The all-in-the-family approach to political attacks has a long history

October 30, 2020 at 10:03

(CNN) In the closing days of the 2020 election, allies of President Donald Trump tried to reenact the 2016 version of the election, right down to the suspiciously derived emails and dark suggestions of corrupt dealings that never entirely made sense.
This time around, instead of targeting President Trump's opponent, his allies and surrogates moved all in on a set of stories about Joe Biden's son, Hunter.
They allegedly first peddled the story to The Wall Street Journal, but when reporters needed time to authenticate the evidence and verify the details, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave it to the New York Post instead.
Nicole HemmerBut those explanations overlook a more fundamental flaw that hampered the would-be scandal: it focuses on a Biden family member, not Biden himself.
That is by design: The Trump allies' gambit is more than a partial rerun of itself -- it's the latest iteration of a historical pattern.
Attacking family members as a way of generating scandal-by-proxy has a lengthy history in American politics, and especially in modern conservative politics.
Sometimes those attacks are ancillary.
And, of course, there were the attacks on Hillary Clinton when she was first lady in the 1990s, subject to endless investigations in right-wing media and Congress.
JUST WATCHED The Murdoch media machine's anti-Biden narrative Replay More Videos ... MUST WATCH The Murdoch media machine's anti-Biden narrative 02:32When Clinton ran for president, the conspiracies about her once again had an all-in-the-family feel, focusing on both her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, blurring the distinctions between the two.
Nowhere was this truer than in the bestselling book Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer.
The book, written with help from the think tank he co-founded with then-Breitbart chief executive Steve Bannon (later chief strategist and senior counselor to President Trump), argued that Bill and Hillary Clinton had enriched themselves by trading favors with foreign governments, laundering their ill-gotten gains through the Clinton Foundation.
Mainstream sources picked up the story, writing their own versions of the "Crooked Hillary" storyline that would dominate the campaign.
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