February 23, 2008

THE CRYING GAME (via Kevin Whited):

Hillary Richardson: The Democratic party has a new star. (Mark Steyn, 2/23/08, National Review)

The Clintons turned the Democratic party into a star vehicle and designated everyone else as extras. But their star quality was strictly comparative. They had industrial-strength audacity and a lot of luck: Bill jumped into the 1992 race when A-listers like Mario Cuomo were too cowed by expert advice that Bush Snr. was unbeatable. Clinton gambled, won the nomination and beat a weak opponent in a three-way race, with Ross Perot siphoning votes from the right. He got even luckier four years later. So did Hillary when she embarked on something patently absurd — a First Lady running for a Senate seat in a state she’s never lived in — only to find Rudy Giuliani going into instant public meltdown. The SAS, Britain’s special forces, have a motto: Who dares wins. The Clintons dared, and they won — even as almost everyone else in their party lost: senators, congressmen, governors, state legislators. Even when they ran into a spot of intern trouble, sheer nerve saw them through. Almost anyone else would have slunk off in shame, but the Clintons understood that the checks and balances don’t add up to much if you’re determined not to go: As at that 2000 convention speech, they dared the Democrats not to cheer.

With hindsight, the oral sex was a master stroke. Bill Clinton likes to tell anyone who’ll listen that he governed as an “Eisenhower Republican,” which is kind of true — NAFTA, welfare reform, etc. If you have to have a Democrat in the Oval Office, he was as good as it gets for Republicans — if you don’t mind the fact that he’s a draft-dodging non-inhaling sex fiend. Republicans did mind, of course, which is why Dems rallied round out of boomer culture-war solidarity. But, if he hadn’t been dropping his pants and appealing to so many of their social pathologies, his party wouldn’t have been half so enthusiastic for another chorus of “I Like Ike.”

Hillary is what the Clintons look like with their pants up.

While we're all thankful for the pants up part, Hillary's problem all along has been that she's never committed to running as the distaff Bill. She reflects a considerable gender confusion about whether to grab onto the more male Third Way and run with it or fall back to the more natural, but utterly orthodox female, Second Way. Her obvious inability to settle on a political persona can't help but make voters uncomfortable with her and combines with the unpleasant initial impression she'd left from her 8 years in the White House to make her unelectable in a general election. It also left her flailing for a strategy to deploy against the rise of Barack Obama. Where Bill Clinton took quite evident glee in flaying Jesse Jackson, in order to demonstrate for white voters that he'd be willing to take on his own party's special interests, even blacks, Ms Clinton has seemed terrified of the potential repercussions if she doesn't treat her fellow Senator like a saint. Refusing to move Right left her with too few policies on which they differ and refusing to play political hardball has given him a free ride.

Meanwhile, except for her occasional lachrymose moment, she's somehow even ceded to Senator Obama the position of the more feminine candidate in the race,

Clinton's problem is that leader still translates as male (ELLEN GOODMAN, 2/21/08, Boston Globe)
These are disheartening days for Hillary supporters. Not just because of the string of losses but because of the kind of loss.

This was nothing if not a careful campaign. Neither the strategists nor the candidate had illusions about the hurdles that would face the first woman president in American history. They knew women have to prove and prove again their toughness. They knew women have to prove and prove again their experience.

They began as well by framing Clinton as the establishment candidate. But then the establishment became "the status quo" and the historic candidacy became "old politics." She even got demerits for experience.

Something else happened along the way. If Hillary Clinton was the tough guy in the race, Barack Obama became the Oprah candidate. He was the quality circle man, the uniter-not-divider, the person who believes we can talk to anyone, even our enemies. He finely honed a language usually associated with women's voices.

At the point where she's not even the woman candidate in the chick party primaries she's really wasted every advantage she had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 23, 2008 10:55 AM
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