"Why do people hate Hillary Clinton so much?" a reporter from the Canadian Broadcasting Company asked me this week.
I responded that the pitiless rancor of American politics today is out of all proportion to our real challenges -- but it's worth recalling how Hillary Clinton earned her miserable reputation. It was the flagrant and prodigious lies. She has arguably abused power, enriched herself and her family with blatant influence selling and betrayed an arrogant disregard for the normal rules.
In the past few weeks, since she defeated Bernie Sanders, Clinton has been impersonating a centrist. Her foreign policy speech was crafted to contrast sharply with Trump's illiterate eruptions. She praised NATO, upheld the importance of alliances with Japan and South Korea, defended John McCain's heroism, stressed the centrality of American world leadership and promised to harness allies in the war to defeat ISIS. The speech was miles to Trump's right.
A couple of weeks later, she recounted her fond recollection of the letter that President George H. W. Bush left for Bill Clinton on his first day in the Oval Office. It was very gracious, and she quoted from it at length, claiming that it "moved (her) to tears." (Doubtful, but never mind.) This was the peroration:
"'You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success is now our country's success. And I am rooting hard for you. George.' That's the America we love. That is what we cherish and expect," Clinton said.
Who is the target audience for these reflections? Not the Democratic base. No, the message is aimed at troubled Republicans: "Come on over. I'm safe, familiar, and not cracked."
Many Republicans, appalled at the ranting ignoramus Republicans appear poised to nominate, may be taking another look at Clinton. If they do, their hearts will sink.
That was a moving story about George H.W. Bush. But remember, it was first lady Hillary Clinton who fired the White House usher when she learned that he took a few calls from Barbara Bush to give her computer help. Petty much? Vindictive? Paranoid?
Lest we forget, this is the person who, as first lady of Arkansas, turned a $1,000 commodity futures investment into a $100,000 windfall 10 months later. Asked about her extraordinary investment strategy, she explained that she studied The Wall Street Journal. It was revealed later she had the obliging help of James Blair. He was outside counsel to Tysons Foods, one of Arkansas' biggest businesses. Appearance of corruption?
Clinton participated in disparaging the characters of women who accused Bill Clinton of harassment. Feminist icon?
This is the woman who "lost" the Rose Law Firm billing records that were under subpoena for two years. The records proved that she lied when she denied participation in a sham land deal. This is the woman who fired seven White House travel office employees and ruined some of their lives by charging financial improprieties, just in order to give patronage jobs to her friends. Did I mention that she denied involvement in their persecution? A memo surfaced later proving that she lied, and that it was a Hillary show from the start.
Her corrupt approach to power has been further unmasked this year. The email arrangement violated State Department policy and arguably the law, perhaps endangering national security. The Clinton Foundation's contributions (and Bill's speaking fees) seem to have blossomed under her tenure at State. She lied about Benghazi -- even to grieving family members -- because a terror attack was a political liability and had to be spun as a protest gone wrong.
Is Hillary Clinton truly a centrist on foreign policy? She stood by President Obama's utterly disastrous policies in Syria (though leaks suggest she favored arming the anti-Assad rebels), and toward Russia. She could have resigned. She berated Binyamin Netanyahu and has maintained a close relationship with Israel-basher Sidney Blumenthal, though she has pushed back against the BDS-supporting Sanders delegates to the Democratic Convention. Worst of all, she participated in and continues to defend the Iran deal -- surely the worst debacle of the Obama years.
She is whatever she feels the need to be in the moment: pro- and anti-free trade, anti- and pro-same sex marriage, anti- and pro-raising the minimum wage, and pro- and anti-driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Where she is consistent, it does her no honor. She warned abortion opponents moved by faith that their "religious beliefs" would "have to be changed."
Even her most devoted admirers must wonder how far they can trust a person in whom shreds of integrity cannot be detected with a microscope.
If Joseph de Maistre was right that people "get the governments they deserve," we have much to answer for in what the Democrats and Republicans have yielded up. It may be fantasy to hope for another alternative -- but it's patriotic fantasy.