Wow. It seems that almost every day, another champion of the Left joins the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that made the Clintons the target of their wrath back in the 1990’s. As Bill and Hillary turn their vaunted political machine against Barack Obama and ratchet up the attacks, the scales fall from more and more eyes, and the chorus of “I loved it when they did that to YOUR people, but I can’t believe they’re now going after one of OURS!” echoes around the political world.
This presents those of us who have known the Clintons for what they are for some time now with an interesting dilemma. (I personally take pride that back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was campaigning on Manchester, New Hampshire’s Elm Street, I personally snubbed him.) How do we treat these new converts?
There is a great temptation to gloat. After all, they’re just now coming to realize that we were right all along about the Clintons, and they certainly spent a lot of time and effort attacking us for having the affrontery of being right before they were.
There is also the temptation to go back and find the very words these people used when defending the Clintons and attacking us, and throw them back in their faces.
I find myself thinking back to the parable of the scorpion and the frog. Attacking their opponents, smearing them through proxies and directly, while claiming to hold the moral high ground is the Clintons’ nature. They mastered “the politics of personal destruction” while denouncing them at the same time. It is quite possibly their defining characteristic.
So, what to do about these Johnny-come-latelies?
The answer lies in looking at the big picture, and keeping one’s eyes on the main goal.
Gloating and slamming these people is very satisfying, but very short-sighted. It’s political masturbation — it feels good at the time, but ultimately achieves nothing productive.
Rather, I recommend a wry “welcome to the club” greeting, and a brief moment of commiseration.
The ultimate goal here is to keep the Clintons from regaining power. These people now coming to this realization are the same ones (or the heirs) of those who put them in power in the first place, and kept them there. Remember, Moveon.org started by calling for people to “move on” from the Clinton impeachment.
Those people have willingly stepped away from the Clintons, and the Clintons need them back. We don’ t need to rub their noses in their own past; they’re doing that already. What we need is to keep them angry at the Clintons — angry enough to sustain their resentment, and not let them fall into apathy so they simply drop out of the whole process for now, then come back later pretending that the whole incident never happened.
If that means that we have to make nice with some people who’ve been truly vicious to us in the past, then so be it. We’re grownups here, and the stakes are considerably larger than our egos.
A quote from Winston Churchill comes to mind. (Sometimes I wonder if Sir Winston ever uttered anything not worth quoting.) When questioned about his support for the Soviet Union after Hitler invaded them, he stated “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”
Now, the Clintons are no Hitlers, and the leftist commentators are certainly not Stalin or the devil. But the principle remains the same.
But while we welcome them, and fortify their resolve, we need not embrace them wholeheartedly. Let us never forget that they are much like the scorpion: their prior allegiance to the Clintons is symptomatic of their true nature. They are allies of convenience, and we work with them only because we have discovered a common cause. They are not our natural allies, and once that cause has been achieved, they will most likely revert to opposing us.
As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “trust but verify.”