Hillary’s ‘Evil and Bad Men’ Joke

Hillary Clinton is the front-runner to follow John Kerry as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. Over the weekend, she displayed a similar penchant for getting into trouble for flubbed jokes.

Ian Bishop explains in a cover story for the New York Post:

Hillary Rodham Clinton left caucus-goers here yesterday believing that Bubba had given her a baptism by fire in how to deal with “evil and bad men.”

Clinton’s quip, made during a morning rally with about 500 Iowans, drew 31 seconds of straight laughter and applause that left little doubt among attendees that she’d made a joke at hubby Bill Clinton’s expense.

New York Post Hillary Joke Cover The one-liner came in response to a question shouted at the former first lady from the audience asking whether she had the mettle and experience to deal with evil and rotten men – like terrorist Osama bin Laden and the tyrants of North Korea and Iran. Clinton grabbed the mike and told the audience that the questioner wanted to know “what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men.” She then smiled, raised her eyebrows and nodded knowingly at the questioner. Her nod and the ensuing eruption of laughter had rally-goers convinced she was talking about her husband, whose Oval Office affair with intern Monica Lewinsky exploded into the Sexgate scandal and led to impeachment proceedings.

“She was talking about Bill being a bad man. There was no doubt whatsoever,” said Tyrone Williams, 55, an engineer from nearby Bettendorf, Iowa. His sentiment was the interpretation echoed by many other attendees interviewed by The Post. “That was good,” Williams added with a chuckle.

Later, during an afternoon press conference, Clinton deflected questions about the intended target of her jab. But when told that her quip had left the impression it was Bill, she said, “Oh, come on. I don’t think anybody in there thought that. I thought I was funny. You know, you guys keep telling me, ‘Lighten up. Be funny.’ You know, I get a little funny and now I’m being psychoanalyzed.” Initially, she explained, “I repeated the question because the gentleman . . . listed quite a number of some of the worst actors in our world today, including Osama bin Laden. I was thinking to myself, ‘I think I could do a pretty good job.’ “

The Politico‘s Ben Smith goes way to far in psychoanalysis.

It was revealing because — asked about dealing with evil men like Osama bin Laden— her mind seemed to go to her domestic enemies. It’s absurd to suggest that she thinks Bill is evil like Osama. But Kenneth Starr? Rick Santorum? Her joke suggests that she buys into the notion that American and Middle Eastern “zealots” are cut from the same cloth, an idea that dovetails with her belief that there was (and is) a right-wing conspiracy to destroy the Clintons.

Now, I don’t doubt that Clinton is a bit conspiracy minded, taking legitimate disagreement over the issues and standard political maneuvering way too personally. In the present instance, though, she just told a somewhat obvious and cute joke.

Denying that it was at her husband’s expense is characteristic of another man she’s trying to follow, 2000 nominee Al Gore, who displayed a bizarre need to lie about trivial things. It makes no sense and undermines not only her credibility but her attempt to humanize herself with the public by being funny.

To Hillary and the audience to whom she is trying to appeal, Bill Clinton is a “bad man” in the sense of being something of a scoundrel. Even his staunchest enemies on the right don’t believe he’s “evil” in any meaningful sense; surely, his wife doesn’t think that.

Here’s a 2:37 video from FOX News including the joke and her reaction to press questioning of it.


  • Ezra Klein doesn’t “understand why a Clinton’s every action triggers mass episodes of idiocy among our press corps.” (Perhaps it’s because they have earned a reputation for dishonesty?)
  • Duncan “Atrios” Black agrees, “Only our lunatic beltway press could imagine that when Hillary Clinton referred to “evil men” that she was referring to her husband. Do these people live on this planet?” (Apparently, it’s a very crowded planet.)
  • RightWingDuck: “It really gave me a feeling of confidence to know that if the president of Iran cheats on Hillary, that she would be able to deal with it — no problem.”
  • Taylor Marsh: “Once again, without even showing up Bill was center stage, but this time the joke was on him. Hillary demurred, playing coy, saying she was only trying to take advice and loosen up, but now she was being psychoanalyzed. Perish the thought. But it was a leap the audience made in a stand up routine that encouraged the journey.”
  • Joe Gandelman: “Another example of how American politics and the news media that covers it invariably veers away from issues.” (But isn’t credibility an issue? Character?)
  • Billy Hollis: “I don’t think she was aiming anything at Bill. I think she was doing her ‘vast right-wing conspiracy is always out to get me’ routine. But then she realized she had just said something that could be interpreted in more than one way. And rather than get herself tangled up talking about something she never, ever wants to talk about, namely Bill’s bad side, she just went with the flow and let humor defuse the situation.”
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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    When I heard this on the news this morning, I drew the same conclusion: she was talking about her husband. But her denial, on the other hand, left me with the clear impression that she wanted us to think she was talking about President Bush.

    But it was fairly early in the morning. And it was WTOP, which often slips into the background noise in my head, for some reason.

  2. M1EK says:

    “2000 nominee Al Gore, who displayed a bizarre need to lie about trivial things.”

    Sure, he did. He made up that thing about being part of the inspiration for Love Story. Except it was true. And he made up that thing about being the legislative force behind the creation of the Internet. Except that was true too.

    Don’t you guys ever update your talking points?

  3. Anderson says:

    Very mysterious. I didn’t think at all she was talking about Bill. *Evil*? *Bad*?

    I would imagine that if we could see into Hillary’s mind, Kenneth Starr’s image would’ve been floating around when she said that.

  4. Anderson says:

    Don’t you guys ever update your talking points?

    Apparently not. Bob Somersby would be rolling in his grave, if he were dead.

  5. Botched joke or not, I’m talking offense on behalf of my fellow evil and bad men.

  6. Gollum says:

    And he made up that thing about being the legislative force behind the creation of the Internet.

    Except that’s not what he said, it’s what Gore’s defenders decided later that he meant when he said “During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Your revision – – changing “creating” to “the creation of” – – while seemingly innocuous, remedies the exact fault with the original statement, which was that it made Gore out to be THE force, as opposed to A force. It’s the same as a player of a baseball team standing up an announcing that “he” won the world series, instead of using “we.”

    As to “Love Story,” if accurately quoting a misquote makes it true, then, I guess you are right.

  7. Anderson says:

    Gollum forgets that Congresscritters, especially Senators, routinely attribute godlike powers to themselves via their enactments. Compare a senator’s saying back in the 1960s “I took the initiative in creating the Interstate Highway System.” Once the law is passed, bang! it’s “created,” from the senator’s point of view.

  8. Get real. She was obviously referring to Vince Foster.

  9. Derrick says:

    Moonbat warning! Moonbat warning!

  10. She (and the crowd) were obviously having a laugh at Bill’s expense. Give her credit for playing the crowd, but it also allowed her to avoid actually answering the question.

  11. LJD says:

    I thought she was trying to poke a stick in the eye of the President (evil) and simulataneuously joke about her husband (bad). It came off very poorly, and at least I thought it disrespectful of her husband (returning the favor, I guess).

    What should be the issue though, is elected officials sticking their foot in their mouth for kicks- Clinton, Dean, Kerry… It doesn’t seem they have the ability to communicate from the White House any better than the (public opinion of)current resident.

  12. randall says:

    Men are stupid not evil! Look how products are advertised on television.”Stupid husband/smart wife, man makes bad decision/women has to correct it. Sen.Clinton need not worry about evil men, it’s the dumb ones she needs to deal with. I’m a conservative republican and I think this whole thing is blown way out proportion. I won’t vote for her but nor will I judge her for this. It was a joke! Let it go!