Since the first month of 1992, media coverage of Hillary Clinton has been marinated in mourning for her martyrdom. Poor Hillary, the press regularly suggested, with so much intelligence and compassion to offer the world, and so much private pain in her marriage ... poor Hillary!
As time moved on, a competing storyline emerged, grudgingly conceded by only a few reporters. Hillary was the stiffened ideological and political spine of the Clinton crowd, the one who would ruin any erupting bimbo, stonewall any investigative reporter, object to any independent counsel, refuse any settlement with her husband's harassment targets.
Her media sympathizers tried to ignore these details, only acknowledging scandals to add to the legend of Poor Brutalized Hillary. Look no further than New York Times pundit Maureen Dowd, who recently urged the public in advance to ignore independent counsel Robert Ray's flaccid final Whitewater report: "If Hillary's luck holds, it will be the October surprise she needs to cinch the women's vote. One more brute slapping her around, and she may be home free."
This is bluster designed to divert attention from the truth: that Hillary Clinton is a congenital liar and a relentless character assassin. Any man or woman who dares to criticize or challenge the iconic status of Saint Hillary will be added to this gallery of brutish haters. Some are even picking on Tim Russert, who raised in the first New York Senate debate Hillary's shameless declaration that the story of her husband's intern Olympics would not be "proven true," and that the media should investigate "the vast right wing conspiracy" instead.
NBC broadcast that attack on conservatives, and NBC star Russert sent it back like a boomerang, asking if Mrs. Clinton would apologize for misleading the country. Of course, she would not, and, in typically Clintonesque fashion, insisted "I didn't mislead anyone," since she was allegedly ignorant of the truth.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen promptly attacked Russert's inquiry: "Not since the old Saturday night fights has TV seen such a low blow." Continuing the poor-Hillary line, Gail Collins wrote in the New York Times: "All of us have moments in our lives that we prefer not to recall, even while cowering in a darkened closet. Mrs. Clinton's just happens to be stored in the files of every news bureau on the planet."
These arguments don't deserve rebuttal. They deserve a laugh track.
Any dignified human being who cared about the truth would have apologized for that outrageously dishonest V.R.W.C. charge, and long before Russert asked for it. It does not matter when the president had the class to send a lawyer to inform his wife of the affair. Who on earth is stupid enough to buy that this woman didn't know in her bones that he was guilty (again)? If she believed him, why did she resort to Clintonian legalisms like it would not be "proven true"? Rather than seek the truth, she spent month after month urging the same old daily strategy: Stonewall, lie, rain fire on Ken Starr.
The pro-Hillary pundits continue to look for bullies. Now it's Rick Lazio, who made the alleged mistake of denouncing Hillary's blame-shifting, and then "invaded her personal space" by demanding she sign a no-soft-money pledge. Though Lazio performed well by any objective measure, you'd never know it from some press outlets, which imagined a tie or a Lazio loss. Newsweek suggested Lazio hurt himself with independents and women, and that Russert helped Hillary earn sympathy. U.S. News found a draw, then found every Republican who complained about Lazio. Time's snotty headline declared: "No More Mr. Nice Candidate -- In New York, Rick Lazio gets nasty with Hillary." The media's post-debate drip-drip-drip on Nasty Ricky had its effect. In another case of the media's self-fulfilling prophesy, Lazio's ratings suffered.
In the New York Times, Gail Collins began by calling Lazio "Darth Vader with dimples" and "The Long Island Lex Luthor," making Hillary both Princess Leia and Supergirl. But her colleague Maureen Dowd topped everyone by relaying one woman's claim that Lazio seemed like "her husband, waving a credit card receipt in her face, yelling at her that she had overcharged, his eyes bulging, his veins popping, screaming at her to return everything to the store."
Lazio did nothing of the kind to poor Hillary. But these allegedly feminist pundits made it sound like Mrs. Clinton came to the debate with a parasol, a frilly bonnet, and a hoop skirt. Fresh from the kitchen, baking those infamous cookies -- the media will fall back on the sympathetic depiction of Poor Brutalized Hillary every time she is asked to account for herself.