The Road to Ruin

The race for the White House delivers either Republican presidents who favor the rich or Democrats who also favor the rich, but not as much.

That harsh whine you hear in the background – like a buzzsaw getting ready for a log to come down the chute – is the vast right-wing conspiracy revving its engines.

America Rising, an opposition research Super PAC that lives to trash the Clintons, dashed off a press release challenging the notion that Hillary was going to “drive to Iowa” to start her campaign as she said she would. Hillary doesn’t drive, it said. Someone would have to drive her.

Not exactly the Teapot Dome on the scandal meter. But it’s a start.

Observers say that the main thrust of the Republican strategy will be an effort to make her into a Democratic Mitt Romney – rich, privileged, and clueless as to how real people live.

“How can she relate to the cost of gas?” asked Republican strategist Kevin Madden. “How can she relate to rising food prices when she doesn’t shop herself?”

And Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican hopeful, is about to run a series of ads accusing Clinton of “representing the worst of the Washington machine” that’s “destroying the American dream.”

In contrast, the former Hillary Rodham seems to be in a Mr. Rogers mood. She’s wandering around Iowa, meeting people, and saying, “It’s a lovely day in the neighborhood. Will you be my friend?”

Her announcement, by way of a video, was so low-key as to be boring. She made the obligatory genuflection to hard-working American families who are “struggling to get ahead.” She promised to be their champion. Ho hum.

Expect all of this to change in the coming months. The Republicans say they’re not going to get personal, but they won’t be able to help themselves. That conspiracy won’t let them.

You’re about to be inundated by a veritable tsunami of campaign garbage coming from the dozens of right-wing organizations that have been collecting ammunition for just such an assault. Whitewater, Troopergate, Vince Foster (If you don’t remember that White House aide, look up the name. Hillary Clinton was supposed to have killed him), sex in the White House, sex out of the White House, Travelgate, Benghazi, email-gate, her jet-setting ways.

All of this baggage and paranoia will come flooding back in its rancid glory. Lies will be mixed with truth, truth with exaggeration. There will be a lot of outright fantasy.

My own personal favorite anti-Clinton story is Bill’s former lover who claimed that the Clintons had killed her cat.

It’s the Republican way. Before, during, and after an election they attempt to delegitimize the opposition. Carter, Dukakis, Kerry, Clinton, and Obama all got the same treatment. It’s the only arrow in the Republican quiver.

At some point, however, Hillary will have to come out of her shell and go on the counter-attack. And I think she can do that. For one thing, she’s got a shot at amassing a reported $2.5-billion war chest.

So what if she’s rich? Pretty much all presidential candidates are rich. So what if she’s out of touch? Do you think Jeb Bush shops for his own dinner or washes the dishes every night? And if he did, how much better would he be able to deal with Iran?

The thing that this campaign will demonstrate yet again is that the way we choose U.S. presidents is broken.

We require our candidates to go around with a tin cup begging for money, promising this to that group and that to this other one. And then we expect them to be honest and principled once in office.

That’s unrealistic. If you’re lucky, you get a semi-honest, semi-principled person who campaigns for high-minded goals, without conviction.

Although I will never understand how the Republicans figure that getting rid of health insurance for millions of people qualifies as high-minded.

The ultimate result is either Republican presidents who favor the rich or Democrats who also favor the rich, but not as much.

I just don’t think that’s what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. At least I hope not.