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The Hillary Haters

Ironic, don't you think, that the most influential paper in nation happens to be located in Hillary Clinton's home state and most of the columnists on the op-ed page seem hate her guts. Today Bob Herbert joins in the fun, bashing the Clintons for raising an objection with Barack Obama over his supporter David Geffen's attack on the former First Couple:

If Bill and Hillary Clinton were the stars of a reality TV show, it would be a weekly series called "The Connivers." The Clintons, the most powerful of power couples, are always scheming at something, and they're good at it. [snip]

When Senator Obama talks about bringing a new kind of politics to the national scene, he's talking about something that would differ radically from the relentlessly vicious, sleazy, mendacious politics that have plagued the country throughout the Bush-Clinton years. Whether he can pull that off is an open question. But there's no doubt the Clintons want to stop him from succeeding.

The line of the Hillary haters (or Obama supporters, if you prefer) goes something like this: what Geffen said was more or less true, therefore it's not really an attack. Herbert writes this morning, "In all the uproar over Mr. Geffen's comments, hardly anyone has said they were wildly off the mark."

Yesterday Maureen Dowd went with something similar on Meet the Press:

I think that David Geffen gave voice to what a lot of Democratic donors and supporters had been secretly worried about, and, in fact, it's reflected in Hillary's own talking points for her supporters, which is the fact that she's polarizing, that she's calculating, that she's overscripted, and that her relationship with Bill could still cause problems. And, you know, he was bold enough to say that, and that sort of broke the dam of nervousness over that.

Two points. Obviously, there's a partisan double standard at play: if a Republican had said the same things about the Clintons as Geffen, we wouldn't be having a nuanced discussion about whether it was an "attack" or whether the person was merely "giving voice" to concerns held by a lot of Democrats. In fact, I don't recall any of that taking place when William Safire called Clinton a "congenital liar" way back when.

The second, and more important point is that Obama defenders have now established a sort of baseline which will serve as a helpful guideline: anything goes, even personal attacks, so long as it's true. So Bob Herbert won't be upset if a major Clinton supporter comes out in the press and starts talking about the fact that Obama did "a little blow" in his younger years, or that his wife sits on the board of a company whose biggest customer is Wal-Mart and paid it's CEO a ridiculous $26.2 million last year, or that the Obamas appear to be unbelievably savvy when it comes to buying real estate (though I can't believe the Clintons or their surrogates would want to go there).

Of course we all know that if a major Clinton donor came out and said any of these things, in all likelihood Bob Herbert (being the intellectually honest fellow he is) would be at the front of the line decrying it as a vicious, sleazy, and mendacious attack and calling in on the Clintons to disassociate themselves from the remarks - even though every bit of it is true.