But can Hillary take a little rough gender?
No sooner had those scamps pressed her a little harder than she thought necessary, trying to get her to straighten out an answer to a simple question, than she put in a call for help. Bubba would fix somebody's little red wagon.
"It's a great time to be a Democrat," Bubba told a group of students at Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C., yesterday, and his message was aimed at those Democratic scamps. "Even though those boys have been getting tough on her lately, she can handle it."
"The inevitable nominee," as her flacks and acolytes have been calling her, are frightened now that she's lost what George Bush the Elder famously called "the big mo'." Bubba had to saddle up to ride to the lady's rescue.
You have to admire any man who defends his wife, even a wife as tough as Hillary, though "when the going gets tough" sometimes the feminists among the female of the species find it hard to "get going." The "boys" were accused of "piling on," which is apparently the hustings version of "groping." Bubba, seeking to elevate the conversation, didn't compare "piling on" to "groping" (about which he could have a lot to say), but to the "swift boat" television commercials which he said, falsely, had questioned the "patriotism" of John Francois Kerry. The comparison escaped everyone else.
Bubba being Bubba, his remarks quickly overshadowed Miss Hillary and the "boys." Some bloggers even accused Bubba of indulging a little Southern racism by calling Miss Hillary's rivals "boys," since Barack Obama is black and black men were often called "boys" in the bad old days in Dixie. This was a long stretch; such a subtle affront probably hadn't occurred even to Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. (Well, maybe to Al.) Besides, Bubba was our first black president. But nothing stirs the blood like getting Bubba back into politics.
The contretemps seemed to have embarrassed some of the organized feminists. Kate Michelman, who not only wants to buy the world a Coke but an abortion to go with it, and Eleanor Smeal, formerly of NOW, said she didn't think the "boys" were piling on, necessarily, but a lot of her feminist followers do. For the record, they expect lady pols to be good soldiers, just like men.
But "good soldiers" isn't exactly a safe metaphor, either, because it recalls Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first three-star general in the U.S. Army, who got a colleague cashiered for patting her fanny and trying to steal a kiss on night maneuvers. She was widely ridiculed if a three-star general, even a lady by act of Congress, can't handle a brigadier's gentle hand on her bottom, how could she inspire troops who feel cold steel in the belly? Gen. Kennedy, now retired and beyond the rigors and risks of desk warfare, was fortunately too young for Omaha Beach, where, in a little-known footnote to history, she might have faced the Wehrmacht's dreaded 69th Regimental Fanny-Patting Combat Team, lurking in the hedgerows ready to pounce with roving hands and pursed lips at the ready.
Nevertheless, losing "the big mo' " even this late in the early campaign can make a campaign consultant fret if not faint. Mark Penn, the top Hillary strategist, naturally can't admit that anything has gone wrong but he concedes that times are getting tough. "The opponents went negative," he complained yesterday in Iowa, "and that created a different set of headlines."
Hillary's dilemma, and the dilemma of Mr. Penn and his wizards, is that she has all the brash ambition of Bubba and none of his folksy good ol' boy Arkansas charm. She's running for Bubba's third term, and everything's fine as long as she doesn't have to crack the enamel on her carefully calculated campaign face. If the campaign takes a hard hit in Iowa, everything could collapse in a hurry. This might not happen a gazillion dollars in the bank is great insurance but it's the possibility that terrorizes.