observations and opinion
The Republican Party has an addiction to hating Hillary Clinton. Unless they get over it, they and their country, may be doomed.
In the late TV drama Mad Men, the advertising guys at “Sterling Cooper” go for years relying on one big client: Lucky Strikes cigarettes. It’s easy money and the firm grows fat and lazy.
Then one day, shockingly, they get fired. Deprived of easy revenue, the Mad Men cast about desperately. Soon however, ad wizard Don Draper has a revelation: his firm was just as addicted to cigarette revenue, as smokers are to Lucky Strikes. In both cases the addiction was insidious, easy and ultimately, bad for their health.
Draper, seeing a marketing opportunity, turns their apparent bad luck into a sales pitch, buying a full page ad in the New York Times for what becomes known as “the Letter.”
Recognizing his addiction and resolving to quit, Draper takes the first step towards turning his business into something healthier and better. His partners are horrified – they’re addicted too – but Draper’s move ultimately gives the shop a new start.
Paul Ryan needs to read that letter. So does Mitch McConnell – indeed every Republican office holder in the United States needs to read that letter – because they’re addicted too. Not to cigarettes (Ryan is too much of a health nut for that) but to hatred – Hillary Hatred.
For years, the GOP has peddled a profitable product with bad side effects: a pathological, artificially enhanced hatred of the Clintons. They stoke it at every opportunity, using the fire to heat up political campaigns, defeat rivals and cling to office. It has worked, but it’s killing them and it’s injuring the Republic.
Since the early 1990s, the GOP has recognized the obvious: the Clintons are better than most Republicans and Democrats, at just about everything. From the start, Bill and Hillary could out-think, out-work, out-talk and out-network any other politician alive. They are the X-Men, the Marvel Avengers, of U.S. politics.
Each Clinton was industrious and had unique abilities. Bill was the rock star, 95% talent and 5% discipline – hard working, but unpredictable. He tired easily, could be petulant and occasionally went rogue. But he was, right through 2012, the best salesman the Democrats have ever had.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other hand, was (and remains) 80% discipline and 20% talent. She is hardworking and far more interested in policy than pitching – a talent mixture that when combined with loyal staff, can be as effective as her husband’s style.
Before ascending to the White House in 1993, the Clintons were all-star schmoozers in Arkansas, fish so big they basically emptied the pond. They arrived in Washington with some bad habits – arrogance, chief among them. From Day One the Clintons littered the floor with sloppy, sometimes stupid mistakes and misjudgments – hiring friends into the travel office and getting sexual favours from staff in the Oval, most damagingly.
It was their respective weaknesses – Hillary’s love of money and privacy, and Bill’s yen for burgers and girls – which pulled them into stupid, self-made traps. The Republicans, unable to beat them on the field, went after them in the locker room. Feeling (and being) besieged, the Clintons sometimes shaded the truth and Bill, of course lied to everyone about what happened under his desk. They both paid a heavy price.
Their nonchalant business relationships, casual use of people and elliptical approach to the truth created an aura around the Clintons, which the Republicans and their loyal media servants have over two decades converted into widely-held gospel: they’re corrupt! they’re villains!
The problem is, they’re not so corrupt. What they are is really good operators – quite literally among the most successful people alive. They have converted their celebrity into money, money in the form of book advances and speaking fees (personal millions) and also charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation (billions).
The Clintons have gotten rich. They have also done as much good for the human race with their charity as most anyone else. Hillary has been a pretty effective public servant, first as U.S. Senator and then as Secretary of State. Holding office didn’t diminish her zeal for making money, however, either personally or for charity. She has been a star at both, not shy of exploiting her position while carefully not selling it.
Those activities from anyone else would mainly inspire admiration and plaudits, and more than a little envy. However, these are the Clintons. They are the tobacco that the Republicans have been handing out to little white-faced boys and girls for 25 years. The Clintons must be hated, must be chased, must be blamed. If the good little boys and girls out there don’t get addicted and keep buying the hateful, unhealthy product, the Republicans won’t get elected (because the GOP hasn’t had much else to offer, for a long time).
