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OVER THE HILL
Steyn on People
| by Mark Steyn |
Monday, 15 September 2008
Just before the big summer hiatus, I wrote this column for National Review, which we never got around to posting on line. Its observations about the weakness of the Obama candidacy still seem relevant:
The conventional wisdom on the Clintons was promulgated by my then senator, Bob Smith of New Hampshire, back at the end of the impeachment trial. “He’s won,”' said Senator Smith, after dutifully if vainly casting his vote to nail Slick Willie’s puffy butt. “He always wins. Let’s move on.”
They won through the Nineties. The Clintons’ Democratic Party was great for the Clintons, lousy for the Democratic Party, which in the course of the decade lost Senate seats, House seats, Governors’ mansions, state legislatures and on and on, until, in a final snook cocked at his comrades, Bill Clinton was unable to bequeath the White House to his vice-president in a time of peace and prosperity – but his wife, campaigning for her first political office, managed to pick up a Senate seat in a state she’d barely spent 20 minutes in.
Yet even iron rules have their exceptions. This time the Clintons won’t win. And it’s the Democrat machine that wants to move on – notwithstanding that in the past three months former President-presumptive Rodham has won more votes from actual Democratic voters than Senator Obama, a weak candidate being propelled in slow motion across the finish line, the sputtering engine of his “inevitability” frantically augmented by media bobbysoxers pushing at the rear.
Mrs Clinton protested that it’s not unusual for presidential nominations to still be unsettled in June, but by way of example she cited Robert Kennedy getting assassinated at the California primary and everyone pounced on her as a deranged psychopath fantasizing about some sicko taking out Barack before the big Puerto Rico vote. I don’t think that’s what she meant, although to be honest you couldn’t blame her if she did.
Senator Obama immediately issued a statement saying that her comment was “unfortunate and has no place in this campaign”. Even for a thin-skinned solipsistic narcissist, Obama seems a frightful po-faced pill. This could be a long eight years. At least when Bill Clinton used to deplore “the politics of personal destruction”, he seemed self-aware enough to get the joke.
We all know what Hill was getting at. Maybe she’d have got a better press if she’d just said, “Geez, 40 years ago, no one was yelling at RFK saying, ‘C’mon, couldn’t you get assassinated within six weeks of New Hampshire instead of dragging it out till summer…’” As things stand, she’s the only candidate anyone wants dead. The Economist said senior Dems “have advised Mrs Clinton to retire to her room with a glass of whisky and a loaded revolver”. And, in case she’s reluctant to pull the trigger, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann advised sending an accompanying heavy – “somebody who can take her into a room and only she comes out.” And, instead of droning that Hillary death porn has “no place in this campaign”, Senator Clinton just grinned and bore it.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama staggers from gaffe to gaffe like a Dan Quayle minstrel show and nobody minds. Appearing in Sunrise, Florida, the Senator bellowed at the crowd: “How’s it going, Sunshine? …It’s good to be in Sunshine”, and a quartet of similar municipal invocations. But so what? He’s the “Sunshine Superman” (Billboard Number One for Donovan, 1966). Whereas for Mrs Clinton, it’s “Sunrise, Sunset” (Fiddler On The Roof, round about the same time: in honor of her closing gaffe, all this column’s pop culture references are from the Bobby Kennedy era).
Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days: Go back a year to the early campaign material. In those first regal videos, she assumed Bob Smith’s rule would hold and that her dynastic claim – the divine right of consorts – would be sufficient. She campaigned, like Natalie Portman’s character in Star Wars, as a queen playing a senator. Six months later, she was a shrieking harpie up on stage yelling into the mike against the hard shellac of Barack’s cool. Too late, she found a kind of voice, kidding with Bill O’Reilly and playfully suggesting Rush had always had a crush on her. I’ve grown quite sweet on her myself. The lioness in winter is a more sympathetic character than she ever was a decade back when the tide of presidential, ah, DNA was lapping ever higher and that old sob sister from the Arkansas swamps, Dale Bumpers, was doing his maudlin shtick in the well of the Senate and insisting that the First Family was a-hurtin’. Who knew? They might be a-hurtin’. Or they might be a-roarin’ their heads off laughing at us saps for eating up such a prime slab of Razorback ham. The truth about the Clintons’ freaky relationship is as unknowable as the arranged marriages of Royal houses in medieval Europe.
Still, there must surely, in these latter years, have been an element of bargain about it. Mrs Clinton stood by her man, and he in turn was supposed to work his magic on her political ambitions. When it came to his end of the deal, Bill, not for the first time (see the Starr Report), failed to reciprocate. In these pages way back in 1999, I compared Hill to Ethel Merman in the finale of Gypsy alone on stage singing, “This time for me!” She has the same tatty burlesque pathos. But the crowd moved on – to this year’s Clintonian schmoozer, less sullied, more liberal, cooler identity group. As Lanny Davis conceded to Laura Ingraham re the media’s Obama swoon, she now knows what it feels like to be a Republican.
from National Review, June 2008