Hillary Clinton got it right in 1998 when she said that she was being attacked by a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” The VRWC (Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy) seemed to have her cornered then, because she was somewhat alone in defending her husband’s indiscretions. But she knew at the time that her battle to regain respectability for her family was not only against the large body of public opinion. It was specifically against a group of extreme right wingers who had opposed both her husband and herself even before Bill was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978.
The Clinton’s were an inviting target for the VRWC, which was forming in the late 1970s and 1980s. Bill and Hillary brought a special sense of dynamism, of charisma to the national scene, even while they were in Arkansas. They shined in contrast to the Democratic “luminaries” of the 1980s, specifically presidential candidates Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. Unfortunately, they were not completely innocent targets, since Bill already had a history of womanizing, and Hillary was especially sensitive to inquiries about her law practice.
As we learned later, it really did not matter to the VRWC if a target of theirs was innocent or not. Consider how they “swiftboated” Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004. Not only did they ignore the truth, they actually turned it upside down. While John Kerry had a very commendable war record in Vietnam, they ran ads portraying him as cowardly and even un-American. He was the opposite of their portrayal and it was actually George W. Bush who ran away from the war when he was Kerry’s age.
And now, in the 2016 presidential race, we have Republican nominee Donald Trump calling Hillary Clinton a racist. We’re talking about the Hillary Clinton who graduated from Yale Law School and rather than pursuing a lucrative job with the law, spent her early 20s working on behalf of minorities in South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and Arkansas. Of whatever flaws Hillary Clinton has, being a racist is about as far-fetched as you can get.
The truth appears to be of no consequence to the VRWC. And just this week, this powerful group of conservatives seems to have gladly taken on the mantle of a new name, ‘alt-right.’
Most Democrats, most independents, and an increasing number of Republicans have come to see the willful distortion combined with hate that characterizes the VRWC. Those in the VRWC who are supporting Trump seem to come with their own playbook of how to not answer questions that might be poignant, or even inquisitive for that matter.
I don’t know if Trump is a trainer of surrogates or if the spokespersons just osmotically pick up a somewhat adroit aversion to the truth as their lives pass into the VRWC. Whether it is former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, current campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Breitbart News’ loan to Trump Steve Bannon or CNN pundit Kaleigh McEnany, they all seem to take questions about Trump and turn them into accusations about Hillary. It is very bizarre for a progressive to hear.
It reminds me of Eddie Murphy’s old skit on SNL in which he turned himself white and then traveled around in the mysterious world of “whiteness.” It was of course a parody, but he learned how “nice” white people are to one another. I would love to “paint myself” as a member of the VRWC and go to one of their meetings to hear how they actually respond to one another’s questions, when in private.
I don’t know what is scarier, if their aversion to the truth is embedded in their personalities or of they are acting all the while that they are on the main stage.
In any event, Hillary Clinton had them nailed from the beginning, and she did it again on Thursday night in Reno. For that, I give her much credit.