08 January 2008

Dept. of Inevitability, part the second

"If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal."

-Molly Ivins on Bill Clinton

One could also apply this general principle to the other Clinton. While there are undoubtedly any number of vile sexist narratives infecting press coverage of HRC, I'm wary of the instinct to use it an excuse to bail out the sadsack Clintons. The latest incident which has liberals on the brink of succumbing to Clinton sympathy was Hillary choking up at a campaign event Monday in New Hampshire. And, once again desperate for a lifeline, the Clintons will especially appreciate your sympathy, especially if it results in your vote.

Now, I'm not going to knock Clinton for having an emotional moment on the campaign trail. I'm all for deflating the Macho McTuffy nature of the presidential race. On those grounds, Edwards deserves to get stung for his counterattack, which may itself need more contextualizing. However, let's look at exactly what Clinton was saying to get herself choked up:

“I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don’t want to see us fall backwards. This is very personal for me — it’s not just political, it’s not just public.”
Falling backwards? To whom, a Republican like Giuliani or Huckabee, or to Obama? Given that Clinton isn't yet running against the former, I'm inclined to believe it's Obama. And that makes the reaction smell like lost entitlement; "I can't believe you blockheaded voters going for that empty suit. Don't you know I was inevitable? It's mine, damnit!"

I occasionally wonder if the Clinton-DLC machine isn't more contemptuous of the DFH/progressive Democrats than it is of Republicans. One frequently hears Clinton boosters boast about how they coolly stand up to the right-wing noise machine. And here she's on the verge of cracking over the thought of losing--to another Democrat?

As far as I can tell, this isn't part of a grander calculated strategy by the Clinton camp, although they are naturally hitting out more openly at Obama rather than merely leaking smears about him. They also released a mailer questioning Obama's record on reproductive rights. Clinton has so far been unsuccessful at turning the race into a nasty battle of base identity politics, but she may be raising the stakes in a desperate attempt to turn things around. Whether this mainstreams or, more likely, just flops around the libosphere collecting casualties remains to be seen.