The irony in the GOP addiction to Hillary Hatred, is that it gutted the Republicans’ brains and drained their souls. What was the last new idea – what was the last idea, period – you heard from a Republican? And when I say “Republican” I don’t mean the wall-building, trade-blocking, race-baiting Trumpazoidal version of Republican. I mean a real Republican. Answer: not in a long, long time.
Instead, the Republicans all went to Benghazi, and they haven’t come home yet. They spent millions of taxpayer dollars and most of their time finding nothing and ultimately, getting humiliated by Clinton’s Rocky Balboa-like appearance on the witness stand.
So it came to pass in 2016 that the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton for President. The reasons were many. First, she is probably the best-organized and most respected (and most feared) figure in the party. Second, she is smarter than everyone else (except with her blind spot about transparency and her loyalty to semi-radioactive staffers). Third, she is almost inhumanely disciplined and hard working. That’s why she laughs – she can’t help herself – when her fat, lazy slob of a Republican opponent questions her “stamina.”
The GOP of course, nominated the polar opposite of Clinton – an overtly unethical, abusive, undisciplined, inherently unintellectual, lazy, incurious TV pitchman with no core beliefs outside of ego, and very questionable business connections. He’s also a failure really: any business he has started has failed; all he can do is sell his name now, not his talent or competence.
Clinton should be running away with this race and indeed, every time Trump makes a national appearance (his convention, the debates), his stock plummets and Hillary picks up points. On his own merits, Trump has no merits. He’s so bad in fact, that he poses a real threat to the GOP down ticket.
Not really being able to make a case for Donald Trump, the Republicans fall back on their reliable longstanding pitch: “Hillary is corrupt.” This mantra has been repeated for so long, so often, in so many places it has taken root, like an evil plant – like tobacco itself, prospering most vigorously in the hot climes of the Confederacy.
Come 2016, and Republican brains are empty: all they have to offer now, is Hillary Hatred. Hillary Hatred is easy to grow, easy to package and is highly addictive. The public buy it, the Republicans keep selling it and it has finally become lethal, because thanks to the GOP Mad Men, Donald Trump is now on the brink of the presidency.
Win or lose with Trump, we have already heard the GOP threaten a relentless repetition of every lie ever uttered about Hillary Clinton: she’s a conspirator, a bribe-taker, a traitor, a murderer, blah blah blah. If she takes the White House, they promise to keep on keep on saying this. It’s all they’ve got.
Why should they stop? Well, if they had a conscience, they’d stop because it is bad for the country. Almost everything they say about Hillary is untrue. They defame her daily. They mislead and distract the public. They demoralize the voters – those that smoke the tobacco and those that don’t. They diminish and promise to destroy a presidency that hasn’t even begun. The Republicans sell cancer to America, and America buys it. They ought really to stop.
Stopping would also enable the GOP to move on to something better – actual policy ideas. For example, instead of 10,000 person hours devoted to another Benghazi hearing, they could come up with their promised but still invisible alternative to Obamacare. They could explain how tax cuts for wealthy won’t aggravate the deficit (or they could just come clean and admit they don’t care about the deficit. Nobody does, really.) Whatever their “conservative ideals” are, the GOP might tell us all about them, if they weren’t busy selling tobacco.
Of course, it’s possible they don’t have anything better to offer than Hillary Hatred. Look at what they offered in the nomination fight, and look at what they ended-up with. In which case, they’re a bit stuck, endlessly re-packaging the old cancer sticks. It’s toasted.
If so, then the GOP Mad Men probably won’t quit “tobacco” until it almost kills them. Like Don Draper, they probably need to get fired to learn that the time has come to stop selling the poison. That might happen on November 8, 2016. For the sake of the Republic, if not the Republicans, let’s hope so.