In a presidential campaign the candidate’s biography is everything. That’s why the media pushed a three decade old story about Mitt Romney’s dog at every opportunity. It’s why they have no excuse but to give Hillary Clinton’s defense of a 41-year-old man who raped a 12-year-old girl the same attention.
In 2012 the entire political world was seized by fascination with a three decade old story about a dog. Back in 1983, Romney put Seamus the dog in a carrier on the roof of the family station wagon. The dog became sick and Romney cleaned it off with a hose and kept driving.
Despite the fact that the story was 1) not remotely political and 2) the definition of old news, Democrats, their media allies and even some of Romney’s Republican rivals decided the story needed much more attention. Throughout 2012 they succeeded in making sure millions of people heard the tale.
The single person who probably did the most to focus attention on Seamus was Gail Collins of the NY Times. By March 2012, Collins had mentioned the story so many times (77 according to this bloggers count) that she felt the need to explain herself. She wrote, “I’ve made a kind of game of trying to mention Seamus every time I write
about Mitt Romney.”
Needless to say, MSNBC was all over the Seamus story. If you have lots of time on your hands you can review segments devoted to the story by Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, and Chris Matthews again. To bring things full circle Lawrence O’Donnell discussed the story’s impact with Gail Collins and, in a later hit, discussed it with Dana Milbank who brought along his dog as a prop.
There were also in innumerable number of stories published online about the incident. Here’s one at NPR, an explainer at the Washington Post, another at the Boston Globe, the New Yorker even made the Seamus story it’s cover, albeit with Rick Santorum in the dog house on the roof. David Letterman weighed in and highlighted the story in his monologue asking, “You want that guy in the oval office…Tied his dog to the roof of a car. That’s the guy?”
The campaign to make Seamus a campaign story hit a bump in the road when
conservative bloggers, led by Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller,
responded by noting young Barack Obama had once eaten dog according to
his own biography. But even so the Seamus story never died. Early in the year Newt Gingrich released a web ad mentioning the story and Rick Santorum’s campaign also tried to keep it in the public eye. Later, as their fortunes in the race waned, Seamus’ story was kept alive by the DNC chairwoman. In August was fully resurrected thanks to a comment by President Obama during a campaign stop in Iowa.
The rationale behind elevating the story was never very hard to discern. It made Romney appear callous in a way that was easy to understand, even for people who were not political. Americans may not have had a clear sense about Romney’s business dealings or his history on health care reform but they understood pets. Seamus was a story driven by the elite to nudge low information voters away from Mitt Romney.
So here we are a couple years later and the pre-campaign book tour by Hillary Clinton is off the ground. Polls show she is, by far, the most popular Democrat who could run. And then, earlier this week, a reporter at the Free Beacon published audio of Hillary reminiscing about her defense of a 41-year-old man who raped a 12-year-old girl. Not only did Clinton agree to take the case when asked, she seems to have gone all out for a client she knew at the time was guilty. Worst of all, she blamed the victim in an affidavit filed with the court:
In a July 28, 1975, court
affidavit, Clinton wrote that she had been informed the young girl was
engage in fantasizing.
“I have also been told by an expert in child psychology that children
in early adolescence tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual
experiences and that adolescents in disorganized families, such as the
complainant’s, are even more prone to exaggerate behavior,” Clinton
Today, in a story at the Daily Beast, the victim of the rape claims those representations to the court were lies. The Beast reports, “The victim vigorously denied Clinton’s accusations and said there has
never been any explanation of what Clinton was referring to in that
affidavit. She claims she never accused anyone of attacking her before
Already we have a story that utterly surpasses Seamus the dog in terms of cruelty and therefore also in terms of impact on a candidate’s biography. A woman who has built her political identify in no small part on her role as a defender of children and who is the most likely inheritor of the Democrats “war on women” campaign theme may have lied to a court to defend a 12-year-old’s rapist. That is a devastating charge.
But layered on top of Hillary’s questionable behavior in the case itself is her bizarre demeanor when discussing it a few years later. She makes jokes about the fact that her client passed a polygraph test. She is amused by the stupidity of the crime lab. This isn’t a low moment in her career. She clearly sees it as a win for herself with none of the famous Clinton empathy which made her husband so charismatic.
And that’s still not all. On top of Hillary’s questionable behavior in the case and ice cold attitude toward the 12-year-old victim in retrospect, there is compelling evidence the media suppressed the story in 2008 fearing that it might impact Hillary’s chances in the presidential race.
On top of that, the Library from which the audio was taken has now told the Free Beacon it must remove the recording from its site because, apparently, the Beacon forgot to fill out some form it says it was never provided. The fact that the author of the letter to the Beacon was a Hillary Clinton donor seems like another angle on the story ripe for further investigation.
This is quite simply a devastating story which cuts the heart out of Hillary Clinton’s biography. It’s potent for the same reason the Seamus story was. It doesn’t require any political expertise to grasp. Child rapists are scumbags and lawyers who make things up to protect them from jail time are repulsive to most Americans. Will Gail Collins make a “kind of game” out of mentioning this incident every time she writes about Hillary Clinton? I wouldn’t bet on it but someone certainly should.