The centerpiece of the GOP’s campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton is a couple of manufactured “scandals” being peddled by Judicial Watch and other Hillary-hate groups, writes Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. Some of the more gullible media outlets have fallen for it, branding Clinton with a standard they have never applied to Republicans. It has had an effect, as Tomasky explains,
…Hillary Clinton is more unpopular than she’s been in a long time—or ever, if you believe the spin on the the new Washington Post/ABC poll. In that one, she’s 15 points underwater. Other recent polls have been both better and worse—she’s minus-17 in YouGov/Economist but only minus-8 in Fox. But the picture is pretty consistent overall, and it’s bleak.
Her unfavorable numbers over the course of the last several months tell an interesting and mostly overlooked tale. The conventional wisdom is that her numbers went south after the Times broke the story in March 2015 of the email server, and they’ve been lower-hemispheric ever since. That’s true—but there are variations within that are worth examining.
Through the summer of 2015, she was barely underwater—three to five points. By December and January it was marginally worse, six or seven in most polls. But she didn’t hit double digits until March and April, and then she really bottomed out around minus-20 in late May and early June.
Tomasky points out that the contest with Sen. Bernie Sanders took a toll on Clinton’s image and “the Benghazi committee was leaking a steady trail of morsels,” while Republicans amped up their allegations about Clinton’s use of a private email server. Tomasky predicts “Republicans, and Judicial Watch, the source of most of these scandal stories, are going to do everything they can to keep them on the front pages between now and Election Day. Oh—with assists from Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin.”
“The media are showing every sign of falling for each and every breathless Judicial Watch press release that lands in their inboxes, without the least bit of skepticism and scrutiny,” reports Tomasky. For an example of the double standard, Tomasky notes that former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “America’s Promise” foundation under Mrs. Alma Powell’s stewardship received contributions from Enron CEO Ken Lay, while Powell’s State Department helped Enron resolve a dispute in India.
“The media really ought to try to be careful about just swallowing whatever connections and insinuations Judicial Watch and other right-wing Clinton haters trumpet for the next nine weeks,” says Tomasky. “It’s a rather high-stakes time. If there’s a legit Clinton story, obviously, run with it. But if people find themselves writing sentences with phrases like “nevertheless fuels the perception that the Clintons or their associates may have…” they might want to stop and think about whether what they have on their hands is news or innuendo.”
Tomasky warns that “the right is going to try to keep the words “Clinton” and “scandal” next to each other on the front pages for the next nine weeks.” That’s really all they have. Afraid to engage Clinton on the major issues, Republicans have been pounding the Clintons with phony scandals leading nowhere for more than two decades, and she is still standing, despite recent setbacks in the polls.
The Clinton Foundation has done great humanitarian work, of which they can be rightly proud. But to help deflect more Republican attacks, Tomasky advises the Clintons to announce that their daughter, Chelsea “won’t remain on the foundation board.” Tomasky concludes, “This narrative is the only way she can lose. Don’t feed it. Smother it.”
Sound advice. Democrats have an historic opportunity in this election to put America back on a progressive track. Sometimes a strategic compromise can help set the stage for a more important victory.