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Hillary Clinton and Her Self-Constructed Temple of Doom
Submitted by pmcarpenter on Sat, 03/22/2008 - 7:07am. P.M. Carpenter
THE FIFTH COLUMNIST
by P.M. Carpenter
Political reporters Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen of The Politico have finally said with prodigious, black-and-white clarity what so many others in the mainstream press have been fudging and dancing around: "One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning."
That wasn't so hard, was it?
In all immodesty, however, I said much the same on Iowa's morning after, although for more ecumenical reasons (which we'll get back to shortly) than those delineated yesterday by Vandehei and Allen.
For them, now, as it has been for the realistically grounded for some time, it is all about -- yep -- the math. You can cut, slice, rearrange and bounce the pledged-delegate and popular-vote numbers any which way you want, but they always come back to one inalterable conclusion: Barack Obama wins.
Ah, but there are those superdelegates, you say, who are beholden to nothing and nobody but their own consciences and political futures. One never knows which way those winds may be blowing down the road, so there's still a chance. To which, with butcher knives in hand, Vandehei and Allen had this to say:
"The only way she wins [with] Democratic superdelegates [is if they're] ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency." Then, the two journalists' death blow to such fantastical musings: "People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet."
In effect, Vandehei and Allen continue, the mainstream press and broadcast media have been playing mind games with the electorate -- and especially Hillary's supporters. "Journalists have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is closer than it really is," and mostly, almost exclusively, because journalists love a good horse race and didn't want to see this one at the finish line.
Virtual and honestly reported fait accomplis don't sell newspapers or ramp up ratings. Can you hear it? Tune in again tomorrow, folks, when we'll remind you, again, that it's seven long months to the next major showdown.
Click. This far out, covering Betty Crocker Bake-offs would hold more news-consumer appeal.
So those journalistic partners with the Clinton campaign perpetuated "the myth," as the Politico titled its story, of Hillary's fighting viability. Oh, the drama of it all.
But to get back to what I promised, the real and determining drama of the Obama-Clinton race came decisively on the evening of January 3. The following morning I opened a column with, "Barack Obama can start taking drape measurements at the White House," for "it's hard to see how, and by whom, he can be stopped now." I closed it with this: "You may pre-order your Obama Inaugural Ball tickets today."
I wasn't riding some personal wave of Obamamania when I wrote that. In fact, in a moment of mistaken objectivity I had largely written off Obama's chances in an earlier piece. It was, merely, that Iowa delivered a crushing confirmation of what most voters were screaming for -- "change."
Abrupt, incontrovertible, unmistakable change. That hung in the air, voters would not be denied, and it didn't take many tea leaves to read the immediate electoral future. That was the new objectivity, only this time there was proof.
And that was the wave on which Hillary tumbled -- early, decisively and irreversibly. She and her staff of old-politics, 45-percent-coalition advisers immeasurably misread the national mood.
After seven years of vastly experienced presidential lying, conniving, weaseling, obfuscating, twisting, manipulating and swindling, the last thing most voters wanted was more Washington experience. But what did Hillary give them? Thirty-five bloody years of it. Reams of it. Mountains of it. Endless lectures and tutorials about it.
For a candidate known for her slyly calculating nature, it was one of the most colossal miscalculations in American political history. And that, I'm sure, is how future political historians will write her political obituary of 2008, just after noting another colossal and preceding miscalculation -- her 2002 Iraq war vote.
So again, thank you, Messrs. Vandehei and Allen, for finally writing what other journalists already knew but shied away from saying with such piercing clarity at point-blank range. Once the striking reality of it dawns on Hillary's base, perhaps a new day of progressive unity will dawn as well. Or at least begin dawning.
It's about time. Because this race was over as of January 4. It just took a while for journalists to get around to reporting it.
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THE FIFTH COLUMNIST by P.M. Carpenter