boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe
Derrick Z. Jackson

The GOP strategy: Demonize Clinton

The devil is in the details - Clinton is winning. The devil is in the details - Clinton is winning.

IF MAKING a devil of Hillary Clinton is all that passes for a Republican platform, the presidential nominee is doomed to purgatory.

"We're not going to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House by acting like Hillary Clinton," former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said in the latest Republican presidential debate Sunday night. "We solved the problem in healthcare in our state by not having government take it over the way Hillary Clinton would."

Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson said, "Mayor Giuliani believes in federal funding for abortion. He believes in sanctuary cities. He's for gun control. He supported Mario Cuomo a liberal Democrat, against a Republican . . . he sides with Hillary Clinton on each of those issues."

Giuliani took aim at Clinton's recent statement that she has lots of ideas, but America cannot afford all of them. "No kidding, Hillary, Americans can't afford you."

"Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum," said Arizona Senator John McCain. "Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event . . . . No one can be president of the United States that supports projects such as these."

"There's nothing funny about Hillary Clinton being president," said former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. "If she's president, taxes go up, healthcare becomes the domain of the government, spending goes out of control, our military loses its morale, and I'm not sure we'll have the courage and the will and the resolve to fight the greatest threat this country's ever faced in Islamofascism."

The Republicans have learned nothing about demonization. For all their vilifying of Osama bin Laden, its White House lost sight of him by demonizing Saddam Hussein into Hitler. In doing so, they got America to accept the invasion of Iraq to destroy weapons that did not exist. Now we are stuck there, periodically demonizing the puppet government for not restoring what we destroyed.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who led the charge for most of the above, was busy this past weekend warning us that hell is coming in the form of Iran, another pretext for yet another war. "Our country and the entire international community cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions . . . we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," Cheney told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Clinton certainly continues to inspire a lot of strong feelings. For example, a dental assistant from Wisconsin says people draw devil horns on Clinton whenever she is on a magazine cover. But if the Republicans read the newspaper every now and then, they would see that day by day, poll by poll, just saying no to Hillary is not a winning strategy.

As Chris Wallace of FOX News reminded the candidates, "You all seem to be planning to run against Hillary Clinton in the general election and at this point all of you - I repeat, all of you - are losing to her in the polls."

Yet Romney continued, invoking Clinton's name nine times. It got to the point where Romney stopped making any sense. According to Congressional Quarterly's corrected transcript of the debate, Romney said, "All of us on this stage are Republican. But the question is, who will be able to build the house that Ronald Reagan built - who will be able to strengthen that house, because that's the house that's going to build the house that Clinton, Hillary wants to build."

Presumably, Romney meant to say Clinton would destroy the house that Reagan built. Even if he had his vitriol straight, Romney has his own house to build. In a Washington Post/ABC News Poll last month, 58 percent of Americans said they would consider her for president, compared with 41 percent who definitely would not. Romney, the Republican front-runner in money raised, has only 36 percent of voters saying they would consider him, compared with 57 percent who say they definitely would not.

Last week, a CBS News poll had the Democratic nominee beating the Republican nominee by 48 percent to 38 percent and a CNN poll had 52 percent of voters leaning Democratic and 39 percent leaning Republican. Based on that, the Republicans have to win every last undecided to have a chance. Demonizing Hillary Clinton is obviously not getting it done. All it does is fit her for angel wings.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.

More from Boston.com

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES