Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The sinking of the Hillary-tanic

So now it's come to this: Senator Hillary Clinton gets crushed -- again -- in a state, this time Wisconsin, that was supposed to highlight her strengths among working people, voters that politicians who haven't prepared a meal, sat in a carpool line, eaten in a food court (except during campaign season) or made a bed in thirty years refer to as "just folks." . . . . you know, the kind of people, like them who don't shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or belong to a food co-op, drive cars until they drop and learn to cut their children's hair so they can save $20 or $30 a month . . .

. . . and the response is that her opponent, Barack Obama, did not attribute a couple of lines in a speech that his good friend Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, suggested he borrow from one of his speeches that they worked on together.

I suppose if you are going through hell, the trick is to keep going (1).

And just like after her pasting in the Potomac Primary (2) on "Tsunami Tuesday" (3), Hillary refuses to accept her defeat with the graciousness and class that 35 years of experience should have taught her. As unhealthy and over-the-top as our sports culture is in the United States, there is something refreshing about the post-game handshake line in hockey (4), or watching baseball players exchange congratulations after a post-season playoff game (5) or even -- and this is me talking -- watching coaches and players give each other high-fives and hugs after trying to put each other in the hospital for two or three hours (6). Last night, after a typically intensely fought but poorly played hockey game between the Red Army (7), my team (8) and the Ice Turtles (9), we shook hands after the game and pilfered each other's food and beer in the parking lot afterwards.

Hillary, on the other hand, is turning into that guy who mutters the "fuck you, asshole" as you go through the post-game handshake line (10) or comes up to you after a gig and says, "I didn't realize you were supposed to play 'Round Midnight' that way (11) or the student who feels compelled to point out mistakes on your PowerPoint slides or the inconsistencies in the office hours posted on your syllabus versus the ones you have listed on your door. In other words, if I can't win or play a musical instrument or make a meaningful contribution to class discussion, I'll point out something irrelevant just to prove how smart I really am.

Except that it underscores the reverse, that you're not nearly as smart as you think you are. If you were, then you would understand that eating your words is not the worst meal out there, especially when you consider the caloric intake in proportion to the wholesomeness of the meal that was prepared for you in bloody England (12).

From the bow of the Hillary-tanic, the good senator shouted before a throng of dozens in Youngstown, Ohio last night:

"One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world" (author's note: a world she helped make more dangerous by voting for the Iraq war) . . . "One of us has a plan to provide health care for every single American" (author's note: with the assistance, one presumes, of the pharmaceutical industry, which has made Hillary a top recipient of their financial contributions), One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past. And one of us is ready to do it again" (13) (author's query: Rick Lazio was a serious opponent for the New York senate seat she won in 2000? Or is she referring to the "Republican attack machine" that hounded her during her time as First Spouse to Bill, who will not, it seems, have a chance to place the same title on his curriculum vitae)?

Yes, it is true, as I once told Yogi Berra before I was born, that it's not over until it's over (14). Every so often, though, it is over before it's over, even if it's not over, as is the case now, although it's not quite over (15). Hillary can stomp her feet and pound her fists all she wants over Barack Obama's upending of her presidential campaign. Words, words and more damn words, protests America's own real-life Tracy Flick, do not make things happen or prepare an individual to start governing on Day One. Perhaps she does have a point . . . really, what does a speech like this mean to an American down on his or her luck, or living in fear that her son or daughter will be killed in Iraq (a war that she supported until she decided she didn't) (16):

"You need a different kind of President. You need people committed to pulling together. And you need to believe again that we can make a difference. The beginning of everything is believing that we can do better . . . A Call to Change (emphasis added) . . . .Thank you very much."

Talk, talk, talk . . . that Bill Clinton, the man who included the above words in just about every speech he gave during the presidential general campaign in 1992, sure could make the public swoon, like some sort of rock star, or, at minimum, someone transfixed by a "cult of personality" that had built up around him (17). And according to Hillary he was one hell of a president. Considering he spent the last 2 1/2 years of his term sleeping on the couch, his accomplishments, in which she played an crucial role, except when she didn't, are even more impressive.

