by Matt Welch
As if to cement my new hypothesis that 2009 is shaping up to be a replay of 1998–sitting Democratic administration robustly defended by its allies against right-wing alt media allegations of wrongoing that in some key cases turn out to be true; media becomes suddenly fascinated by the nefarious backgrounds/motivations/finances of the president's antagonists, who "have not accepted the results of the election"–along comes Bill Clinton to give a big "you bet" to the notion that there's a "vast right-wing conspiracy" out to get Obama, too.
Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was because America has changed demographically. But it's as virulent as it was.
That "demographically" was a nice touch all its own, but what really bakes my noodle here is the former president's apparently limitless chutzpah in doubling down on a phrase that was famouly used by his wife to deny charges he was having sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky. Don't make me go to the tape! OK, let's go to the tape, if only to remember what a bad year that really was:
MATT LAUER: [...] There has been one question on the minds of people in this country, Mrs. Clinton, lately, and that is what is the exact nature of the relationship between your husband and Monica Lewinsky. Has he described that relationship in detail to you
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, we've talked at great length, and I think as this matter unfolds, the entire country will have more information. But we're right in the middle of a rather vigorous feeding frenzy right now. And people are saying all kinds of things, and putting out rumor and innuendo. And I have learned over the last many years, being involved in politics, and especially since my husband first started running for president, that the best thing to do in these cases is just to be patient, take a deep breath and the truth will come out. But there's nothing we can do to fight this fire storm of allegations that are out there.
LAUER: Has he described to you what [his relationship with Lewinsky] was?
CLINTON: Yes. And we'll find that out as time goes by, Matt. But I think the important thing now is to stand as firmly as I can and say that, you know, the president has denied these allegations on all counts, unequivocally. And we'll see how this plays out. [...]
I mean, Bill and I have been accused of everything, including murder, by some of the very same people who are behind these allegations. So from my perspective, this is part of the continuing political campaign against my husband. [...]
LAUER: So when people say there's a lot of smoke here, your message is where there's smoke...
CLINTON: There isn't any fire, because think of what we've been through for the last six years and think of everything we've been accused of. [...]
LAUER: If he were to be asked today, Mrs. Clinton, do you think he would admit that he again has caused pain in this marriage?
CLINTON: No, absolutely not. And he shouldn't. You know, we've been married for 22 years, Matt. And I have learned a long time ago that the only people who count in any marriage are the two that are in it.
We know everything there is to know about each other, and we understand and accept and love each other. And I just think that a lot of this is deliberately designed to sensationalize charges against my husband, because everything else they've tried has failed. And I also believe that it's part of an effort, very frankly, to undo the results of two elections. [...]
I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this. They have popped up in other settings. This is—the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.
I don't for a minute want to go back to the terrible old days of independent prosecutors investigating presidential semen stains, or first ladies being grilled on morning TV about the conditions of their marriage. But the above is a handy and always-timely illustration that the flame-the-messenger strategy for dealing with allegations emanating from opposing political camps is not only a way to change the subject and marginalize critics, it can and will be used to spread lies about the people holding power. Even if the liar in question isn't aware of the exact truth.
Reason on that magical four-word phrase here.