Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Strains of the Rollercoaster Jig

Do you hear the strains of the Rollercoaster Jig? No? A little background then.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a sign of the Apocalypse, but famed Historian Victor Davis Hanson and NY Times Columnist Maureen Dowd are of the same mind about Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton.

Hanson notes the “just in time” emergence of “the teary, compassionate Hillary” as part of her “crying game” candidacy, and Dowd complains bitterly that Clinton plays LBJ as the “heroine of a Lifetime movie, a woman in peril who manages to triumph.”

Here, Dowd wins on the more indelible imagery, but Hanson has the better grasp of history. (No surprise there.) But as to the politics of the game, try to pick between Hanson or Dowd with these assessments.

First Hanson:

Hillary Clinton is in the midst of a complete focus-group/poll-driven/handler make-over. And to the degree she sticks to it (a big if), she will do fine. As we heard tonight, Hillary has now “found her voice”; she suddenly speaks more slowly, there are more bite-the-lip-like pauses, and she has been reminded not to go into frenetic panic mode or hit that screech-owl high note as much. She will seek out interviews, welcome questions, and be empathetic, accessible, and sensitive to the public.
Her New Hampshire victory speech was almost anti-Hillary (at least until the last two seconds of the old Hillary shrill-shouting): slow, deliberate, empathetic, a lot of personal voice — and Bill finally off the stage.

A final note: The campaign talking heads and opinion makers this season have been lousy, about the worst in memory — especially the “she’s won, she’s lost, she’s won...” feeding frenzy, and then writing the silly “end of the Clinton era” essays — all based on a few thousand Iowans, some bad polls in New Hampshire, and catch-up to what some other wrong pundit wrote an hour earlier. And remember, these are “experts” who pontificated each week on the real Iraq war.

Now Dowd:

She was seen as so controlling when she ran for the Senate that she had to be seen as losing control, as she did during the Monica scandal, before she seemed soft enough to attract many New York voters.

Getting brushed back by Barack Obama in Iowa, her emotional moment here in a cafe and her chagrin at a debate question suggesting she was not likable served the same purpose, making her more appealing, especially to women, particularly to women over 45.

The Obama campaign calculated that they had the women’s vote over the weekend but watched it slip away in the track of her tears.

At the Portsmouth cafe on Monday, talking to a group of mostly women, she blinked back her misty dread of where Obama’s “false hopes” will lead us — “I just don’t want to see us fall backwards,” she said tremulously — in time to smack her rival: “But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not.”

There was a poignancy about the moment, seeing Hillary crack with exhaustion from decades of yearning to be the principal rather than the plus-one. But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing.

Suffice it to say neither Dowd nor Hanson will make it on the invite list for any potential “Clinton 44” Presidential affairs.

Of Hanson and Dowd, only Dowd alluded to a possibly staged event that might have aided Hillary’s squeaker win in New Hampshire:

When Hillary hecklers yelled “Iron my shirt!” at her in Salem on Monday, it stirred sisterhood.

I find it passing strange that all accounts of the “Iron My Shirt” stunt-let have fallen off political sites faster than Rudy Giuliani’s slide in the polls.

It appeared Tuesday morning at Memeorandum here and here, the last based on an AP report that suggested the incident was brief and quickly resolved by getting security to oust the protesters. No hint of stagecraft in the AP report.

All it took was for someone to identify the “protesters” as Boston area radio personalities, known for pranks such as “Iron My Shirt,” and any assertion that the Clinton Candidacy had staged the event were immediately refuted.

Why? Here’s how I posed the question in comments on several sites:

That the perpetrators of the “Iron My Shirt” affair are radio show jokesters does not mean they were not planted.

Just a question. Do visual sight gags have much traction on a Radio Show? And would Generation X or Y radio shock jocks in Beantown more likely be Republicans, or Democrats in their politics?

I imagined a different scenario that led to someone in the Clinton Camp enlisting the jokesters:

Think about the kind of political planning that leads to these kinds of stunts.

“I really want to slam home that I’m breaking through a glass ceiling.”

“The highest,” adds a fawning aide, “The hardest,” adds another.

“Oh, if I could find an opportunity to say that, ‘I’m running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling.’”

“But what about the ceiling for Obama?” another aide, one not long for the campaign, tentatively suggests, “isn’t that more of a struggle for him?”

“We’ve got to set it up as male sexism versus feminism kind of thing,” frets a political consultant.

“I know, we’ll get some guy up playing bumpkin, holding a huge sign saying something like ‘better barefoot and pregnant,’” offers a loyalist.

“No, that plays on the whole age thing,” warns a staff member, likewise not long for the campaign.

“Better, ‘stay in the kitchen’,” declares an awestruck volunteer.

“No,” the political consultant advises, “that reminds people that Senator Clinton doesn’t bake cookies.”

“I’ve got it! ‘Iron My Shirt.’” This one comes from The Man. He knows all too well about what happens when one might suggest a little ironing before an important appearance.

“Yeah, that’s it. Let the guy make a big scene, we’ll tip off security not to yank him out, let him hang out long enough to make sure we get coverage, then Hill hits them with the zinger:

‘As I think has just been abundantly demonstrated, I am also running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling.’”

“Political genius,” all agree.

Now that Hillary is spinning herself as this year’s Comeback Kid – this time with more emotions – based on a narrow win in New Hampshire, courtesy of (single) women voters, why not look into the politics of the radio pranksters?

All well and good in concluding, as Hanson does, that the Media plays the fiddle for this Rollercoaster Jig they create as soundtrack for this election, but isn’t it way past time to ask who pays the fiddlers?

Do we want a President who goes to these kinds of links to make sure she makes it?

How will she run the Presidency? I’m sure she’ll make glam go of all the photo ops and sound bites, especially nursed on pabulum of social programs, but threats to our National Security won’t allow themselves to be quite so easily scripted.

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