Over a year ago, I wrote that Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign would be the Titanic of modern politics -- a $100 million vanity exercise that would sink once that voters got to know her. Her loss in Wisconsin should be the message that it's time to throw out the lifeboat and save face in whatever way she can. Hillary can say this:

"Now, let me pose this question to America. If in the next 5 minutes a television announcer came on and said, there is a major international crisis -- there is a major threat to the world or in this country a major threat -- my question is, who, if you were appointed to name 1 of the 3 of us, who would you choose? Who has the perseverance, the character, the integrity, the maturity, to get the job done? I hope I'm that person. Thank you very, very much." (18)
After all, that's got to be better than this:

"You have to decide whether you want to change or not. We do not need 4 more years of an economic theory that doesn't work. We've had . . . years of trickle down economics. It's time to put the American people first, to invest and grow this economy. . . . We've got to grow the economy by putting people first -- real people like you.

I got into this race because I did not want my child to grow up to be part of the first generation of Americans to do worse than her parents. We're better than that. We can do better than that. I want to make America as great as it can be and I ask for your help in doing it." (19)

Experience vs. words. America's choice in 2008 . . . is . . . remarkably . . . similar . . . to . . . the choice . . . that America was offered . . . in . . . 1992, when George H.W. Bush campaigned as the candidate of "experience" and . . . Bill Clinton . . . campaigned as the candidate of "change."

Don't believe me? Guess which speech was given by whom . . . in . . . 1992.

What goes around comes around, as fear itself becomes the basis for hope that shall pass this way again! (20)


(1) Churchill, Winston, "Sober Thoughts," a long time ago. He might have stolen it from somebody else, maybe F.D.R. but definitely not Hitler or Chamberlin.
(2) Nickname given to Va., D.C. and Md. primaries by someone else. Not my idea.
(3) Davis, Aaron, "Email wondering if Max had cashed his Bar Mitzvah check," 2 or 3 days ago.
(4) A Canadian tradition in the sport invented by a lumberjack playing on a pond somewhere.
(5) See Gagne, Eric, "On importing a Canadian post-hockey game tradition into major league baseball," Journal of Sportsmanship," pp. 221-23 (2006).
(6) A football game I accidentally saw on TV a few weeks ago, passim.
(7) My "adult" hockey team. See my musings on "adult" hockey here.
(8) Name stolen from the Red Army national teams during the Soviet Era. Not for attribution, since treaties no longer apply in post-Cold War era.
(9) Gary Rosenfeld's team. Origin of the team name is unclear. For possibilities, see Anonymous, "Weird names for men's hockey teams," Journal of Arrested Development, pp. 433-34, (1993).
(10) Could be a number of people. See In General, Society, infra.
(11) Some guy waiting for the bus in Tenleytown, circa 1997, not for attribution, supra.
(12) Churchill, Winston, "Quotes of Mine," Bathtub Gin Law Review, 1943.
(13) Clinton, Hillary-tanic, somewhere in Ohio, subject to verification by Norm Ornstein, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
(14) Berra, Yogi, "Cute Phrases of Mine I Parlayed Into a Successful Career That I May or May Not Have Really Said," Americana Monthly, last 45 years.
(15) Ibid., post-hoc at 345, passim sub silento.
(16) Clinton, Bill, 1992 presidential stump speech, taken from "The Great American Songbook," Kern, Jerome, George Gershwin and Ted Nugent.
(17) Complaints by various members of the Paul Tsongas campaign, who repeatedly criticized Bill Clinton for wanting to be Santa Claus and give speeches rather than deal with serious matters, 1991-92, better part of, passim, chile con queso.
(18) Bush, George H.W. or Dana Carvey, 1992 presidential debates.
(19) Clinton, Bill (not Hillary), ibid ad nauseum.
(20) Expresssion, Favorite, Handbook of School Teacher Cliches, 1967-79, Vols. K-12. And maybe Seals and Croft, the soft-rock '70s act. Or maybe Al Stewart. But definitely not a Sting lyric.

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