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Haters Without a Cause

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By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I have sometimes wondered what would happen if the good reverends of this Earth got their way and lust -- evil, sinful lust -- vanished overnight. I fear motels and hotels would close, florists and jewelers would seek Chapter XI, restaurants would shutter, celebrity magazines would fold, divorce lawyers would have to defend the innocent, and, in general, the economy would crash. Something like this is going to happen now that Hillary Clinton is out of the presidential race.

Clinton has been a one-woman industry. By my inexact count, more than 50 books have been published about her, many of them highly critical and some so purple as to be suitable as evidence at their authors' competency hearings. One is called "Why the Clintons Belong in Prison." Another is "Hillary Clinton Nude: Naked Ambition, Hillary Clinton and America's Demise," and yet another is "Hillary's Scheme: Inside the Next Clinton's Ruthless Agenda to Take the White House." My favorite, though, is "The Hillary Clinton Voodoo Kit: Stick It to Her Before She Sticks It to You!" -- both a doll and a book of suggested spells. Given her palpable mendacity and her diabolical powers ("Hillary's Secret War: The Clinton Conspiracy to Muzzle Internet Journalists"), it is either dumb luck or part of her long-range evil plan that she has lost the Democratic nomination. Time will tell.

In addition to these books about Clinton, there are plenty of others that are just critical in an ordinary sort of way. This is not to say that no one has written admiringly or fairly of Clinton, but the big bucks clearly went to those who wrote with a blowtorch. I sometimes imagine the same dozen or so people obsessively buying anti-Hillary books over and over again. Otherwise, you would be hard-pressed to explain why a woman so vile got something like 18 million votes in the Democratic nominating contest.

Books aside, a vast industry of bloggers and conventional old-timey columnists clearly felt compelled to write at least one Clinton column a week, usually in scorn and contempt. Foremost among these was Dick Morris, the political consultant who once worked for Bill Clinton and was pensioned off apparently without a pension. He writes about almost nothing else. What Morris will do now, I can't imagine -- possibly start a "Draft Hillary" movement.

Years from now, historians will ponder the attention accorded Hillary Clinton and possibly compare her to Eleanor Roosevelt, another presidential wife who was inordinately admired and inordinately scorned. Maybe some historians will note that both are women and that maybe, just maybe, women come in for a special sort of vituperation -- a kind of contemporary version of burning at the stake.

The same historians might note also that many of Clinton's most persistent critics were women, and I myself have heard some of them vow that they would sooner vote for John McCain than Hillary Clinton -- even though they disagree with McCain on almost every imaginable issue, save love of country.

Was it, these historians will wonder, that Clinton did not leave her husband after his interludes with that abiding cliche, a woman half his age? This, after all, is the supposed fear of yet another abiding cliche: women of a certain age. So it is bad practice, as well as awful deterrence, for her to publicly forgive him for doing the unforgivable. I offer this topic for future historians to study since I would not, on a dare, go near it.

As for me, I too have been critical of Clinton. My columns, of course, were a model of rational thought and cool analysis, and were based entirely on the issues, such as they were. For a number of reasons, I did not think she should be the Democratic nominee, but I often had more problems with her critics than I did with her. Some of them, clearly, needed to be medicated.

Now, though, an eerie silence has settled over the land. With Hillary Clinton out of the race, thousands of computer keyboards have been stilled, dozens of books have been abandoned in mid-chapter, and enormously influential bloggers, most of them unknown to me, have vanished from the Web. Some anti-Hillary obsessives (see the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) must be feeling the sickening vertigo once experienced by Vaughn Meader, whose entire show business career was based on impersonating John F. Kennedy and who, in essence, died when Kennedy did.

It's over, ladies and gentlemen. Hillary Clinton lost. And so did you.

cohenr@washpost.com


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