The Corner

Crowdsourcing Hatchetmen

Jim Geraghty has a good piece today on how Team Clinton is already going after her rivals, specifically Jim Webb. Her minions were out prodding talk radio producers to focus on the sex scenes in Webb’s novels. Geraghty asks:

All of the polling puts Hillary Clintonway ahead of Webb and every other potential Democratic rival. Webb’s best performance in any poll so far is a whopping 3 percent in the ABC News/Washington Post poll. (Admittedly, she led Barack Obama in early 2007 as well.)

Why on earth would the Hillary team go after Jim Webb this early? And why recycle an attack that had absolutely no impact when it was used in the 2006 Senate race? What is this, some form of mudslinging pregame stretching?

I can think of a few reasons. But the first that comes to mind is that Hillary herself didn’t order any such move. I don’t say this to exonerate Clinton. It’s entirely possible she did tell her people to do it. Rather, my point is that attacking Clinton’s enemies is how you get noticed in her world. It’s how you prove your loyalty. It’s how Sidney Blumenthal slithered into Hillary’s heart when he was working for her pro bono as a journalist and when he went on her payroll. Similarly, it’s very unlikely Hillary Clinton pre-approves much of anything put out by Media Matters, but she doesn’t need to. She’s created an infrastructure. The incentives are in place. The culture exists. It’s a bit analogous to Lois Lerner at the IRS. She didn’t need to be told by the White House to target conservative groups. She simply knew what she had to do. Clinton Inc has a corporate culture, and in that culture messengers get shot (metaphorically speaking), offense is the only defense and loyalty trumps all. 

Among the many challenges for Clinton is to figure out how to rein-in the culture she spent nearly 30 years creating. It’s one thing to have your minions throw sharp elbows and fight dirty when you’re in the fight of your life. It’s another thing when you are ahead of the pack by fifty points in the polls. The former seems justifiable the latter paranoid and vindictive. I very much doubt Clinton is a good enough manager to change the culture at Clinton Inc., particularly when it reflects her own personality so well. 

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