Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the vast right-wing conspiracy: The question of how to actually defeat her is proving to be a surprisingly difficult one to answer. Republican activists haven’t come up with a coherent line of attack that will exploit Clinton’s vulnerabilities, a unified field theory of why she can’t be allowed in the Oval Office. “Everybody’s looking for a silver bullet, but in the absence of that we’re finding a lot of lead,” is how Michael Goldfarb, a GOP strategist who runs the Washington Free Beacon, described the dilemma of the booming anti-Clinton industry.
Our interviews yielded almost as many lines of potential attack as conversations: There’s her age (she’ll turn 69 just before election day 2016), her health, her loyalty to a diminished Obama, Benghazi, Bill, the vast sums collected by the family’s charitable foundation, the Islamic State and the mess in the Middle East, Obamacare/Hillarycare, unanswered questions about old Arkansas and White House scandals, her perceived habit of stretching the truth, her enormous personal wealth—and how she got it.
Framing an effective anti-Hillary campaign is, in many ways, as complex a challenge as Clinton faces in establishing a rationale for her candidacy. For starters, the sheer volume of information on Clinton serves as a kind of political vaccine (of limited effectiveness, to be sure) against future attacks. So much is already known about Clinton, or presumed to be known, that even genuinely new revelations—like adoring, 1970s-vintage Clinton letters to Saul Alinsky, the leftist father of modern community organizing—or an audiotape unearthed by the Free Beacon of mid-1970s Clinton chuckling about the guilt of a rape suspect she defended—haven’t had a major impact, at least not yet. (“I had him take a polygraph, which he passed—which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” she says on the tape, laughing.)