Hillary's immigrant grandparents: a dash of Tuzla?

You know the old saying: You can fly the candidate into Tuzla with her daughter under a hail of non-existent sniper fire, but you can’t take the Tuzla out of the candidate. Perhaps sensing that she needs a resumé enhancement, Hillary Clinton returned to fabulism on the campaign trail eight years after the Tuzla Dash, telling Iowans that all of her grandparents came to the US as immigrants. As BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski painstakingly details, she’s only 25% correct. Kaczynski picked up on this part of her stump speech about just plain folks working, emphasis mine:

We are turning down people who really want to work. I mean they are here to work And a lot of them now have children who are American citizens, and they are doing the best they can to try to make a good life for themselves and their families. And you know, I think if we were to just go around this room, there are a lot of immigrant stories. All my grandparents, you know, came over here and you know my grandfather went to work in lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going. So I sit here and I think well you’re talking about the second, third generation. That’s me, that’s you. And we are saying to all these other people who want the same dreams and the same aspirations and the willingness to work hard just like our families did that no, we’re not going to make it easy for you, we’re not going to make it legal for you. And I just think that’s such a short term, unfortunate outcome for us and well as for them.

I’d bet there would be a lot of immigrant stories, and … this would be one of the less-honest ones. Only one of Hillary’s grandparents emigrated to the US; the other three were born in America. Kaczynski produces detailed census records and a draft card to make his case, but it’s not exactly a state secret:

An article in the Irish-America by an ancestry researcher sent to BuzzFeed News by the Clinton campaign also noted Hannah Jones was born in Scranton.

All of the Clinton’s grandparents were born in the United States, “with the exception of Hugh,” Megan Smolenyak, the article’s researcher said. Smolenyak noted seven of Clinton’s eight great-grandparents were immigrants

Donnie Radcliffe, the Washington Post reporter who chronicled first ladies and wrote a biography of Hillary Clinton tells a similar ancestry, tracing only Hugh Rodham Sr. as foreign-born.

Clinton’s maternal grandmother, Della Howell (previously Murray) was born in Illinois in 1902 according to records. She married Edwin Howell (born 1887 in Illinois) in 1918 according to records.

Had Hillary noted that she descended from immigrants in the sense that she wouldn’t qualify for the Mayflower society, she’d have been on firm ground. Had she just used her grandfather to speak to the immigrant experience, there would have been no problem. Instead, she exaggerated for effect, making a claim that was easily checked and refuted, all for the sake of scoring a gauzy point in an otherwise forgettable event.

As lies go, this is somewhere between the Tuzla dash and the bombed-out Belfast hotel that wasn’t. The problem for Hillary is that it fits a pattern, and that pattern’s emerging very early in a campaign that has to run for another 18 months. Every time Hillary campaigns, she begins to fantasize about her history and experience in a way that reminds voters about the Clintons and their lack of credibility. Last year, she blew up her book tour by trying to claim that she and Bill left the White House “dead broke,” even though they owned two expensive houses, Hillary had already been elected to the Senate, and both she and Bill immediately began lucrative speaking tours and got huge book advances.

Re-imagining grandparents as immigrants all by itself wouldn’t necessarily be fatal to any candidate, let alone Hillary Clinton, who’s already stretching credulity to the breaking point by running as a populist while locking up all of the establishment backers in the Democratic Party. The problem for Democrats is that it’s not all by itself, and the fabulism problem will only get worse the longer Hillary talks.