Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Triumph For Hillary. But What About The Hillary Haters?

The Times weighed in today with the non-news that Hillary Clinton's fans are thrilled with her new job as Secretary of State.

But how about those Democrats who swore they would never forgive Hillary for her support of the war in Iraq -- the voters who helped elect Barack Obama as President? How do they feel today about the news that their sworn political enemy has joined his administration?

That's a story the Times curiously continues to ignore in the wake of Obama's choice.

As far back as 2001, the Times chronicled the contingent of voters known as "Hillary haters" -- Democrats who, for various reasons, had sworn never to support her Presidential ambitions. A story by Allison Mitchell on January 7, 2001, first coined the term, just after she was sworn in to the Senate:

She is the most admired woman in America, according to a recent Gallup poll, beating out Oprah. She is a figure of international stature, who once lectured China about human rights. Her friends and enemies are legion -- including a phalanx of professional Hillary-haters who were happily returned to cable television the moment she was sworn in.

Raymond Hernandez, the Times reporter who covered Clinton in her role as Senator, led his December 5, 2004 analysis of Hillary's political prospects with a similar analysis:

In a race for the presidency, Hillary Rodham Clinton faces a problem that has dogged her since her days as first lady: an entrenched bloc of voters who simply do not like her.

And her experience as a senator in New York shows that despite vigorous campaigning around the state since taking office, she remains an extremely polarizing figure who is unable to sway these voters to her side.

One poll after another shows that roughly one of three New Yorkers has an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Clinton, a statistic that has not changed since she took office in 2001.

Nationally, her standing is worse, even as her aides prepare for what is emerging as a possible bid for president in 2008. Roughly 4 of 10 Americans disapprove of her, according to a recent poll by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The voters who disapprove of Mrs. Clinton are numerous and unshakable, and they have been around so long that they even have a name in political circles. Hillary haters.

The coverage continued through the 2008 campaign, as Times columnists and reporters regularly returned to the theme. Many Democrats disillusioned with Hillary's support of the war -- and unwillingness to denounce it with the same vehemence as Obama -- supported Obama as a result.

How do they feel now that Obama has reached out to his rival to run his foreign policy? You won't learn the answer from the Times.

Instead, the paper has focused its energy on the easier stories. Jodi Kantor's roundup of interviews today with the usual suspects (Gloria Steinem, Christine Quinn, and other friends and supporters of Hillary) took the obvious tack of reporting that women continue to thrill at Hillary's power. Tomorrow's Times has a page-one story by Elisabeth Bumiller detailing the political machinations behind the deal.

Valid stories? Yes. Surprising stories? No.

It would be more insightful -- if more challenging -- to now ask anti-Clinton Democrats, who took to the streets only three weeks ago in joy over Obama's election, how they feel about four years of Hillary in the Obama cabinet. Or go even deeper and find out whether Obama's own advisers feel betrayed by his decision to embrace his rival. It's a harder story to pull off, but a more important one for our new President to read as he works to balance his hopes against political realities in the weeks ahead.

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