Crossposted from ePluribus with permission from the author.
Ever since Tuesday night's debate, the Clinton campaign has been complaining that the other candidates ganged up on her. This is part of a fundraising email I got from the Clinton campaign:
On that stage in Philadelphia, we saw six against one. Candidates who had pledged the politics of hope practiced the politics of pile on instead. Her opponents tried a whole host of attacks on Hillary.
She is one strong woman. She came through it well. But Hillary's going to need your help.
Note to Clinton: the issues are fair game. If you are running for president, the other candidates have a right to point out where they think you are wrong on the issues.
I like the response from Edwards campaign communications director Chris Kofinis to Clinton's complaints of being unfairly attacked.
All the distractions in the world won't undo the fact that on Tuesday night millions of Americans saw John Edwards speak honestly and directly, while Senator Clinton once again took multiple positions on multiple issues. We understand that the Clinton campaign isn't happy about that, but instead of smoke and mirrors, how about some truth-telling? Forty-eight hours after the debate, we have lots of excuses, but we still don't have a yes or no answer to a yes or no question.
"That's not the 'politics of piling on,' it's the politics of parsing.
"After seven years of George Bush, the American people deserve better -- they deserve the truth."
In Salon's War Room, Tim Grieve points out that it does a disservice to the Democratic Party to stifle dissent.
The last thing the Democratic Party needs now is somebody else -- let alone one of its own -- suggesting that open debate is somehow wrong. Clinton seemed to understand that point perfectly well when she announced her candidacy back in January. "Let's talk, let's chat," she said then. "Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine, because the conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately, don't you think?"
Yes, as a matter of fact, we do. But a one-sided conversation is a one-sided conversation, no matter who's doing the talking. Elections are necessarily choices among competing candidates and competing visions. If Clinton can run her campaign without ever mentioning why she thinks she's better than her opponents, more power to her. But mere mortals can't do that, and they shouldn't have to. If Clinton was serious about having a "dialogue" -- if part of her own hope for America is that we'll have a more open society than the one in which we've lived for the past six years -- then it's high time for her campaign to stop trying to shame its opponents into silence. Engage with the criticisms or ignore them; just don't argue that it's wrong to raise them in the first place.
Taylor Marsh, in a piece titled "Russert Leads the Boys in All Out Clinton Assault" very nearly accused the other candidates and Tim Russert of attacking Clinton because she is a woman.
Russert's goal was to provide the headlines the media was salivating to see. He intended to diminish and discredit Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, using her former president husband Bill Clinton to help do the job, which included a document waving drama that was all for show. I'd say Russert has a problem with a woman being president, but that can't be the case. Nah, he was just doing his job.
Clinton, at Wellesley, says, "This all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boy's club of presidential politics."
Let me get this straight. The other candidates (and Tim Russert) are not allowed to criticize Hillary Clinton on issues because she is female? Is that truly what Taylor Marsh is saying? As a feminist, I agree with RJ Eskow over at Huffington Post.
When is a feminist not a feminist? Apparently, when the goal is defending Hillary Clinton. In the Senator's defense, she has never said that it's unfair or bullying for men to take aggressive stances against her. I suspect she has too much self-respect for that.* But if her defenders continue to play the gender card like Taylor Marsh does in this piece, they could set the feminist cause back by decades.
It really damages the cause of feminism if the first "viable" (according to the media) female candidate for president is going to complain that she's being unfairly attacked every time someone disagrees with her on an issue. Hillary is not being attacked by the other Democrats in an unfair way. She's being questioned because she is wrong or inconsistent on issues (in their view, anyway). There is a big difference, and if she wants to be taken seriously as a leader, she had better start acting like a leader and be willing to stand up for what she believes in (whatever that may be).
In fact, I will go so far as to say that as a woman who has sometimes faced real gender discrimination, I am very angered by the Clinton campaign's response that seeks to marginalize the real issue concerns of her opponents by complaining that she's being singled out and unfairly attacked. American voters deserve to know her positions on these issues. It is not fair to us, or to women in particular, if the response to questions on the issues is dismissive of dissent, and it's worse if the response even comes close to seeming to be "you're just mean boys beating up on a girl." If she is truly prepared to compete in what she calls the "boys club," then she had better be prepared for substantive debate on the issues.
As Joan Walsh at Salon points out, Hillary Clinton can take it, or at least, she certainly SHOULD be able to. Furthermore, if she can't take reasonable critiques on the issues from Democratic candidates, how is she going to be able to confront Republican attacks?
If Clinton continues to take multiple positions on an issue and try to silence dissent from her opponents, it won't be long before her candidacy becomes little more than a joke, as in this Jon Stewart clip.