Foes wage campaigns to stop Clinton now

Web sites, movie among propaganda to derail Democrat

February 18, 2007|By Stephen Braun | Stephen Braun,Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Old enemies of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are out in force. Just weeks after she joined the Democratic Party's flock of presidential contenders, Clinton is being targeted by conservative and Republican-allied activists intent on derailing her campaign before the start of next year's primaries.

They have surfaced with a flurry of planned projects: a Michael Moore-style film, book-length exposes, Web sites like StopHerNow and StopHillaryPAC. Conservative admirers of the "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" media blitz that helped torpedo Democrat John Kerry's candidacy in 2004 are now agitating to "swift-boat" Clinton.

"People are doing what they're doing because they want to defeat her before she has a chance to win. You can't hold off your silver bullet to the end," said veteran Republican operative David Bossie, who is involved in the film project with former Clinton adviser Dick Morris.

The emerging moves against Clinton reflect the accelerated pace of the 2008 race and a realization among conservatives that she poses a formidable threat that requires fast and early footwork. The New York senator has been publicly bracing for "Republican machine" attacks from the moment she launched her exploratory committee last month. Her ability to strike back quickly may prove critical in winning over Democratic primary voters looking for assurance that she can survive a bruising general election.

"For Democrats, there's a strong sense this time around that they can't allow those same tactics to define Democratic candidates," said political media consultant Jim Margolis.

At a recent Democratic National Committee gathering in Washington, Clinton told party officials that "I know how they think, how they act and how to defeat them" - a battle call echoing her 1998 evocation of "the vast right-wing conspiracy" during the height of the furor over her husband's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Every presidential candidate faces intense scrutiny by opponents. But conservative antipathy toward Clinton is especially deep and long-standing - inflamed by her husband's two terms in the White House, her steady rise from first lady to senator and the widespread belief on the right that the Clintons evaded justice during the nonstop investigations of the 1990s.

Clinton's foes on the right are openly telling supporters that she would make a ripe target for an "education" campaign reminiscent of the Swift Boat group's challenge of Kerry's Vietnam War record. "Those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were the real heroes of the 2004 election," an anti-Clinton political action committee exhorts on its Web site. "We at StopHillaryPAC want to do the same thing to Hillary."

StopHillaryPAC, a Web site led by former New York GOP Congressman John LeBoutillier, scraped up enough early funding to launch a round of negative television ads on Iowa stations timed to Clinton's visit there last month. Another site, StopHerNow, mocks her with cartoon skits. And several new book exposes are in the works, primed to join at least six other anti-Clinton books being hawked on conservative talk radio and Web logs.

Bossie's film project, slated for release by year's end, is being funded through appeals from Citizens United, a conservative interest group.

Bossie is scouring familiar territory, delving into Clinton's roles in the Whitewater real estate deals, her $100,000 cattle futures profit and the firing of White House travel officials - controversies that Clinton aides dismiss as old news.

Bossie and other GOP allies see new opportunities in contrasting Clinton's avowed centrism with what they call her "polarizing liberalism."

Bossie and his Citizens United partners have long vexed the Clintons and Democratic presidential contenders. Though he has discussed the movie on Fox News, Morris declined interview requests from the Los Angeles Times.

Several figures behind the upswing in anti-Clinton activity insist that there is no coordination among the groups.

"We're doing our own thing," said Dick Collins, a Dallas businessman who gave $80,000 in seed money for StopHerNow. The site is a spinoff from a PAC originally aimed at Clinton's Senate re-election by New York GOP strategist Arthur Finkelstein.

Collins, who has also donated $10,000 to GOP presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani's political action committee, said the site is starting out with "light humor."

Clinton campaign insiders say Web-savvy staffers are immersed in monitoring suspected enemy blogs, Web sites and conservative cable TV and radio talk show traffic. Clinton's longtime spokesman, Howard Wolfson, dismisses the early GOP moves.

"One thing people know about the Clintons is they know how to fight back," he said.

Stephen Braun writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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