Left-Wing American Prospect: Hillary Scandals ‘Exhausting,’ Must Still Earn Trust of Liberals

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A prominent left-wing Clinton ally warns Hillary Clinton that liberals find her scandals “exhausting” and she still needs to earn their trust even though she is unlikely to face tough competition in a primary.

In a letter to Clinton, Paul Waldman writes in the liberal American Prospect that”for all the distance you have traveled, there are still things you need to prove.”

“You need to prove that you can accept responsibility when it’s necessary. You need to prove that you can learn from your mistakes and correct your shortcomings. Perhaps most of all, you need to prove that you’re worthy of what you’re asking of your supporters: their time, their money, their enthusiasm, but most importantly, their trust,” he writes. “If they grant you those things, it won’t be for your sake, it will be for the sake of the entire liberal project. When you court disaster and hand your enemies a blade to thrust at you, that’s what you endanger.”

Waldman said when liberals heard the revelations that Clinton used a private email account as Secretary of State, “it was like reliving a trauma, one they got through in the end, but nevertheless left its emotional scars.”

“When I talk to liberals about the endless scandal wars of the 1990s, the word that comes up most often is ‘exhausting,'” he wrote. “It’s true that it’s been pretty exhausting arguing for six years about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and whether he loves America. Every Democratic presidency will bring its own flavor of Republican obsession. But the Clinton years were something unique.”

Waldman noted that Republicans had reason to investigate so many Clinton scandals because “there was a kernel of truth” to them all:

It was that at the heart of every scandal, no matter how disproportionate or ridiculous the Republican response, there was a kernel of truth. Again and again, we suffered through a pseudo-scandal in which Republicans made grandiose charges for which there was little or no evidence. But every one started the same way: with some questionable decision on your part, your husband’s, or both. You may not have broken the law, but you screwed up, in ways that gave your opponents enough material to crank up the calliope of scandal-mongering. Then you inevitably fought the release of information, which may have seemed like smart strategizing at the time but had the effect of dragging everything out interminably.

“Yes, it was insane to impeach President Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but every liberal who defended him during that year felt like they were in some indirect way justifying the fact that the most powerful man in the world was screwing a White House intern 27 years his junior. It was not a good feeling,” he continues. “You are not responsible for your husband’s behavior, of course. But you played a key role in dealing with the fallout from it, just as you did on every other controversy. We can’t rerun history, so we’ll never know whether a different set of decisions could have prevented George W. Bush from becoming president in 2000, with all the catastrophic consequences that ensued. But even that possibility should have kept you up nights.”

Waldman tells Clinton frankly that as she begins her 2016 campaign, “you owe your supporters better.”

“It may be absurdly facile to say, as so many journalists have, that this email story ‘plays into a narrative’ and therefore deserves blanket coverage. But your propensity for secrecy is real, and it has gotten you into trouble before,” he adds. “Nowhere was this more clear than on Whitewater, where yours was the strongest voice urging your husband to fight the release of information. We all saw what happened: A story about a failed investment turned into the subject of an independent counsel investigation, which ultimately led to impeachment. All the inquiries eventually concluded that you did nothing wrong in the Whitewater investment. Does that give you any satisfaction? If it does, then you really haven’t learned.”

He tells Clinton that she owes liberals more honesty “because you and Bill asked so much of them for so long. Follow us out onto this tightrope, you said; we’ll make it to the other side, but not until we’ve all felt our hearts drop to our feet and thought the end was at hand a dozen times. And now you’re asking them to take another walk out over another chasm.”

“So when you come to liberals asking for their help, it will not be enough to say, ‘Look how awful my enemies are.’ It will not be enough to say, ‘Think of the Supreme Court.’ It will not be enough to say, ‘Imagine how historic this presidency would be,'” he continues. “No one asks for or expects perfection, but liberals need to know that you grasp the full depth of the responsibility you now carry. The fact that you have little primary opposition may seem like a relief, but it confers upon you a profound burden. You have to be better—not just better than the other side, but better than you’ve been before. The stakes are impossibly high. Liberals want to put their faith in you, but they still have reasons to doubt.”