During the last Republican presidential debate, I watched as each candidate made their case for war not necessarily on Iraq or Iran, but on Hillary Clinton. Each candidate delivered their pre-scripted, anti-Hillary one-liners as the audience laughed and cheered with each successive attack. But as the pep rally died down, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee summed up the overall vibe with this somber observation, “Look, I like to be funny. There’s nothing funny about Hillary Clinton being president.”

Huckabee is correct. There’s also nothing funny about him being president. Or Rudy Giuliani. Or Mitt Romney. Or Fred Thompson. In fact, the thought of voting for any of them is downright depressing.

Deep down, Republicans like to bash Hillary Clinton for the same reason Gamecocks fans bash Clemson — they think it’s a hoot. They’ve done it for so long it’s simply become second nature. There’s no doubt in their minds that they hate the other team, but they really can’t articulate a reason why. Writing for Fox News, Radley Balko put this dynamic into perspective; “No Democrat inspires more wrath and anger on the right than Hillary Clinton. This isn’t because of her policy positions — on most issues, she’s really not all that far removed from President Bush. It’s leftover partisan anger from the Bill Clinton years.”

Balko is right. Republican obsession with the Clinton administration in the 1990s bordered on lunacy. Their hatred blinds them to the fact that the Bush and Clinton dynasties are not only similar but, in many ways, indistinguishable. Balko adds, “Cato Institute President Ed Crane recently (pointed) out that when you strip away the partisan coating, Mrs. Clinton’s grandiose, big-government vision is really no different than that envisioned by the neoconservatives so loathed by the left. Clinton, remember, not only voted for the Iraq war, she still hasn’t conceded she was wrong to do so, and has made no promise to end it any time soon.”

During last week’s Democratic debate, Clinton’s fellow presidential contenders highlighted the similarities between Clinton and the Republican establishment she pretends to challenge. Chris Dodd pointed out that Clinton’s recent vote to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a “terrorist” group — a 125,000 member branch of the Iranian military — will likely enable a future attack on Iran. John Edwards noted that Clinton receives more money from defense contractors whose profits depend on prolonging the war than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat. Barack Obama has even chastised Clinton for behaving like a Republican.

So what are Republicans getting so excited about? I remember listening to Rush Limbaugh and others in 1991 warn that a Bill Clinton presidency would lead to hell on earth or worse. What Clinton actually gave us was wars overseas, wide open borders, and a bloated federal budget.

His presidency didn’t differ much from the first President Bush or our current president, except that Clinton was less ambitious. In terms of abusing our military with needless wars, bankrupting the government, and importing terrorists and other illegal aliens, Bush didn’t depart from Clinton’s agenda — he simply carried it to new heights.

Some Republicans like to call Mrs. Clinton a socialist, and as a proponent of big government, that accusation isn’t entirely inaccurate. But if Hillary is the next Stalin, Bush and his successors are Trotsky. In practice, each party agrees that big government is good; they just disagree on the best way to use it. For every Clintonite health care proposal, the Republicans can match it with a No Child Left Behind. Socialized medicine is an awful idea. So is socialized retirement in the form of Social Security, yet neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any intention of dismantling it.

How any reasonable observer can believe that a Clinton presidency would be radically different from that of a Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, or Huckabee is beyond me. Political cheerleading and yelling “go team!” is simply not enough for me. Considering the effectiveness of bashing Hillary as a campaign tactic, the Republican presidential frontrunners have every reason to keep playing their constituents for fools; I just wish so many Americans would quit proving them right.

Hating Hillary by supporting Republican versions of her is the classic example of “not seeing the forest for the trees.” And I will continue to only support candidates, however major or minor (Ron Paul anyone?), who are more interested in burning the fields and clearing the land, than merely trimming the hedges.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.

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