pictures were not put in place. The instructions to the staff were relayed again. Only after a month, and further prodding, was the order carried out. Some of the White House staf held, it seemed, a class deference to the previous Republican residents. From their upstairs-downstairs angle, patricians were being replaced by outlanders who didn’t know their place.
One of the more poignant passages I read in Blumenthal’s book on his years as a senior adviser in the Clinton White House was on a scarcely known, unreported outcome of the incessant investigations and media obsession with Whitewater:
On December 13, 1995, the Resolution Trust Corporation [created by the U.S government to oversee the S&L meltdown] released its … report on Whitewater … the result of an inquiry directed by the Republican Jay Stephens, a former U.S. attorney, and his law firm, Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro. … all fears from the White House turned out to be misplaced. The report completely and categorically absolved the Clintons–and answered all outstanding questions about Whitewater.
Why do I call the passage poignant? Because after describing the enormous relief that the Clintons felt — “they were vindicated” — Blumenthal reports that the White House sent out copies of the report to “more than 150 news organizations,” and that the Clintons eagerly anticipated the widespread reports of the extremely positive findings from a neutral agency:
Then, nothing happened. … The Wall Street Journal ran a straightforward article in its news pages. But days passed and nothing appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times. No network broadcast any report. As it happened, the Post never mentioned it, and almost two weeks later, in an item in the Sunday “News of the Week in Review,” the Times published only a few lines, and somewhat misleading ones at that.
Mustang Bobby explains further:
The Clintons have always been held to a different standard than just about every other modern political family. We have the right wing to thank for that, and in a magnificent fit of attempted equalization, they say the left is just as bad about the Bush family, labeling it “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” (As is the case with all right-wing attempts at equalization, it doesn’t work. I am unaware that anyone is out there promoting a film that accuses George W. Bush of murdering his opponents.)But the question remains: what is it about the Clintons that sets them apart?
I have friends — otherwise bright, analytical people — who simply dislike the Clintons and have NO conscious awareness of the ORIGINS of their dislike, and how much their dislike has been shaped by the years and years and years of attacks from the rightwing noise machine, and has seeped through the mainstream media.
I suppose there are any number of answers, ranging from some deep-seated resentment based on a socio-economic snobbery (the Clintons were referred to as the “Arkansas HillBillies” by the wingnuts when Bill was elected in 1992) to just pure visceral hatred that reaches Shakespearean levels and is just as inexplicable: Iago never fully explains why he hates Othello.
How dare those “Arkansas Hillbillies” invade the D.C. elites’ patrician turf? Those friends of mine have no idea how, in 1992, the socialite snob of Washington, D.C. — Sally Quinn — declared the Clintons to be just not the right kind of people for Washington, D.C., and how the venom of her and other Washington insiders’ attacks have filtered throughout the press corps who, most of all, want to feel like they “belong.” These days, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd continue the smirking, sniffing, looking-down-upon — burying the Clintons up to their necks in sand and lobbing hard rocks of verbal attacks upon them. (I’m certain that a good part of Shuster’s nastiness to the Clinton’s emanates from that pressure to fit in to the elite media.) Quinn regularly wrote Washington Post columns belittling or advising the Clintons on how they should behave. One 1992 article was subtitled, “Welcome to Washington, but Play by Our Rules.” Bill Clinton made numerous efforts, holding several intimate dinners at the White House, trying to charm the Washington elite. Blumenthal writes that he attended one of the dinners and that “every amenity available” was extended to the elite. But there was nothing that he or Hillary could say, as Blumenthal makes clear in another Sally Quinn story:
In his inaugural, Clinton honed the line he had used at Mrs. [Katherine] Graham’s. ”This beautiful capital, like every capital since the dawn of civilization,” he said, “is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, forgetting those people whose toil and sweat ends us here and pays our way.” In the CBS studio in Washington, Sally Quinn, who was serving as a commentator, turned to a producer. ”That’s a terrible mistake he’s made, attacking Washington. He said the same thing the other night at Kay’s and everyone reacted very negatively. I have to go on the air to say that,” Quinn said, according to the producer.
And the beat goes on.