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Chasing Hillary: What The Republicans Refuse To Learn From Wile E. Coyote

Memo Pad Politics

Chasing Hillary: What The Republicans Refuse To Learn From Wile E. Coyote


As their fear swells in advance of Hillary Clinton’s anticipated presidential campaign, the feverish smears of the Republican right increasingly resemble the desperate gambits of a certain Wile E. Coyote. The latest episode in their cartoonish crusade appeared in the Washington Free Beacon, which headlined “The Hillary Letters” the other day with an ominous subhead: “Hillary Clinton, Saul Alinsky correspondence revealed.”

Not only did Clinton become acquainted as a young woman with the legendary community organizer – a fact mentioned in Living History, her own memoir – but she apparently wrote at least two letters to him in the summer of 1971. At the time, she was working as a legal intern for a well-known left-wing law firm in Berkeley – another item noted in Living History, which was published 11 years ago.

Now the Free Beacon, a neoconservative online publication, has dug up those two notes that she sent to Alinsky, which prove conclusively that she was interested in the man’s books and ideas, and enjoyed talking with him.

For those who don’t know much about Alinsky, he was an iconoclastic activist who sought to improve the lives of poor families, by showing them how to demand and win the same kind of services enjoyed by their middle-class neighbors.  William F. Buckley once described him as “very close to being an organizational genius,” and more recently the leaders of the Tea Party have admitted that they consult his works for organizing tips. He famously disdained all forms of totalitarian ideology, including Communism, working more closely with religious institutions than political parties of any complexion. Consistently, the heirs to his Industrial Areas Foundation have forged strong alliances with local church leaders, including the U. S. Catholic bishops. No doubt Pope Francis would have loved him.

In the most telling passage from the letters Clinton sent to Alinsky during that turbulent summer more than 40 years ago, she writes: “The more I’ve seen of places like Yale Law School and the people who haunt them, the more convinced I am that we have the serious business and joy of much work ahead—if the commitment to a free and open society is ever going to mean more than eloquence and frustration.” (She doesn’t sound much like a Communist either.)

But like the hapless Looney Tunes varmint brandishing his Acme dynamite sticks, the right-wing pamphleteers are so furious in their fruitless pursuit of Clinton that they will seize any and every bomb to throw at her, no matter how many times they blow themselves up instead. Those angry, soot-covered boobs never seem to understand why their attacks leave her completely unscathed — and often even stronger than before.

Nor do they realize that their shrill condemnations of Clinton sound contrived, confused, and even contradictory: Sometimes she is a secret radical, as the Alinsky “scoop” was meant to insinuate, and sometimes she is a tool of Wall Street and corporate interests, as a silly release from the Republican National Committee claimed on the opening day of this year’s Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York.

That same day, on the CGI stage at Manhattan’s Sheraton Hotel, the former Secretary of State conducted a lively discussion with two other notorious radicals – Ginni Rometty, the first female president of IBM Corporation, and Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank.

So while her ideological opponents continued to make themselves look ridiculous, she was publicly exploring a few of her own lifelong obsessions: how to improve the lives and health of working people, how to empower women and girls around the world, and how to advance America’s commitment to “a free and open society.” That suggests why, despite decades of vilification by media outlets and the far right, she remains among the world’s most admired leaders.

Should Hillary Clinton choose to run for president again, she is certain to stumble and make mistakes, like any other politician. But unless her dull-witted adversaries somehow begin to comprehend who she really is, she will remain perfectly safe from them.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers.

Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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  1. Dominick Vila September 23, 2014

    OMG, Hillary Clinton wrote two letters to an activist determined to help poor people overcome poverty? Red alert! Red alert! The personification of evil has just been exposed! I bet she is also among those determined to raise the minimum wage and fighting for equality. Please excuse the sarcasm. Honestly, if this is what the GOP has in mind to fight Hillary, all I can say is bring it on!

    1. TZToronto September 23, 2014

      I think the word is desperation. The right-wingers seem to be looking for anything and hoping that, when they throw it at the wall, it sticks. The problem is that they don’t know manure from doughnuts.

      1. Jim Duley September 24, 2014

        “The problem is that they don’t know manure from doughnuts.” LOL … is that Canadian slang? 😉 But to your point, absolutely right!

        1. TZToronto September 24, 2014

          As far as I know, that’s original with me. . . . I spoke with someone yesterday (from Atlanta) who was talking about great salesmen. He knows someone who could sell bicycles to alligators. He had me laughing out loud with that one.

    2. FT66 September 23, 2014

      Republicans are funny or rather out of gas.They are grabbing every mud they can pick, throw to her and try to see whether it sticks. Their daily song: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi has been put aside (for the time being) as everybody will notice their craziness while the talk is about ISIS and them talking bout Benghazi.

