Down the years, the right has pursued four broad avenues of attack against Hillary Clinton: ideology; corruption; entitlement; lack of authenticity. Every one of the kajillions of stink bombs thrown at her, true and untrue, can be placed into one of these four categories.
Ideology has been the least successful. This drives them up a tree, but the fact is that most of America doesn’t regard her as a dangerous, radical man-hating feminist. Most of American thinks she’s a feminist who’s more liberal than not—and they’re totally fine with that. Finally there’s the, what, 12 to 15 percent of America that’s to her left and thinks she’s a centrist hack. So ideological attacks haven’t worked.
Corruption has worked a little better, as a big chunk of America thinks she’s kind of corrupt, a point on which she’s sometimes done herself no favors. But this too hasn’t worked the way they’ve wanted it to; they can’t understand, for example, why everyone can’t see that she basically killed those four Americans in Benghazi.
The Entitlement argument has a similarly mixed record. Again, she and Bill have fed into this one, with all the megabucks speechifying. So some of the attacks have stuck. But a lot of it is caricature based on outright lies in all those crazy books by people like Ed Klein who know there’s huge money in painting Clinton as a shrew.
That leaves Authenticity. I think this has been the most successful of the lot, not because the attacks are any truer. In fact, overall they’re probably less true than the Corruption and Entitlement salvos, because in real life Hillary Clinton is a decent human and a thoughtful friend and all that jazz. But to a lot of people it just seems true—mostly, I think, because she’s pretty bad when she’s backed into a corner, she doesn’t have handy the little self-deprecating quip that can get the press to move on. She decided long ago that she’s never going to win this one.
On Saturday night, when the Cubs won the National League pennant, Clinton press aide Nick Merrill tweeted out a photo of her watching the final out, or the highlight or something, on a smartphone, mouth agape in joyous disbelief. In the nonpolitical world—People, ESPN, Yahoo Sports—this was written up as it ought to have been: Fan’s team makes Series, fan is psyched.
But in the political press, well, that’s where Hillary is a big phony. There, Clinton’s relationship to the Cubs is the latest exhibit in the Authenticity debate. The Chicago Sun-Times says it’s “tortured.” CNN says it’s “complicated.”
No. It’s neither of those things. She’s a Cubs fan. Yes, in 1999, when first running for U.S. Senate in New York, her people let it be known that she was also a Yankees fan. I remember it well. I covered it. In May 1999, while Clinton was contemplating running but before her listening tour began, Randi Weingarten of the teachers’ union gave Clinton a Yankees cap at an event at Tavern on the Green. She put it on. Pictures were snapped. The next month, Bill welcomed the world champion Yankees to the White House. Hillary was given another Yankees cap—but this time, not by some partisan labor skate, but by Joe Torre himself! Again, she donned it. Again, pictures.
And those pictures were all it took for her to look inauthentic. The New York media blistered her. But, as Jonathan Mahler reconstructs well in Monday’s New York Times, it was true. She’d always liked the Yankees. There is ample documentation of it going way back before she ever thought about running for senator from New York.
And no, it’s not complicated. My main sport, since I grew up in a college town, is college football. I’m a West Virginia Mountaineers fan (they are incidentally ranked 10th in this week’s AP poll, I might note!). My house was a 10-minute walk up the hill from the old Mountaineer Field. I don’t have any helmet lamps in my house or anything, but last year I did spend several hundred dollars having some early 1970s-era (i.e. my youth) throwback WVU jerseys custom-made to my exact specifications for me and for sharing with friends. That’s a fan.
But: I also always liked other teams. In those days, before money corrupted the conference alignments, West Virginia was an Eastern team. So I also had a Southern team (Auburn, usually, and sometimes Georgia), a Midwestern team (Ohio State), and a Western team (USC, because the coach was from Morgantown and had grown up with my dad). Plus, other teams popped up all the time. Sometimes there was a player I liked on, say, Texas A&M (Roosevelt Leaks!). A fan of a sport holds a ranking of teams in his or her head. You like a number of them, you dislike others, and you hate one or two (in my case, Pitt and Penn State, although you cheered for Penn State if they made it to New Year’s Day because then they were somehow representing all of Eastern football). But even the ones you like, if they ever come up against your team, there’s no question who you’re gonna be for.
So it is with Clinton and the Cubs and the Yankees. Why is this complicated? It’s not. Not remotely. It’s just an excuse to write “Look isn’t she inauthentic?!” for the zumpteenth time. I’m suspecting here that Authenticity (as in lack thereof) may be the right’s closing argument in the next two weeks. Julian Assange is laying eggs and Trump can’t keep focused on a line of argument for five minutes, so they have to come up with something. But it’s lame. The Cubs are favored. Clinton is favored. And if it all works out that way, guess which championship pro sports team will get President Clinton’s first White House invitation?