A ‘right-wing conspiracy’ against Obama? Clinton says yes

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York last week.

On Sunday, former President Bill Clinton reminded America that claims of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” did not begin with health-care town halls and the Tea Party protests.

On “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory asked Mr. Clinton if the “right-wing conspiracy” that his wife famously said was undermining his presidency in 1998 was undermining the Obama presidency.

Without hesitation, Clinton smiled: “You bet.”

In 1998, then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton saw a conspiracy in the collection of political forces and shock jocks aligned to push for the impeachment of her husband for his affair with an intern.

The most ardent Democrats – perhaps the former president included – now see conspiracy in healthcare town halls where bad-tempered constituents are alleged to be the stooges of deep-pocketed organizers. Tea parties to protest huge government spending are the work of former Rep. Dick Armey and Fox News.

But Republicans are not the only targets. With flow charts so complicated that they would do Democrat healthcare reform-hawks proud, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that President Obama is clearly a Communist. The president also was not born in the United States, making his presidency invalid.

Some of the claims might have more a ring of truth to them than others. But speaking more broadly, they suggest that both sides of the political spectrum, it seems, are increasingly unwilling to accept many of their opponents’ views as legitimate.

This plays into a broader trend that political scientists like Richard Reeves of the University of Southern California call “hyperpartisanship” – the inability of today’s parties to play nice – and they trace the beginnings of the current trend to the Clinton administration.

“If there is such a thing as hyperpartisanship, it peaked in the impeachment of Clinton, writes Professor Reeves in “Bridging the Political Divide in the 2008 Presidential Election. “Partisanship was the rule and it has stayed the rule.”

Seeing the trend as cyclical, Reeves suggested: “The next president of the United States may have the chance to unite the country in a way it has not been for several decades.”

In a way, Obama has, with approval ratings that remain relatively high (56 percent), despite a massive and controversial agenda.

Yet it also clear that his person and policies divide people just as Clinton did – and perhaps even more.

On “Meet the Press,” Clinton went on to say that the right-wing conspiracy “is not as strong as it was because America has changed demographically. But it’s as virulent as it was.”

One of Obama’s senior advisers, David Axelrod, said in April that the Tea Parties could “mutate into something that’s unhealthy.”

Another former president, Jimmy Carter, said in the wake of the congressional “you lie!” incident that much of the opposition to Obama was based on race, not on policy.

So far, however, the president and first lady have tried to stay above the fray. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama doesn’t think that criticism of his policies is “based on the color of his skin.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article had the wrong host for “Meet the Press.”

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/28/2009 - 10:51 am.

    I don’t know where you are getting your numbers from, but P-BO hasn’t seen 56% approval for weeks.

    “Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 30% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-nine percent (39%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -9”

    “Overall, 49% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. Fifty-one (51%) disapprove.”


    And ObamaCare is following it’s namesake into the tank as well…

    “Just 41% of voters nationwide now favor the health care reform proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s down two points from a week ago and the lowest level of support yet measured.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% are opposed to the plan.”


  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/28/2009 - 07:36 pm.

    Swifter; and your point is?

  3. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 09/29/2009 - 08:08 am.

    Clinton missed the conspiracy of women in blue dresses that were after him.

  4. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/29/2009 - 09:22 am.

    Swiftee, one can do as much hand wringing as one chooses over the “daily polling” data. It seems to me that the real poll will be in 2016. Which is many lifetimes in the lifespan of politics.. Everything else is just .. hand wringing…..

    In your case, It is always a big mistake to theorize before one has data. Because one begins to twist facts to suit theories. Instead of theories to suit facts.

    snip//[Smart Politics] analysis of U.S. House election returns finds that while the GOP is historically likely to pick up seats in the 2010 midterms, next November’s election might look a lot closer to (though falling short of) the 2002 midterms or the 2004 general elections (in which the party in power, the GOP, held serve and even gained a few seats) rather than the 1994 or 2006 midterms (in which the party in power lost substantially – 54 seats for the Democrats and 31 seats for the Republicans respectively).

    However, there is some data which points to the likely Democratic losses in 2010 not only falling far short of another Republican Revolution, but not even on the scale of the ‘tsunamis’ of the 2006 and 2008 elections, during which Democrats amassed their nearly 80-seat advantage they hold today.

    For starters, two-thirds of the seats won by Democrats in 2008 (170, 66 percent) were won in landslide fashion, decided by more than 30 points over their Republican challengers. This is approximately the same percentage of GOP seats won in 2002 by 30+ points (157, 68 percent) after which the Republicans went on to gain three House seats in 2004.

    This is a very large foundation onto which the Democrats can build their majority again in 2010 (the GOP only holds 178 seats total), as nearly all of these 170 Democratic seats (barring retirements) should be safe next November. In 2006, for example, of the 22 GOP incumbents who lost their reelection bids, only 5 had won by more than 30 points in 2004 (with one of these being the scandal-plagued Don Sherwood, PA-10).

    Overall, the average margin of victory in U.S. House districts carried by the GOP in 2002 was 41.2 points, compared to 44.7 points for districts carried by the Democrats in 2008.

    In short, while the safe money is on Republicans to make inroads on the Democrat’s 79-seat majority in 2010, there is plenty of data that suggests these losses will be mitigated, and fall short of the revolution that some radio and television personalities believe is just around the corner.//snip


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