A scapegoat. A distraction. A willing suspension of disbelief. A semi-plausible excuse for Hillary Clinton to say to the American people, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” That’s what Clinton’s speech in Reno on Thursday denouncing the “alt-right” represents.
It’s the 2016 reboot of her 1998 complaints about a “vast right wing conspiracy.” In Hillary’s telling, the “alt-right” is an underground movement from the darkest recesses of the Leftist imagination. In fact, the alt-right is not so easy to characterize and it is anything but homogeneous. But dedicating a major speech to it tells us more about Clinton than it does about Donald Trump or the alt-right.
When historian Richard Hofstadter wrote “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” in 1964, he had his sights set on Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and his conservative supporters. It amounted to a supreme act of projection by the Left, which has defined the Right using Hofstadter’s theory ever since.
Perhaps influenced by Hofstadter as much as by her mentor Saul Alinsky, former Goldwater Girl Hillary has made conspiracy theories and shadowy enemies a hallmark of her career—usually to distract attention from her own scandals. They are the ever present “other” against which she must battle on behalf of her supporters. That’s her narrative anyway.
But what about the so-called right-wing conspiracy and its claims of Clinton corruption? It turns out they were right.
In 1998, Hillary went on NBC’s “Today Show” to deflect attention from the multiple scandals engulfing her husband Bill Clinton’s administration and to look for a little sympathy. She played the victim with Matt Lauer. “I do believe that this is a battle,” she said. “I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this—they have popped up in other settings. This is—the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
At the time, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was looking into several allegations of wrongdoing against the Clintons, beginning with their involvement with the Whitewater Development Corporation a decade before Bill Clinton won the presidency. Whitewater was a failed real estate company swamped under accusations of fraud and influence peddling. Jim and Susan McDougal, the Clintons’ partners in the business, wound up in jail on convictions ranging from felony fraud to contempt of court.
Bill Clinton went on to pardon Susan McDougal on the last day of his presidency. Her husband died in jail in 1998. Jim Guy Tucker, Bill Clinton’s successor as governor of Arkansas, was convicted of fraud for his involvement. In total, 15 people involved in the Whitewater deal were convicted of 40 separate crimes. Everyone except the Clintons, that is. That doesn’t sound like a vast right wing conspiracy; it sounds more like the Clintons escaped prosecution because Bill was president.
Hillary was at the center of the scandal that became known as “Travelgate.” Seven longtime staffers in the White House Travel Office were fired based on bogus charges in order to make room for Clinton cronies. Independent Counsel Robert Ray concluded in 2000 that “while some of Clinton’s statements were factually false, there was insufficient evidence that these statements were either knowingly false or that she understood that her statements led to the firings.” Sounds a lot like what FBI Director Robert Comey said about Hillary and her illegal email server. A lot of smoke, some fire, but investigators couldn’t bring themselves to bring charges against Hillary.
The most notorious of the Clinton’s scandals in the 1990s was, of course, Monica Lewinsky. The president’s liaisons with the 22-year-old intern would have remained their secret if not for the Whitewater investigation. When questioned about his relationship with Lewinsky, Clinton went on national television and lied to the American people and then lied under oath, for which crime he would later have his law license suspended for five years.
Bill Clinton also may have rented out the Lincoln Bedroom and sold presidential pardons. Those were cases of official corruption—selling the benefits of office for personal gain. The only conspiracies at work were within the Clintons’ circle.
And now in light of the continuing revelations of lawbreaking and corruption in Hillary’s world — the illegal email servers, the deleted emails, the allegations of influence peddling while Secretary of State, and top aide Huma Abedin’s ties to various radical Islamist institutions — Hillary tells Anderson Cooper, “I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire.”
This time, Clinton has created another bogeyman with an ominous sounding name—”the alt-right”—to distract attention from her own record of professional incompetence and corruption.
Most people have never heard of the “alt-right,” but Hillary makes it sound scary. And just like that Clinton has conjured the “other” that she needs as a foil—the enemy within that only she can defeat. What’s worse, the Clintons and the Kool-Aid drinkers around them believe this. They believe that Hillary Clinton is a woman of destiny on a mission of world historical significance and that as a result her political opponents are not just wrong, but evil. And by extension, any means are justified to stop them and advance the cause of Hillary Clinton. By any means necessary.
The problem is the facts. While Reagan is often cited as the great communicator and much ink has been spilled on Trump’s ability to manipulate the media and get free press, it has been stiff, unlikable, generally distrusted Hillary who gets exactly what she wants from the media. Of course much of that is because the media supports her candidacy and agenda and are therefore willing accomplices.
But Americans can smell a rat. Hillary can talk about the possible thought-crimes of the alt-right all day long, but the fact is that her actual crimes are out in the open for everyone to see. In the past, whenever Clinton has indulged her own paranoid style, it’s been as a reaction to her actual crimes coming to light. Such is the case today as continuing revelations make clear the degree to which Clinton ran the State Department and the Clinton Foundation as a single enterprise designed to enrich and empower her family. The question for voters is whether they are going to believe Hillary or their lying eyes.