The apparent political neophytes at the New York Times are constantly appalled to discover that non-supportive things are often said about Democrats during Republican gatherings. Reporters Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin got front-page play Sunday for their shocked rundown from a GOP presidential-race conclave in New Hampshire, "At Republican Gathering, All Talk Is of Clinton (None of It Is Good)". The text box: "Republican hopefuls take turns to tear apart a rival." Pushing back on Hillary's behalf, the reporters warned that delivering anti-Clinton "red meat" to supportive audiences might make Republican candidates seem "minor league."
(In March, Healy strangely insisted that the media was actually Hillary's harshest foe, while Martin condescended to Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee as a "cheerleader of artery-clogging calories" in a January story.)
They attacked her judgment on resetting American relations with Russia and protecting American diplomats in Libya. They slammed her as secretive for using a personal email account at the State Department and deleting messages in the face of scrutiny. They mocked her recent campaign events in Iowa as inauthentic and her unannounced lunch at Chipotle as antisocial. They even reached back to her husband’s infidelity to disparage her.
Is it really out of bounds to challenge the credentials and integrity of someone who wants to lead the country? The Times certainly hinted that way.
An energized, confident bench of 19 presidential candidates and potential contenders took turns taking shots at Hillary Rodham Clinton or competing with her on policy ideas at a Republican gathering in the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza hotel here, the first high-profile political event since Mrs. Clinton announced her bid for the White House last Sunday.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky made a robust argument against Mrs. Clinton on Saturday over the disintegration of Libya, her State Department email and the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of contributions from foreign nations, including some with poor records on women’s rights. But he was especially harsh when he talked about the insurgent attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that led to the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The photo caption emphasized: "Senator Rand Paul criticized Mrs. Clinton especially harshly over the Benghazi attacks."
And the "lacing" Scott Walker delivered against HRC sounded pretty mild.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin repeatedly laced into Mrs. Clinton as well, charging that she “thinks the way to grow the economy is to grow Washington” and would not reform federal entitlement programs that many Democrats cherish. He also cast her as out of touch by contrasting his discount shopping habits with hers: “I doubt that the presumptive nominee for the other party has ever been to Kohl’s before, let alone shopped in the last 15 to 20 years.” And he had a warning for anyone who believed that Mrs. Clinton would return the United States to the economically prosperous days of the 1990s.
A Clinton spokesman declined to comment on the myriad Republican criticisms. But even as they tested out those lines of attack, the candidates made it clear that they were not quite ready to give up their assault on President Obama. While Mrs. Clinton presents a fresher target, several Republicans chose to take on Mr. Obama’s economic record and his engagement with Iran and Cuba, an indication that they believe he still stirs conservative audiences as much as his would-be Democratic successor.
The Times performed a little pushback on Hillary's behalf, warning that delivering anti-Clinton "red meat" to supportive audiences might make candidates seem "minor league."
The race for the 2016 Republican nomination has a mix of prominent candidates and lesser-known but fiery ones. The critiques here on Friday and Saturday showed the bluntness of some of the candidates, the humor of others and the strategic interests of several -- including those who chose not to mention Mrs. Clinton and to introduce themselves to voters in a more positive light. And all of them sought to project the experience, knowledge and steeliness needed to take on a politician of Mrs. Clinton’s stature.
Hitting Mrs. Clinton hard was the sort of red meat for which some audience members were hungering, but getting too personal carried the political risk of appearing minor league. By being memorable for attacking Mrs. Clinton, candidates risked losing a chance to define themselves in a positive way and highlight differences with their Republican rivals. After all, the party nomination still has to be won.
Party activists, in speeches interspersed with those of the presidential hopefuls, were more cutting in their attacks on Mrs. Clinton, and state party officials handed out red bumper stickers that read “#StopHillary.”
Or perhaps it's all just cynical attention-getting.
Some of the sharpest attacks on Mrs. Clinton came from Republicans who are virtually nowhere in the polls and are looking for ways to get attention.
Perhaps the most personal remark came from Carly Fiorina, the former business executive, when she made an unmistakable reference to Mr. Clinton’s affair with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Discussing a cable TV segment in which questions were raised about whether women had the hormonal capacity to serve as president, Ms. Fiorina said sarcastically, “Not that we have seen a man’s judgment being clouded by hormones, including in the Oval Office.”
So it was a "most personal remark" attacking Hillary Clinton....that actually targeted Bill?