KNIGHT: Foiling the left’s character assassination

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It was 10 years ago that Hillary Rodham Clinton famously lamented “the politics of personal destruction.”

The former first lady and future secretary of state used the phrase upon the release of her book “Living History.” Addressing her husband Bill’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, she said:

“I think that these were obviously personal and private moments that unfortunately were made public for partisan, political purposes — a part of the ongoing politics of personal destruction that was so much a part of our country’s life and certainly our time in the White House.”

Since then, liberals have perfected the art of personal destruction — not that trashing your opponents is solely the province of Democrats. It’s just that they’re better at it.

It also helps not caring whether the claims are true. Depending on who is being accused, the media will not bother looking too closely.

Remember when Democrats pretended to hear racial insults from Tea Party members while marching across the Capitol grounds with Nancy Pelosi and her giant gavel during passage of Obamacare? Evidence abounded that it was a ruse, but reporters looked the other way.

Last Thursday, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was finally acquitted of cooked-up charges of money laundering dating back to 2002. The Texas Republican had long insisted that he and some co-defendants had done nothing wrong except to be very successful at fundraising.

The Texas Third Court of Appeals majority agreed, stating that, “The evidence shows that the defendants were attempting to comply with the election-code limitations on corporate contributions.”

For a decade, liberals bruised by Mr. DeLay’s highly effective legislative tactics gleefully added the word “disgraced” to his name. Now that he’s cleared, what will Mr. DeLay do to get back his reputation?

There is a story about a rabbi falsely accused of a great wrong. The accuser, having a bout of conscience, admitted to him that he had been mistaken, and asked what he could do. The rabbi took a pillow, ripped it open and let the wind scatter hundreds of feathers. “You can gather each and every one,” the rabbi said. Once reputations are damaged, they are difficult to restore.

This is why “Have you stopped beating your wife lately?” questions are so effective. Today’s political equivalent is a charge of bad motive, such as racism, homophobia, xenophobia or wanting to destroy the planet.

If you espouse voter-ID laws, for instance, you want to disenfranchise minorities of the right to vote.

If you support laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, you hate homosexuals.

If you believe in conservation, but refuse to buy into global-warming hysteria, you are a “climate-change denier.”

If you think the Second Amendment is not negotiable and that taking guns away from law-abiding citizens won’t stop madmen and terrorists, you favor gunning down innocents.

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