Yes, Tim Russert, there absolutely was a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. In her 2000 Senate debate, Hillary wisely finessed the NBC newsman's question.
There was indeed a huge campaign financed by sick neo-fascists to vilify the Clintons, hobble his presidency and make their lives as miserable as possible.
There was no good outcome of this effort joined in by powerful House Republicans, past and present. It preoccupied the executive branch when al-Qaida was launching its march toward mass murder. Worse, it made George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney appear intelligent, prudent and high-minded.
Some right-wing attacks exploited in the 1990s have played out. Yet remnants of the old right-wing conspiracy are licking their chops at the prospect of Sen. Clinton making a run for the presidency.
For those at the bottom of that food chain, her nascent campaign offers haters the prospect of money, lots of space in Rupert Murdoch's publications and air time on Fox outlets and radio chains owned by the ultra-right.
Voters can expect the right to push dependable hot buttons like open homosexuality in the military, gay marriage and abortion rights, in hope of reviving the White House-directed link with evangelicals that saved President Bush and his war in 2004.
The big contributors who will most savagely attack Sen. Clinton are not really worried about sex or reproductive issues. What they are really afraid of is that, as president, Clinton may actually do things that will cost them money:
Like extend health insurance for all Americans, return more police to the streets, increase funding for day care and for veterans health, restore journalistic integrity to the Public Broadcasting Service and guarantee the security of Israel.
They fear she may put teeth back into the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and end the monopolistic practices of the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
In short, fat-cat Hillary-haters are worried that she may turn out to be a real Democrat, a decisive, patriotic one like President Harry S. Truman.
Like all serious presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton will have to be long on generalities. No successful hopeful ever let the opposition accurately describe him (now, her).
To that end, she has had to fudge on the only mistake of her Senate career -- voting to let Bush invade Iraq. She could underscore that error by making former Democratic chairman Terry McAuliffe, who strongly supported a war resolution in 2002, her national chairman.
To blunt her reputation as a hard-driving ideologue, she has co-sponsored Senate bills with the widest spectrum of Republicans, including Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Trent Lott of Mississippi and Mike DeWine of Ohio.
Virtually unmentioned is the prospect of another "co-presidency" involving the senator and her husband. Undetermined was who wore the pants in the first two terms, and who will wear them if she is inaugurated in 2009.
In an essay titled, "A Flawed Co-Presidency," Duke University historian William H. Chafee blamed Hillary for some of the Clintons' legislative and political failures:
"In part, it was Hillary's obstinacy, her single-minded purposiveness, her reluctance to listen to others or be flexible at moments of potential compromise."
Irrespective of the unfairness of the earlier attacks, she has a real history no other candidate has. Perhaps the toughest balancing job she faces is how to become more accessible, and more popular, than she has been without baring her back to paid hatchetmen.