You know the old joke about the person who suddenly collapses in a public place and a woman turns to render assistance. Before she can do anything, a burly man runs over and pushes her aside. "Make way," he shouts. "I have training in first aid." He immediately gets busy trying to position himself for emergency resuscitation techniques. "What do you do after you finish that part," the woman wonders.
"Then I call a doctor," he replies impatiently.
"Good. When you get up to that, let me know," she says. "I am already here."
Using a like argument, Hillary Clinton tried to regain the edge in her battle with Barack Obama for the Democrat candidacy. She and her trusty sidekick, Maggie Williams (Aunt Tomasina to the Obama people), ran a series of television ads showing the phone ringing in the White House at 3 a.m. and asking viewers who they would rather see picking up that phone. One can see her point, of course; better to have Bill answer those late night heavy-breathing calls than leaving them to Michelle Obama.
These advertisements are thought by the literati and glitterati, the intelligentsia and the cognoscenti, to have been critical in engineering her masterful triumph on Super Tuesday II, enabling her to emerge victorious in Texas and Ohio. The commentariat, having delivered itself of that trenchant analysis, generally fails to mention that all this hoopla about winning Texas and Ohio added up to a whopping advantage of 14 delegates on the day. It also avoids pointing out that she lost a big chunk out of her earlier twenty-point polling leads in those locales.
Be that as it may, I am frankly stunned by the contention that Hillary Clinton is somehow more equipped to answer that phone call. Even Mark Davis, the Houston talk-show host who sat in for Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday, parroted the idea that Clinton brings more substance to foreign policy or global crises. Apparently the selling job has really taken hold, with everyone on both sides buying the premise. Not I. My agnosticism in relation to Hillary's beatification has withstood her phony sales job. Bull, I say, she is an empty suit, and that is being charitable.
Can someone quote me an original idea by Hillary Clinton upon any subject of diplomatic or military interest? The fact that she went along with some of our tough stands in Afghanistan and Iraq just shows she can listen to reason now and then; it does not crown her as a genius. What else is there to cite in support of this putative wisdom? When has she stood out from the pack and made a unique mark for herself with any inspired initiative, save the health-care catastrophe in 1993? Say what you want about John McCain's positions, but they do show individuality.
Unless, of course, all of this is in code. It is meant to convey to the electorate that we are to reelect Bill Clinton by proxy. This will garner us a third-term President who has already been quite active in the Oval Office and who can be counted upon to unravel whatever knotty scenarios that geopolitics throw our way. If this is the case, it is even more obscene. The fact that this family, this mutant clan, is still in the race should be a thorn in the craw of every decent American.
Now the idea of Obama hearing that plangent peal of the 3 a.m. hotline in the People's House is not thrilling to me, for the same reason I would not want Carl Levin or Russ Feingold or Robert Byrd to pick up that receiver. These people are not irresponsible per se; they are merely responsible practitioners of an irresponsible doctrine. Hate the ideology, not the ideologue. By that standard, Hillary Clinton is not in the least immune from this critique. This despite her overwhelming qualifications she frequently asserts: growing up with brothers, working on the McGovern campaign and "helping the children" at the Children's Defense Fund.
The only consolation prize of a Hillary presidency might be linked to that other old joke. A fellow tells his friend that he must be strong and control his wife. "Oh, yes," he replied. "Why, the other day she was on her hands and knees before me!"
"Really, what did she say?"
"She said, get out from under that bed and come fight like a man." If we can get to watch Bill being ground underfoot, a Hillary win might pay a small dividend.
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