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Acting GOP

Clintons, Fatigued.

Well, suffice to say, the past 24 hours have not been the Clintons’ finest hour. At this point, you’ve probably seen Hillary’s lip-quivering moment yesterday. I was going just to leave it well enough alone — partly because things seem to be breaking Obama’s way at the moment, so why pile on, and partly because I’d prefer to write the post-mortems post-mortem (I mean, let’s not count our chickens in NH just yet, although turnout looks historic.) But then I witnessed the wholly depressing sight of an exhausted Bill Clinton completely going off the rails this morning. If you missed it, he ranted about the press coverage and called Obama’s surge “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.” I found this exasperating, and so, some quick thoughts.

  • There’s been much back and forth about the genuineness of Hillary’s Muskie moment, whether it was a contrived campaign stunt to humanize her or a brief twinge of Clinton’s very real frustration leaking through. (If forced to draw a conclusion, and at the risk of being called an orc, I’d say it was a bit of both. Some Clinton supporters argue that she got emotional solely because she was just that moved by the problems facing America…Strange, then, that this sort of thing didn’t happen until after Iowa.) At any rate, the fact that we even have to wonder whether or not her emotion was authentic suggests the problem her candidacy faces from now herein: The Senator is not a new face. For better or for worse, the nation has formed a definite view of Hillary Clinton over the past two decades, and it’s hard to imagine that impression changing in the few weeks between now and February 5. If Clinton loses tonight in New Hampshire, the only possible way she can get back into the race in so short a time – barring a monumental Obama flub — is by going scorched-earth negative, which will redound badly for her, for Obama, and for all Democrats this cycle. She’ll either still lose, and have lost ugly, or she’ll have won a Pyrrhic victory that’s turned off crucial swing voters. I mean, the GOP candidates are lousy, but they’re not that lousy.

  • Which brings us to President Clinton. Of course he’ll be supporting his wife’s candidacy ’til the heavens fall, and of course he believes his wife is the best, most qualified candidate. That’s fine, no problems there. Still, I’d kinda hoped that America’s “first black president” might avoid taking serious potshots himself at the man who could very well be America’s first black president, if only because their appeal as “change” candidates in 1992 and 2008 bear some similarities. Alas, this morning’s remarks put an end to that “false hope.” (I’d do a point-for-point rebuttal of President Clinton’s unbecoming lunges, but Salon‘s Tim Grieve already pushed back against the “free ride from the press” line and has pointed out the half-quotes and spin propelling the rest of his arguments, and Senator Obama, also looking dog-tired, responded well to Clinton’s scattershot attack here.) Obviously, fatigue is a huge factor right now, and both Clintons must be feeling anger, frustration, and even a certain amount of denial about how nightmarishly things are shaking out for them. But, that doesn’t excuse the flailing for negativity here.

  • Of course, whatever happens tonight, the Clintons continuing negative seems a pretty good bet. And their central line of attack thus far seems to be that America doesn’t know what Obama stands for — he’s just a vague bromide-spouting Hope machine. Well, forgive the flippancy here — I’m having my own New Hampshire fatigue moment, and I find this argument tremendously irritating — but some scientists got together a few years back and created this thing called the “Internet.” (Or Internets, if you prefer — You may have heard about it. Al Gore was involved.) Anyway, on this Internet, there are things called websites, and on Barack Obama’s website, he has pages devoted to issues, where you can look up what he thinks and plans to do — from Day One, even — about education, the economy, health care, homeland security, you name it. So, if you feel like Obama is some unknowable cipher just because he usually chooses not to speak in the soul-deadening rhetoric of statistics and position papers, check it out. It’s really quite useful, this information superhighway thing…I wonder if it’s possible to make any money off it.

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