Clinton on the campaign trail: the conservative backlash

››› ››› MICHELLE JEUNG

Seven weeks after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery, former President Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail for Senator John Kerry, prompting smears and baseless speculation from conservative media figures such as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Eileen McGann, and Dick Morris.

As a guest of right-wing Internet gossip Matt Drudge on Drudge Radio Live, Eileen McGann -- co-author of the anti-Clinton book Because He Could (ReganBooks, October 2004) -- said that Clinton hasn't done anything "substantial" since leaving office except "make money and try and get rid of the negative legacy of pardons." Further, she revived the fallacy that Clinton does not really support Kerry's candidacy, saying, "I don't think he really wants to help the Kerry campaign because if Kerry wins, Hillary [Senator Clinton, D-NY] has less of a shot, if any, at ever running for president and becoming president."

Meanwhile, on FOX News Channel, McGann's husband and co-author, Dick Morris -- the onetime Clinton adviser turned critic, author, and FOX News Channel political analyst -- claimed that Clinton is "like an animal that doesn't generate internal body warmth, is cold-blooded, and can't digest his food unless the sun is shining on him."

Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed Clinton didn't "sound like a guy that wants Kerry to win" and "just needed to get out of the house."

And as a guest on MSNBC, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter said: "What the Democrats want to do is sell blacks out ... and just send out Bill Clinton, who, for some reason, is enormously popular with blacks, though I don't think particularly with the rest of the country, based on the fact that he never got a majority to vote for him."

In fact, in 1996, Clinton received 49 percent of the popular vote and then-Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole received 41 percent; in 2000, President George W. Bush received 47.87 percent of the popular vote and former Vice President Al Gore received 48.38 percent. As Media Matters for America has noted, the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted October 16-18 found that Clinton received a 48 percent positive rating, which according to an October 25 New York Times article is "higher than the ratings for either President [George W.] Bush or Mr. Kerry."

MMFA previously documented comments that right-wing radio hosts made just after Clinton's heart surgery in September.

From the October 24 broadcast of Drudge Radio Live:

McGANN: Well, you could almost -- in a way it's kinda sad. Here he is 58 years old. He's been president of the United States. He's been out of office for four years -- and can we tell your listeners anything substantial that he has done in the last four years, except make money and try and get rid of the negative legacy of the pardons?

[...]

McGANN: People have heart surgery all the time. They don't have to go into hiding. He has been in hiding for the last six weeks. And I think that it's part of their plan to build up and hype him -- at the end of the election, and for the opening of his [presidential] library. So, we have once again for -- I don't know what time, the 10th, 15th, 20th time -- the new Bill Clinton. And I think it's also what Dick [Morris] likes to call his ADD [attention deficit disorder] problem. That when he doesn't get attention he's disordered. And on the one hand, he I don't think really wants to help the Kerry campaign because if Kerry wins, Hillary has less of a shot, if any, at ever running for president and becoming president. [...] You know, there was no reason for him to be holed up. My uncle had the same operation two weeks before he did. And he [McGann's uncle] called me yesterday as he and his wife were driving to Florida. And he's 71 years old. People recover from this surgery and they can do other things. You don't have to just sit in a chair. They have created this. This is -- you know -- just like the sensation he created when he walked into the [Democratic National] Convention, with the camera showing him in 2000. They have to do something -- he has to do something dramatic or he's not happy.

From the October 25 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes:

MORRIS: This is one of the only instances I can think of -- I'm kidding you -- but this is only one of the only instances I can think of where Clinton is doing something because he has to. Psychologically, he has to. This guy is like an animal that doesn't generate internal body warmth, is cold-blooded, and can't digest his food unless the sun is shining on him.

CO-HOST ALAN COLMES: Dick, is it possible he wants John Kerry to win?

MORRIS: He requires outside stimulus. I'll bet that he recovers more quickly in the presence of an audience than he would alone in a room.

COLMES: Maybe he wants Kerry to win.

MORRIS: No, he doesn't want Kerry to win. Because he wants to go back to the White House ... for his third and fourth term.

From the October 25 broadcast of the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Clinton doesn't sound like a guy that wants Kerry to win. This sounds like a guy who wants to get out there and get some cheers himself. This sounds like a guy who just wants to get out of the house.

From the October 25 edition of MSNBC's Deborah Norville Tonight:

COULTER: What the Democrats want to do is sell blacks out, not respond to any of the issues that are important to blacks and just -- and just send out Bill Clinton, who, for some reason, is enormously popular with blacks, though I don't think particularly with the rest of the country, based on the fact that he never got a majority to vote for him.

[...]

COULTER: As was described repeatedly in The New York Times in the last election, all of Gore's internal polls showed that, I mean, he should have won the last election, but Clinton was a noose around his neck.

HOST DEBORAH NORVILLE: Some say he did [win the election].

COULTER: Yes, the good sports in the Democratic Party. Clinton was a noose. That's why he [Gore] chose [Senator] Joe Lieberman [D-CT]. That's why he separated himself from Clinton. No, of course, we'd love to see Clinton out campaigning.

[...]

COULTER: There are certainly more serious, impressive blacks in his [Bush's] administration than there were in Bill Clinton's administration. Bill Clinton, you'll recall, appointed his law school classmate, black law professor Lani Guinier -- nominated her, rather. As soon as she came under fire, he completely sold her out, saying, "Oh, I haven't read her stuff." And most importantly, right now, I think the big issue that it has to be said that's really hurting Kerry with blacks is gay marriage. Blacks do not like gay marriage. They don't like abortion. And Kerry is the party of gay marriage and abortion.

Stories/Interests
Attacks on Bill Clinton, Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2004 Elections
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