Republicans have spent years sitting

around campfires telling stories to each

other about the Clintons, seeing who can

spin the most scary yarn.


This article first appeared on the Dorf on Law


What is it about Hillary Clinton that bothers

Republicans so much?

Even more than her husband or President

Obama—indeed, more than any politician

within anyone's memory—Clinton evokes a

seething, blind hatred from those on the

opposite side of the aisle.

This is especially difficult to understand in

light of Clinton's notably successful efforts at

bipartisanship while she was in the Senate, as

well as her history of center-right policy views

that positioned her very much on the right

end of Bill Clinton's triangulating


That she has more recently adopted some

center-left views is, I am sure, an unpleasant

development from the standpoint of

Republicans, but their hatred of Hillary

Clinton long predates any of that.

Last week, I wrote about Clinton's "high

negatives" in polls with voters and how those

poll results are erroneously likened to people's

much more negative views of Donald Trump.

It has become an established trope of in-the-

know political commentary that the two

presumptive nominees are both widely


As I pointed out, however, people can use

words like dislike, untrustworthy, and similar

negative terms in quite different ways:

"People can say that they 'hate' getting food

poisoning at a restaurant, and they can also

say that they 'hate' when the chef uses too

much cumin in the curried potatoes." Both

statements are honest, but they are also not at

all comparable.

Still, many Republicans will tell you that

Hillary Clinton is like food poisoning, not

merely an unpalatably spiced dish. To a large

degree, this is the result of Republicans having

spent years sitting around campfires telling

stories to each other about the Clintons, seeing

who can spin the most scary yarn. She has

come to embody the Blair Witch , a succubus

and every frightening villain that Republicans

can conjure.

Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally in Cleveland on June
13. Neil Buchanan writes that Republicans have spent
years sitting around campfires telling stories to each
other about the Clintons, seeing who can spin the most
scary yarn.

I understand, therefore, that Clinton hatred is
somehow both precognitive and post-
cognitive, but because I am always most
interested in issues, I am fascinated by the
mismatch between Clinton's actual not-at-all-
extreme policy views and Republicans' visceral
revulsion toward her.
One of the ways that Republican elected
officials have tried to deflect attention away
from the outrages of Donald Trump is by
painting Clinton as an unthinkable alternative.
For example, an unknown Republican
backbencher in the House recently said of
Trump's series of outrageous statements : "Am
I offended sometimes at the comments? Yes I
am. However, what offends me more are
Hillary Clinton’s actions."
In a way, trying to analyze that statement is
pointless. After all, many members of
Congress have dreams of leadership positions,
Cabinet posts, and so on. (Is there anything
that indicts political careerism more
completely than the idea that some politicians
with no interest in, say, labor issues would
surely crawl through broken glass to become
Trump's secretary of labor?)
But watching political animals in their natural
environment can be very revealing, and it is
notable that this particular congressman
thinks that it is somehow meaningful to
distinguish Trump's mere words from
Clinton's supposed actions.
Unless this guy actually thinks that Clinton
killed Vince Foster, what "actions" could he
possibly be talking about? Trump has been
telling us in no uncertain terms what actions
he will take if he becomes president, and
Clinton has been doing the same. Clinton's
policy views are different from most (but not
all) Republicans', but Trump is raising serious
doubts about whether electing him would be
the turning point toward a post-constitutional
autocracy in the United States.
It is one thing for the increasingly ridiculous
Paul Ryan to say that "the last thing we want
is a Democrat in the White House like Hillary
Clinton." (Seriously? The "last thing"? She is
really worse than a person whom even Ryan
describes as obviously racist? Electing her
would be worse than a political coup? Worse
than a presidency that would destroy Ryan's
political party?)
Ryan is in over his head on both policy and
politics, a career politician trying to figure out
how to pretend to be a serious adult, and he
cannot stop himself from reverting to over-
the-top partisanship.
On June 21, The New York Times Magazine
published a fascinating long-form article by
Mark Leibovich, in which he discusses the
various forms of denial currently at work in
the Republican Party.
Discussing the sad post-primary life of Marco
Rubio, Leibovich writes: "Rubio also holds the
astonishing position of saying he’ll vote for
someone he has previously declared unfit to
hold the American nuclear codes. You envision
him under a mushroom cloud, assuring his
kids that it could be even worse—at least he
didn’t vote for Clinton."
This level of anti-Clinton derangement has
certainly trickled down to the party's
grassroots. Leibovich describes the never-
Trump senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse,
who told Leibovich that people in his state
"say: 'I’m distraught. I’m opposed to
everything Hillary Clinton stands for, and yet I
think I have to vote for her. How do you make
sense of this? What should I do?' These are
young evangelical women, teary sometimes.
They say, 'I can never tell my kids I voted for
that man.'"
Even allowing for rhetorical excess, can it
really be true that a young woman in
Nebraska is opposed to everything that Clinton
stands for? Other than abortion, which is
obviously a high-salience issue for many such
voters, what has Clinton ever said or done that
would make it possible to say that she is on
the bad side of every (or nearly every) issue?
Thankfully, some Republicans are willing to
admit that this has gotten out of hand.
Leibovich offered two insightful comments
from Republican insiders. Ed Rogers, a
Reagan/Bush 41 alum who now is a
Republican lobbyist, said: "The Clintons have
never been the demons ideologically that
we’ve made them out to be. From a character
standpoint, they’re pretty bad, but Hillary isn’t
the frightening offensive character that Trump
Whether one thinks that her character is
"pretty bad" depends on how willing one is to
ignore the fact that all of the investigations of
the Clintons have turned up nothing but a lot
of innuendos and unsubstantiated suspicions.
Hillary Clinton has a tendency to become
insular when attacked, but I cannot imagine
anyone enduring the lifelong character
assassination that Clinton has faced without
becoming highly defensive.
Perhaps the "character" point was best
summed up by John McCain's chief of staff
Mark Salter, who told Leibovich that Trump is
"just unfit for office," whereas, "I mean, the
worst thing you can say about her is, she’s
kind of a hack."
And that is exactly right. About the worst
thing that you can say about Hillary Clinton is
that she has sometimes been kind of a hack.
The negative things that I have written about
Clinton over the years, in fact, have been
based on the idea that she sometimes tends
toward hackishness, such that one could
reasonably suspect that she will allow short-
term political calculations to color her views
of, say, a financial regulation bill or a
question of military strategy.
That is hardly comforting, but how does that
make her different from Mitch McConnell, or
Ryan, or McCain, or holier-than-Trump Mitt
Romney? How does it make her the second
coming of the Wicked Witch of the East?
By contrast, the best things that you can say
about Clinton are that she is extremely well
informed on issues, that she has actually done
a lot of good things both inside and outside of
public office in working for change (especially
in fighting for the rights of women and girls
in the U.S. and around the world), that she is
incredibly tough, and that she actually takes
into account new evidence and logic to adjust
her views. There are good reasons for a 1990s
center-right Democrat to have seen the light
and moved to the center-left, after all, and she
has been willing to learn and change.
If all the Republicans can do now is continue
to hope that saying " Hillary Clinton!! " enough
times will scare people, then that tells us more
about their lack of anything useful to say than
it does about Clinton or the Democrats.
Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal
scholar, a professor of law at George
Washington University and a senior fellow at
the Taxation Law and Policy Research
Institute, Monash University, Melbourne,
Australia. He teaches tax law, tax policy,
contracts and law and economics. His research
addresses the long-term tax and spending
patterns of the federal government, focusing on
budget deficits, the national debt, health care
costs and Social Security.

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