Republicans: Hillary looks sick.
Democrats: Conspiracy theorists!
R: You know, she’s coughing all the time.
D: Conspiracy theorists!
R: Hillary just passed out.
D: She has allergies and some heat exhaustion. It’s one of the hottest days ever!
R: It was 77 and breezy.
D: Are you suggesting that women have a different, weaker physiology than men?
R: No, I’m suggesting maybe she’s sicker than we think.
D: Misogynist … oh, the campaign says she has a little walking pneumonia. Now we know.
R: Why not say that in the first place?
D: She’s a warrior, amirite?
R: So this 69-year-old lady ill with a contagious sickness is hugging little girls and attending fundraisers?
D: She’s 68 and 7 months, you liar.
D: She’s a hero to elderly women.
R: Is she contagious?
D: Of course not.
R: If it’s no big deal, why is she canceling campaign events?
D: Actually, this dangerous, contagious sickness has infected a bunch of senior staffers who may now die — that’s how bad it was.
R: Seems serious. If Hillary lied about this, is it possible she is lying again?
D: Conspiracy theorists!
Nice work, people. Always be closing.
Sure, Clintonism has left thousands of lies strewn across 40 years of political life. As we hop from one scandal to the next — some far more serious than others — Americans have been forced to deal with the mendacity in different ways. For liberal partisans, it often entails untethering arguments from consistency, logic, or principles and concocting ways to rationalize their actions. It’s not as hard as it sounds. The Clinton defender has an array of tools at his disposal.
Here’s an easy way to deal with controversy.
First, drop the preemptive smear, just in case. Example: Rather than waiting around to accuse everyone of individual sexism, write a piece preemptively calling all foes sexist. Why not question the motivations of all critics ahead of time, and then tailor the accusation to the specific scandals as needed?
Furthermore, attacks on Clinton as unfit without evidence are helped by the deep sexism that women are physically inferior
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) September 11, 2016
As evidence begins to slowly emerge, never give in until it’s absolutely necessary.
Last week, Clinton claimed that her email scandal, just like the multiple investigations into her husband’s administration, was just “another conspiracy theory.” Just as FBI Director James Comey could not prove he knew Hillary was lying about her emails, independent counsel Robert Ray sought no charges in Travelgate only because he could not prove Clinton’s many factually false statements were purposeful lies. So until they possess a picture of Hillary personally wiping a server or a video of Hillary fainting or evidence of Bill left on a blue dress, just gaslight the hell out of them.
As my colleague Sean Davis notes, here were a few headlines that captured the tone leading up to that Hillary’s new story:
CNN (Aug. 24, 2016): Clinton’s health is fine, but what about Trump?
New York Post (Sept. 4, 2016): Dr. Drew loses show after discussing Hillary’s health
Washington Post (Sept. 6, 2016): Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?
Sarah Silverman (Sept. 8, 2016): “I think anyone bringing up her health is a fucking asshole”
That’s how it’s done. When they finally do learn about the lie or the wrongdoing, we can employ an array of weapons to fight back.
First: always imply that everyone is overreacting. Yuck it up!
It’s just pneumonia folks. Calm down.
.. & by the way, can we get Trump’s taxes before Election Day?
— Hunter Walk (@hunterwalk) September 11, 2016
Or deploy the inverse reductio ad absurdum.
Clearly we’re going to need the Select Committee on Hillary’s Health to uncover the long-form pneumonia certificate.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) September 11, 2016
Yep. I’m going with Zika or AIDS. https://t.co/KFz3uHLBiR
— Will Saletan (@saletan) September 11, 2016
If that doesn’t work, normalize the event. What powerful person isn’t fellated in his office occasionally? Everyone cheats, right? Which government official doesn’t set up her own email system to circumvent the prying eyes of the public?
Given how punishing the schedule is, and how many people they touch, I’m surprised presidential candidates don’t get sick more often.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 11, 2016
Retroactively normalize lying. Some of our greatest presidents did it.
Can u imagine what modern conservatives would have done with FDR? “HE’S A CRIPPLE!!!’ HE’S DYING!!! HE HAS LEG-EBOLA!!”
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 12, 2016
Turn her shortcomings into a strength.
Wait, so Hillary has PNEUMONIA and she’s still campaigning as hard as she is? You realize how badass that is, right?
on Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 11, 2016
Use a strawman to create the impression that a completely legitimate question is wacky.
Surprise! Donald Trump suggests he still has doubts about Clinton’s health explanation https://t.co/XVIxfr0JBO pic.twitter.com/P3CsjuWd9X
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) September 12, 2016
Why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t you? And wouldn’t any dogged journalist have comparable questions about the story given to them by an inveterate liar? Not if Trump is also asking.
In 2008, presidential candidate John McCain gave access to his Mayo doctors and released more than 1,000 pages of medical records. But if you keep repeating something it will seem true.
We could have done better yesterday, but it is a fact that public knows more about HRC than any nominee in history. https://t.co/Q50oHK85wQ
— Jennifer Palmieri (@jmpalmieri) September 12, 2016
The next formulation takes a bit more subtlety and isn’t for beginners because you might go too far. Here you concede guilt to a lesser charge as a means of tempering the real one. For instance, the Clintons have a really bad knack for being too private which creates an avoidable crisis.
Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 12, 2016
Critics might claim that Clintons’ unhealthy penchant for privacy comes from their unhealthy penchant for corruption and power. So just make sure to stick the landing: Republicans are the worst. That allows the degradation of the system. On both sides.
Also: I would literally vote for Hillary Clinton’s dead body over Donald Trump.
— Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) September 11, 2016
And then victory.