I have a fantasy that at one of these moments, a candidate will say, “You know what, Tim, I’m not going to answer that question. This is serious business. And you, sir, are a disgrace. You have in front of you a group of accomplished, talented leaders, one of whom will in all likelihood be the next president of the United States. You can ask them whatever you want. And you choose to engage in this ridiculous gotcha game, thinking up inane questions you hope will trick us into saying something controversial or stupid. Your fondest hope is that the answer to your question will destroy someone’s campaign. You’re not a journalist, you’re the worst kind of hack, someone whose efforts not only don’t contribute to a better informed electorate, they make everyone dumber. So no, I’m not going to stand here and try to come up with the most politically safe Bible verse to cite. Is that the best you can do?”
But that’s not an option open to Hillary Clinton. And while I’m sure this will open up the full-throated ire of the “must hate Hillary all the time” contingent, I believe this is where the candidates must operate within a double standard.
I myself get a perfect thrill from sitting down behind a keyboard and tapping out things that make the beat-offs at Red State just insane with rage, knowing full well that my male blogging counterparts can say the same thing and they’ll be respected as “tough” and “aggressive” and “forthright.” But I’m not running for office, and my career on the receiving end of right-wing rage is rather short and low-voltage compared to what Hillary Clinton has been through for well on 15 years. That she has learned how to project confidence and leadership and at the same time iron out any aggressive body language, any visible signs of anger or moments that could give rise to “the sound bite played round the world” so as not to feed into the narrative that the right wing has so relentlessly tried to sow about her is no mean feat.
The hammering she took from her competitors last night in the debate is not available to her as a means of fighting back. The Mighty Wurlitzer would instantly seize the opportunity to cast her as “cold” and “hostile,” it would leap into the main stream media and that would be that. Her opponents took advantage of that fact. As scarecrow noted this morning, it wasn’t a particularly high water mark in the race.
And yet, she’s the one who had the courage to try to defend Eliot Spitzer last night (and more forcefully today), despite the fact that he’s politically toxic at the moment and she knew she’d only take shit for it. Her opponents decided to seize the opportunity to attack her rather than defend Spitzer, and now the media is circling and calling her “shrill.”
Her defense was anything but perfect, but it was a defense. Taylor Marsh:
The drivers licenses question at the end obviously surprised Clinton. But when explaining Spitzer’s plan Clinton once again showed something that her opponents do not get. She is willing to go to bat for our guy in New York, Elliot Spitzer, who has been trying to deal with the immigration challenge he’s facing as governor. The same cannot be said for the rest of the group on stage standing next to Clinton. What’s Spitzer supposed to do when Congress shirks their responsibility on the immigration issue? Clinton absolutely got caught up in the subject, but she nailed, without flinching, what Spitzer is trying to do. It’s obvious that most of her opponents not only weren’t familiar with Spitzer’s legislation, which lost out because no one would stand up with him, but were only interested in going after Clinton. As an aside, I think this issue will ignite the wingnuts, just like the anti gay marriage amendments did in ’04. I’m against illegal immigrants getting licenses as was proposed by Spitzer (too cumbersome, for one), but I fully understand and appreciate Spitzer had to do something because Congress is not. However, that’s no reason to throw Spitzer under a bus. Clinton is getting hammered today, which I predicated, especially on the drivers license question moment, which came at the end of a withering assault from The Boys. But make no mistake about it she stood up and fought back for Spitzer.
Daily Kos diarist Alegre:
Russert asked the panel of 7 candidates a total of fifty-two questions. How many do you figure were about Hillary?
Go on – take a guess.
Right – of the 52 questions a total of twenty-five were about Hillary.
Of those 25, how many do you think were hostile toward Hillary?
Go on – take a guess.
Right – 22 of those questions were hostile.
As John Amato said last night when we were watching the debate, “why doesn’t he just ask her if she killed Vince Foster?”
It is possible to disagree with many of Hillary Clinton’s policies and still have empathy for what she is going through and respect that she understands the architecture of a right-wing attack, and the fact that you simply do not repeat Republican talking points or you will only reinforce your opponent. To admire her willingness to stand up for an unpopular progressive official even though she knows it will cost her. The “must hate Hillary all the time” crowd are having a fine time circling with the wingnuts in attacking her today, and it’s a sad spectacle, but as a woman this particular impulse has always struck a wrong note with me anyway.
Today — doubly so.