Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why Clinton made that AIDS comment

"Because of both President and Mrs. Reagan...we started a national conversation [about AIDS], when before, nobody would talk about it, nobody would do anything about it...I really appreciate her very effective, low-key advocacy..." - Hillary Clinton
Clinton's grotesque whitewashing of the Reagan record on AIDS is rightly coming under fire, even by some of her allies - but there have also been some equally grotesque attempts to run cover for her. The most egregious example came from tech nerd John Gruber, who suggested that "the strategy behind" her comment was to get "news coverage today to focus on the Reagans' deplorable AIDS response." Another came from (surprise) Amanda Marcotte, who insists there is no way "that Clinton actually thinks something so stupid."

Of course, if we aren't constrained by any actual evidence and just want to write some Hillary Clinton fanfiction, one can dream up any number of possible explanations for what she said. For instance, a less flattering (though frankly more plausible) theory is that Clinton is pivoting to win Republican votes by flattering the Reagans at a highly publicized state funeral - and then narrowcasting a token apology to her base. Another less flattering (and again, more plausible) explanation is that Clinton is cleverly hyping the political relevance and efficacy of former First Ladies, for obvious reasons, and without much concern for what they were actually doing. A third (and again, more plausible) explanation is that contra Marcotte, Clinton actually did think something this stupid, because she is a privileged woman who never had to worry about AIDS or take it seriously, and whose conservative sensibilities make her instinctively unsympathetic to the issue.

But consider this: if we're playing "Dumb or Evil?" now, we're going to be playing it for the next eight years. This is the game these people always ask you to play. They do something objectively awful; they ask you to believe that it was an innocent mistake, or that it was Actually some kind of counterintuitive eleven-dimensional chess move; and while apologists and skeptics debate all of the ultimately unknowable questions about intentionality, yet another awful thing happens.

If you're okay with eight years of Clinton rehabilitating the Reagans and throwing their victims under the bus, but maybe doing this for reasons, or just accidentally, then you'll be fine with these insufferable debates about what's going on in Hillary's head. But if you have a problem with the Reagans, and if you care about their victims, then eventually it stops mattering why Clinton does what she does - and your only concern is to put an end to it.