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Jewish World Review
Dec. 18, 2007
/ 9 Teves 5768
A campaign crater for the Clintons
So this is what a cratering Clinton campaign looks like: Hillary, thrashing about on the stump and suddenly looking 20 years older, with Bubba, desperate not to be relegated to "husband of," reduced to whining about the cruelty of "them lyin' newspapers." No morning in America here, just the gloom of the approaching winter's dusk.
Giving up her campaign to be the national nanny, she's auditioning as funny, warm and cuddly, and if she can pull off this acting job she ought to get an Oscar if not the presidency. Talk about casting against type. (You could ask Bubba.)
Her suddenly flagging campaign, buoyed now only by lots of money, could take a tiny measure of reassurance in the weekend endorsement of the Des Moines Register, a tepid vote of confidence by a tepid newspaper: "Determination to succeed and learning from her mistakes has been the hallmark of [Mrs.] Clinton's life." But that's thin soup, and brings to mind the mistakes, not whatever she learned from them. Hillary can take no consolation from the history of the Iowa caucus, which has become relevant mostly because it's the first test and gives the newspapers and the tag-along media something to manufacture excitement about. Winning in Iowa is no springboard to the conventions. Past winners include such former Democratic presidents as John Edwards, Tom Harkin and Richard Gephardt. "Uncommitted" won in 1972, edging out Ed Muskie and George McGovern.
After all the thunder, the caucuses don't actually produce a single delegate to either of the two national nominating conventions. That comes later. To retain the aura of excitement, the caucuses keep getting earlier and earlier; last time, the voting was held not in the first week of the new year but late in January. Next time, we can expect them on Christmas Eve.
The other Kerry, Bob Kerrey of neighboring Nebraska, endorsed Hillary over the weekend, too, offering soup from the same pot. "She inspires my confidence," he said, and quickly added: "The question is, does she inspire your confidence?"
Hillary and Bubba can only wonder how things came to such a sorry pass for a president who was inevitable. She's reduced now to trying a little of everything to eliminate the scent of what could be a corpse in the parlor. She's flitting across the icy landscape in a "Hill-icopter," altering her stump speech to renew an appeal to women by denouncing oppression of women in remote parts of the world, and celebrating her experience as a lawyer, of all things. She even brought in her mother and daughter as character witnesses. What would you expect a proud mama to say?
No one had ever imagined Bubba as the gallant Lancelot, riding to the aid of a lady in distress since his instinct is to put the ladies in distress, but he arrived in Iowa just in time, with a new game plan and the word "change" inscribed in the margins of every page. Why, Hillary was "a change agent," the "proven agent of positive change," and "a lifetime advocate of positive change." Her grateful chief strategist, Mark Penn is talking like Bubba himself is the candidate. "He's going on all cylinders right now," he told the New York Times. "He knows that campaigns have their ups and downs, and I think he's fundamentally optimistic about the outcome." When your chief strategist qualifies "optimistic," you know there's trouble, trouble, real trouble in River City.
If suddenly Hillary is not having any fun, Bubba, liberated at last from irrelevancy on the velvet sidelines, is once more in the center ring, even if in a supporting role. When he appears with Hillary, the loud applause is for him, not her.
But if "change" is what the voters really want, they might not want a tired face from the swiftly receding past to make those changes. Bush to Clinton to Bush to Clinton is not a script suggesting change. This is the only inevitability the sagging Clinton campaign must deal with now.
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