In reporting and commenting on a potential race between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, several media figures have taken it upon themselves to issue warnings to Obama of a purportedly ruthless Clinton operation that will attempt to win by brute force, or, as Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund put it, “haul out the brass knuckles.”
In his December 6 column, Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley claimed that Clinton's unnamed “operatives” will tar Obama, and asserted -- contrary to the facts -- that a 1996 IRS investigation into former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), for whom Blankley once worked, was part of the Clintons' “policy of personal destruction.” Blankley wrote:
If Hillary Milhous Clinton begins to believe that Barack Obama is a threat to her inheritance of the White House, it will not be long before his own mother will not recognize the public image that Hillary's operatives will have drawn of him. He could ask Paula Jones (and all the other innocent women “her husband” attempted to seduce and abandon) or Ken Starr (one of the nation's most admired jurists before he was assigned to investigate “her husband” ).
Or consider my old boss Newt Gingrich -- Bill Clinton's primary political opponent in the 1990s. Mr. Clinton's IRS very publicly opened an investigation of Newt for tax fraud. They kept it open for years, and then, a few weeks after he retired, the IRS quietly announced the investigation was complete and he was innocent. But not before Democrats spent years using that phony investigation as a basis for calling Newt a tax cheat. That's the way the Clintons play the game. They call it the policy of personal destruction. For Mr. Obama's sake, I hope he is ready for the game he is so anxious to get into.
As Media Matters for America noted, Blankley's claims of a Clinton vendetta against Gingrich were belied by the fact that the House ethics committee unanimously voted to launch its own investigation into Gingrich several months before the IRS investigation was reported.
On the December 15 edition of Hardball, Republican strategist Mike Murphy suggested that Clinton would poison Obama, to which host Chris Matthews responded by laughing:
MATTHEWS: Looking over from your side of things, Mike, who do you think looks like the kind of person the Democrats will fall in love with and marry?
MURPHY: Oh, I think a lot of the love is going to be about Obama. He is now standing between Hillary and the nomination. So if I were Obama, I'd get a food tester in, quick.
On the December 17 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders claimed the “Clinton machine” would sling “mud” at Obama:
SAUNDERS: I think the other thing that people are waiting for is they're wondering what kind of mud the Clinton machine is going to churn out on Barack Obama, and they're waiting to see -- for the mud fight. That's what I'm waiting to watch.