My, how a little "change" can change things. Barack Obama learned to be careful what he prays for. He prayed in both prose and poesy for change, and he got some.
One night in Iowa he was the new Elvis, the object of every girl's glandular dreams not necessarily all sublime, the man of steel who destroys dynasties in a single round. Five nights later in New Hampshire change struck again.
Hillary, born again in the snow, is a mighty changeling, too. Only yesterday she was everybody's candidate for bitch-in-chief, and with only one attempt at crying without squeezing out an actual tear she changed herself from feminist shrew to helpless (if not necessarily sweet) young thing. All she did was aver, in trembling voice, that her feelings were hurt, and her man was summoned to avenge her horror. This mightily upset her feminist buds, but the first rule of politics is "whatever works."
Now the political correctness cops are hot after Barack Obama. When Hillary described how being called "unlikable" broke her girlie-girl heart, he offered brusque reassurance: "You're likable enough." Even Karl Rove, remembered as the man who invented mean, chided Mr. Obama for coming across as "a smarmy, prissy little guy taking a slap at her." But Karl's a Texan, after all, and gallantry compels every son of the South worth his grits to ride at once to the rescue of any damsel in distress.
Hillary hints that she'll use whatever works for as long as it works. That's how the boys do it. Katie Couric, the princess-designate at CBS News, asked her whether her experience in New Hampshire would make her "willing to reveal more of yourself and be less reserved."
The born-again damsel replied: "Well, you know, one of my young friends said, well, that was like Hillary unplugged. I thought, 'OK, I can't sing. I can't play a musical instrument. But, you know, I will try to let people know enough about me to know that, you know, I don't need to go back and live in the White House.' " Awesome. Like, totally.
We'll have to get used to the double standard, which sometimes works to male advantage, sometimes not. But men have to be exceedingly careful in how they campaign against women, who perceive roughing the passer differently than men. Mr. Obama's reassurance to Hillary that she was likeable enough was certainly mild enough, as wisecracks go. Charity roasts can be great fun, for example, and the rougher the better, as anyone who watched Rodney Dangerfield work over the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. recalls. But when the ladies "roast" one of their own, it quickly becomes a contest to see who can lay on the sweetest accolades to feminine beauty, charm and enchantment. It's difficult to roast whipped cream.
We may see the contest complicated by racial as well as sexual sensitivities. James Carville, Hillary's liege man, stepped close to the line with a remark that wouldn't have raised an eyebrow down on the bayou: "Obama's like any politician that's been hit. You know, it's a hit dog that barks, and we're going to see a lot of barking from Sen. Obama." Even Bubba, though recognized as our first black president, won't always get a pass. Donna Brazile, who once worked for Bubba, scolded him for describing the Obama promises and proposals as from "a fairy tale," and for referring to the senator as a "kid." Said she: "It's an insult. And I tell you, as an African-American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing."
Not all change is equal. Sometimes the more things change, as the candidates are learning, the more they stay the same.