Thus do the Clintons move from thin-skinned to authoritarian. No one expected them to be happy with new biographies written by political opponents such as Ed Klein (Blood Feud) or Daniel Halper (Clinton Inc), given that the purpose of both was to rebut the anodyne, campaign-trail preparation of Hillary Clinton’s widely panned Hard Choices and the earlier memoirs from both herself and Bill Clinton. The genre of pre-election biographical critique/polemic has its controversies, but also a long history on both sides of the political divide. Candidates running for high political office, and presumed candidates who release books to get an edge on forming the narrative, know well that they will face these kinds of challenges, and have to either stand the heat or get out of the kitchen. None would go so far as to suggest that such political speech should somehow be shut down.
Well, almost none:
“Clinton Inc.,” which looks at the Clintons from the impeachment crisis in the late 1990s through today, hit the stands to underwhelming figures (though in a sign of the strength of the book industry and the summer slowdown, it’s still set to land at No. 10 on the Times best-seller list, according to his publisher.) The book, along with an upcoming one by Secret Service chronicler Ronald Kessler, includes rumors about infidelity by Bill Clinton. The Halper book also focuses on Chelsea Clinton’s rise within her family’s foundation.
Klein’s book, “Blood Feud,” claims to lay out the messy relationship between Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton, replete with quotes from alleged conversations between the first families. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has been among those who have questioned the material, saying he found some of the book’s dialogue “odd in the sense that I don’t know people who speak this way.”
Clinton’s team, and Media Matters, have moved to lump all three books — plus a fourth one, by WND writer Aaron Klein, about the Benghazi attacks, due in September — in the same bucket. Media Matters has taken specific issue with key pieces of Halper’s book, including the author’s reporting on speculation that Hillary Clinton’s health scare in December 2012 was a stroke, not a concussion.
“With Klein, Halper and [author Ronald] Kessler, we now have a Hat Trick of despicable actors concocting trashy nonsense for a quick buck, at the expense of anything even remotely resembling the truth,” a joint statement from spokesmen for Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton read. “It’s an insult to readers [and] authors, and should be reserved for the fiction bin, if not the trash.”
There’s nothing wrong with that response. Politicians and their supporters have free rein to criticize the critiques and to present as much of a rebuttal to specific allegations as they deem fit, although it does tend to bog candidates down if done too often. The adage warning politicians about punching down is particularly apt, as Team Obama eventually discovered when they went after Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, not just because it elevates opponents and lends them your own media access, but it eventually creates sympathy for them as well.
On the other hand, we have the Clintons issuing this as a prepared statement:
In a squeeze on mainstream media, the Clintons added of the authors: “Their behavior should neither be allowed nor enabled, and legitimate media outlets who know with every fiber of their being that this is complete crap should know not to get down in the gutter with them and spread their lies. But if anyone isn’t sure, let’s strap all three to a polygraph machine on live TV and let the needle tell the truth.”
Their behavior should not “be allowed“? What authority exists to bar these authors and their publishers (one of which is Regnery, like Hot Air a subsidiary of Salem Communications) from engaging in political speech? A better question: What authority do the Clintons propose to stop political speech?
This isn’t just an academic question or a poke at an off-the-cuff gaffe. Citizens United had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to be allowed to publish criticism of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 election cycle after having run afoul of absurd and unconstitutional campaign-finance regulations. Democrats howled at the Citizens United decision and promised to reverse it with more legislation, even after the Supreme Court pointed out that one outcome of the law could be to ban books like those from both Kleins, Harper, and Kessler. Barack Obama scolded the court during a State of the Union address for protecting free political speech.
Perhaps we should strap the Clintons to a polygraph machine and ask what they have in mind from their prepared statement that demands that authors not be allowed to write political books about public figures. It might be rather enlightening.