      1. Dominick Vila September 23, 2014

        I think the Republican rank and file got marching orders from the big boys, telling them to tone down the rhetoric. Take a close look at what our right wing friends in this forum have been posting in recent days and you will find an absence of the incendiary rhetoric that characterized what some of them use to post.
        Energizing the base by feeding raw meat a few weeks ago was almost a necessity. Now, just a few weeks before a midterm election they hope to win big, the key word is moderation and avoiding a faux pas.

        1. Melinda Killie September 23, 2014

          Well, Dominick, if the republican “clown show” stays on THIS track, you can be sure the faux paus and clown rodeo WILL continue. It’s so weird, man. They already have nailed their political coffins shut. Now they are covering the graves over with an bulldozer!! LOL! Stand by, folks, this is gonna be one trip off the cliff that Wile E. Coyote (the republican clown show) is NEVER gonna forget or get over… LOLOLOL!

    3. Allan Richardson September 24, 2014

      Republicans have ALWAYS (since 1900 at least) considered giving the poor ANY legal or political tool to improve their lot as “evil.” And since the 1917 Russian revolution, their favorite devil word is “COMMUNIST.” Their (the Dixiecrats who later renamed themselves as Republicans) excuse for opposing Martin Luther King, and for having the FBI spy on him, was that fighting Jim Crow was “communism.” They fight for the interests of the top 1% of the top 1% opposed to the interests of the general public, and they want to keep workers and poor people POWERLESS. They opposed labor unions (hiring thugs to kill union activists), minimum wage laws, overtime pay, Social Security (and later, Medicare), inspections for both product safety (check a chicken carcass in TWO SECONDS?) and worker safety (carpal WHAT syndrome?), pollution limiting laws, and ANYTHING that costs a few pennies of profit.

  2. FireBaron September 23, 2014

    You think this stuff is bad, wait until the season really begins! For whatever reason, the Right is infatuated with finding any piece of evidence that they can use as damnable against her or Bill, no matter how idiotic it sounds.

    1. FT66 September 23, 2014

      I wish they could know that such kind of campaigning at this age is over. Those who are not able to use New Tech my be can listen, BUT the majority are not interested and won’t buy whatever they will come up with.

    2. kiptw September 23, 2014

      The reason is that they believe them. Always. No matter how contrived or self-contradictory.

      My question is, can the Right make up a lie so goofy that even they don’t believe it themselves?

    3. cleos_mom September 24, 2014

      The left’s delusional branch will be slamming her too, and in fact already are. There’s nothing like the extreme wings of both parties for snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory.

  3. aabsalooka September 23, 2014

    I don’t suppose it has occurred to those dummies that throwing Saul Alinsky’s name out there as a fear weapon won’t gain them a single voter they don’t already have under their spell? They only preach to their own choir now and that just isn’t going to be good enough in 2016.

    1. johninPCFL September 23, 2014

      Not to mention that as Dick Armey, who took over the tea party, has also gone on record as admiring Alinsky.

  4. janis mcdonald September 23, 2014

    I wish there was a LAW that all campaigning had to be done solely based on the merits and outlook (promises?) of each candidate. No bashing, no “what the other guy did or didn’t do”. Just “what I’ve accomplished and what I WILL TRY to accomplish should I be elected.” Imagine interviewing for a CEO position. Would you sit there and talk about the bum the prior CEO was? I think not! You’d talk about what you’ve done and what you plan to do in the future and how you intend to do it. As simple as that. (Of course, imagine ANY politician agreeing to get a law such as this passed!)

    1. jamesowens September 23, 2014

      the 3 strikes and your out rule should apply to campaigning as well as all speeches by politicians-
      They are elected for the public trust when they are caught in 3 lies they are kicked out of office never to return to public service as they have lost the public trust

      1. janis mcdonald September 23, 2014

        James — then what would we do with all those empty seats!

        1. Dominick Vila September 23, 2014


    2. Allan Richardson September 24, 2014

      There are times when we MUST consider the “lesser of two evils” in deciding to run a country. The question is whether the “evils” of the other guy are (1) TRUE or made up, and (2) RELEVANT to the execution of his or her OFFICIAL duties. To me, pointing out that the other guy would cause negative outcomes for the community, if the facts justify it, is not “negative” campaigning. An ad like “our opponent’s name is Ted and that rhymes with Red, so he’s a Commie” is NEGATIVE.

      And yes, if you were interviewing for a CEO position, you WOULD lay out not only what your policies are, but how they differ from those of other applicants, and if applicable, how you would fix, or at least avoid repeating, the screwups of the previous or current CEO.

