NEW HAMPTON, Iowa — Hillary Clinton is working hard to counter her image as an arrogant Ice Queen. At campaign stops, she laughs at her own jokes and regales the audience with tales of herself as a little girl who stared into the sky with binoculars hoping to catch a glimpse of Sputnik as it passed by.
“Give me a fair reading as to who I am, not who somebody says I am,” Clinton pleaded with a room full of Iowa voters as she wrapped up her remarks at a campaign stop here on Sunday.
But just moments later, in a rare stumble for her highly-choreographed campaign, Clinton demonstrated that people’s long-standing impressions of her are right on target.
During the question and answer period, Randall Rolph, a retired Democratic voter from Nashua, Iowa, confronted Clinton on her recent vote in favor of a U.S. Senate resolution calling on the Bush administration to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. The measure has been greeted with suspicion by war critics who view it as a document that President Bush could use as a pretext to launch an attack on Iran.
“Why should I support your candidacy if you haven’t learned from the past?” Rolph asked, referring to her 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq.
Clinton first thanked him and then countered that, “the premise of the question is wrong.” So far, so good. But after offering a description of what was in the resolution, Clinton smugly and dismissively accused him of having been fed the information, saying “obviously somebody sent [it] to you.”
Rolph didn’t let it pass. “I take exception, this is my own research…”
“Well, then let me finish telling you…” Clinton screamed.
“Nobody sent that, and I am offended that you would suggest it,” Rolph snapped at her.
Realizing she had committed a blunder, she backed off. “Then I apologize,” she said. “I apologize, it’s just that I’ve been asked the very same question at three other places.”
Later, she patronizingly told him “I respect your research,” but instructed him that there were two versions of the bill, and she opposed an earlier draft that had harsher language.
“We just have a disagreement,” she concluded. “I know what I voted for, and I know what we intended to do with it.”
The crowed filled with supporters may have applauded, but Rolph was turned off.
He said he came into the event uncommitted, but ruled out voting for Clinton after she insinuated that he was a patsy even though he had spent the morning on government websites looking into the question himself.
“It was an insult,” he fumed following the event. “It was basically calling me stupid. That I can’t think on my own. That I don’t have the ability to research or come up with a coherent or concrete thought on my own. How dare she!”
He continued, “She never did answer the question. She just, what I say is, bitch-slapped me.”
Whether this incident does any damage to the well-oiled Clinton machine remains to be seen. But one thing it does make clear is that no matter how scripted Hillary is, over the course of a long campaign, she will not be able to mask her contempt for average Americans who dare to challenge her.
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