'But It Was Hillary's JOB to Be Scummy!' Is a Winning Political Argument. Use It!

June 20, 2014

There have been two responses to the Free Beacon’ s publication of "The Hillary Tapes"—which highlighted never-before-heard tapes chronicling Hillary Clinton's thoughts about her defense of a 41-year-old man she apparently believed to be guilty of raping a 12-year-old girl—and Josh Rogin's breathtaking, heartrending interview with the victim of that rape.

The first response was to excitedly wave one's hand in the air and shout "This is old news! Nothing to see here! Move along!" This was transparently idiotic, however, as the news here wasn't the fact that Hillary defended this guy—that has been lightly reported on over the years, though some in the media has tried their hardest to keep it out of the news—but the uncovering of new, never-before-released tapes of her talking about the case. Given the fact that there's a better-than-even chance Hillary Clinton will be president come 2017, these tapes are per se newsworthy. She could've been talking about her preference for the Beatles over the Stones and they would've been newsworthy, simply because of who she is. The fact that she's heard callously laughing about her efforts to free a rapist she believed to be guilty is just a newsworthiness bonus.

The second response is more complicated and, therefore, more interesting. It goes something like this: "Hillary Clinton was a defense attorney and defense attorneys are supposed to defend their clients by any means necessary, therefore her behavior during the case and her 'gallows humor' after the fact isn't relevant to her political ambitions and people should just shut up about it." See, for instance:

It seems to me that there are two separate issues being conflated here. The first is that everyone has the right to a strong defense and the second is that there should be no political fallout for organizing a strong defense and then laughing about it after the fact. But I'm not quite sure I understand the tension here. It doesn't seem to me that there's anything odd about saying, "Yes, for the system to work we need semi-sociopathic people who can argue on behalf of obviously guilty people and compartmentalize their feelings about those people in the course of doing their job" while also saying, "This person's scummy behavior in their professional life squigs me out, therefore I am not going to vote for them."

It's worth noting, of course, that the left doesn't actually believe that a person's prior work shouldn't be held against them in the political sphere. If they did, they wouldn't have spent so much time attacking Romney for his completely legal, totally ethical work with Bain. And that's one of the reasons they're so remarkably freaked out right now. They know that Hillary's only defense—"Look, I was just doing my job, and my job was to behave in a slightly scummy way to get a horribly scummy guy off the hook so it's not fair for you to hold it against me!"—simply won't fly with voters.

But it'll be remarkably entertaining to see her try to pull it off!

Published under: Hillary Clinton