  5. Teresa Poland September 23, 2014

    Hillary is the most qualified to be President. Next spring she will announce her intentions and the money is ready. Hillary groups have sprung up all over the US. The people who wanted her as a candidate back in 2008, are still there and even new people attending her speeches also. She is #1 against all those in the repub and tea party. Some she has high double digits against. Next year will be a great and fun year. All the repubs and ignorant tea party will not get a vote from those women, only the ignorant who think they are lower class, and they are against woman will not elect those people. They think woman should enjoy rape, which I have come to believe that they themselves may be a rapist. Who ever votes for these scum bags will be responsible for all the negative that happens after that. They want to take away Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Take everyone’s health care. Russia treats their older and disabled people with much more compassion than the US. Their government actually pays for their health care. All proceeds for Hillary are growing more and more every day. ,

  6. ExRadioGuy15 September 23, 2014

    This is pretty funny, considering that, more than two years ago, I gave the GOP the nickname, “The Wileys” because they were having as much success getting “The Roadrunner” (President Obama) as Wile E. Coyote did in the Warner Bros. cartoons LMAO

  7. Patty H September 23, 2014

    Being a democrat and a women, Hillary is the last person in the world I would vote for. She is neither for the poor people or for women. The only person Hillary is for is herself. Anyone that can laugh at getting a rapist off with a slap on the wrist is evil. Not only did she ruin the life of that 12 year old girl, just look at the trail of women’s lives she ruined because her husband couldn’t keep it in his pants. Do your own research, Hillary is a devil in a pant suit. As far as the poor people go, I don’t see her helping any of them. She could not budget her own money while living in the White House all expenses paid. She said “We were broke and couldn’t afford to buy HOUSES”. I’m quite sure she has no idea what the word broke means. When I see her giving her money away and living in a house not a mansion then perhaps I will believe she is for the poor people. I would love to see a women as President, just not this one. Wake up please!

    1. JPHALL September 23, 2014

      You are so sad! Blaming a woman for the mistakes of her husband is just sick. As to their finances the Clinton’s did not become rich until they left the White House. As many have found out, living in the White has expenses you are expected to pick up yourself. You obviously are just another right wing loser.

    2. cleos_mom September 24, 2014

      “Devil in a pants suit”?
      No doubt she would be more acceptable if she dressed as a Stepford wife.

    3. Allan Richardson September 24, 2014

      So she is a worse “devil” than Paul Ryan, whose budget proposals put not only the poor, but the middle class as well, at the bottom of the federal priority list, with the greediest 1% of the top 1% at the top? At this point in our history, before we can IMPROVE the lives of poor people, we have to defend them from the attacks of the GOP. In fact, we have to defend the middle class from BECOMING poor as a result of GOP policies! And no Republicans will take the side of the REST OF US, because they get ALL their funding from the worst of the plutocrats. Even the worst Democrats have to please working and wanting-to-work Americans, which limits the damage they can cause.

      There may be a better candidate to oppose the GOP, but Hillary looks like the most likely to win the nomination. I will support the Democratic nominee, to defend America from GOP ideology, no matter who he or she is.

  8. howa4x September 23, 2014

    The right wing always try to win by tactics rather than the battle over ideas. If you look at some of them like voter suppression, they appear to be very undemocratic and closer to fascism than anything else. They think negative attack adds are the only way to win and will use them on anyone who opposes the greed machine that the republican party has become. Republican values re anti people values and solely favor corporate wealth over individual freedom. This is why they are afraid of Hillary who has the intelligence to beat them

    1. sigrid28 September 23, 2014

      The Republican party knows that in the near future it can only win elections by cheating.

  9. Theodora30 September 23, 2014

    Sadly a lot of the people who hate Hillary are on the left from what I have seen. Just read the readers’ pick comments at the NY Times whenever there is an op ed piece about her. These comments are reliably liberal but when someone like Maureen Dowd disses Hillary (which is everytime she writes about her) the favorite commenters join in. I think a lot of them have been influenced by the bias of the Kool Kids at Beltway High against people from flyover land.

    1. cleos_mom September 24, 2014

      Right on target; even a glance at the comments in Daily Kos entries will confirm that. That site hosted quite the hatefest during the 2008 primaries and they’re decorating the place for the same thing year after next.

  10. Michael Ross September 23, 2014

    All they’re really doing now is making more people interested in learning who Saul Alinsky is. And the more people actually look him up and see for themselves what he stood for, the more Fox News and the Tea Party are going to regret constantly insisting that he is the face of evil.

    No, Alinsky was not perfect. But he definitely wasn’t the devil Glenn Beck and Fox News constantly make him out to be.

    The same is true, by no small coincidence, of Hillary Clinton. She also is not perfect, but the G.O.P. campaign against her is summing up entirely as “She’s not an angel, so go ahead and throw your lot in with the devil.”

    And the fact is that the only people who would be suckered into such a campaign have sold their souls already.

    Just like in 2012, the G.O.P. campaign is going to be loud, going to be obnoxious, and is going to scare a lot of people with the prospect that it might actually succeed, but will be proven in November to be completely toothless and be followed by yet another Tea Party threat of violent revolution (which will also be toothless).

    1. Jim Duley September 24, 2014

      Well put, sir!

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