A lie too far

Kimberley Strassel:

Hillary Clinton's been all the news this week, after she "misspoke" about Whitewater, Travelgate, missing files, suspicious pardons, Johnny Chung and cattle futures. Oh wait, after she "misspoke" about Bosnia. Oh wait, same thing.

That's one way to make sense of the unrelenting, unforgiving, 24/7 news coverage of Mrs. Clinton's fictional telling of Bosnian sniper fire and the subsequent debunking of her every word. In a nasty primary battle that has already featured racial slurs and Chicago slum lords, missing tax documents, and a "monster," you might expect this slip-up to have been yet another blip in the media cycle.

But that would have been to deny the press, the pundits, Democrats, and even Barack Obama, the catharsis of finally -- finally! -- getting a chance to confront the Clintons' questionable mores. Hillary's and Bill's scandals have been the elephant in the primary room ever since she first signaled a run. Yet up to now everyone has been too scared, or too loyal, or too weary to touch the ugly past. Her Bosnia misspeak is now serving as proxy for all the truths about the Clintons' non-truths, allowing even liberals to break free from their Clinton dependence.

And how liberating it is! The video of Mrs. Clinton's speech about Bosnian sniper fire, twinned with real footage of calmly strolling down the Tuzla tarmac, has been running on one continuous TV loop. Reporters have dug up every last person who accompanied her on the sedate trip to pour a little more salt in the wound. "The Audacity of Hoax," yelled a blog posting in the liberal Nation magazine, which innocently asked: "What else is she fibbing about?" Bill Burton, Barack Obama's spokesman, gleefully noted that Mrs. Clinton's recent attacks on his candidate were designed to deflect attention away from her "made up" Bosnia story. Heavy emphasis on the "made up" part. No need to mention Vince Foster, Red Bone, Marc Rich or Webster Hubbell. All this will do.

The real beauty of Mrs. Clinton's Tuzla torture is that it's self-inflicted. Up to now, Team Clinton had done a surreal job of keeping the scandal genie in its bottle. Think about it: Most of 1990s politics was defined by the Clinton White House, which in turn was defined by the Clintons' endless ethical firestorms. The American public remembers this, one reason why a majority consistently says in polls that Mrs. Clinton is "untrustworthy." And yet even as the former First Lady has lobbed ethical accusations at Mr. Obama -- slamming him for "plagiarizing" speeches, hitting him for his relationship with "slum landlord" Tony Rezko or the Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- her own past has remained a no-go zone for most of the press and for her rival.


The media has vacillated between being awed by the Clintons' power to deceive and occasional being incredulous at their audacity. Hillary's problem is that she does not have Bill's charm and skill at pulling it off.

I think the media also has been intimidated by the Clintons' ability to challenge those who challenge them. Remember MSNBC's groveling over the pimping Chelsie remark? The media is losing its fear and that is real trouble for the Clinton campaign and Obama too, because as the Clinton campaign get more desperate it will lash out more.


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