Queen Hillary's Disruptive Court
The press corps finally wakes up to her waffling and evasions. By Camille Paglia (on Salon)
Nov. 14, 2007 | The mainstream media have been in a breathless tizzy about how Hillary Clinton waffled, tripped, stumbled or generally screwed up at the Democratic debate in Philadelphia two weeks ago.
But Hillary's performance at prior debates was never as deft or "flawless" as the media claimed in the first place. Conventional wisdom has now flipped, and the air-headed lemmings of our free press have turned on a dime and are stampeding in the opposite direction. This is the same crew who passively swallowed administration propaganda about the urgency of an invasion of Iraq. Don't ask for critical acumen from this lot.
Hillary's stonewalling evasions and mercurial, soulless self-positionings have been going on since her first run for the U.S. Senate from New York, a state she had never lived in and knew virtually nothing about. The liberal Northeastern media were criminally complicit in enabling her queenlike, content-free "listening tour," where she took no hard questions and where her staff and security people (including her government-supplied Secret Service detail) staged events stocked with vetted sympathizers, and where they ensured that no protesters would ever come within camera range.
That compulsive micromanagement, ultimately emanating from Hillary herself, has come back to haunt her in her dismaying inability to field complex unscripted questions in a public forum. The presidential sweepstakes are too harsh an arena for tenderfoot novices. Hillary's much-vaunted "experience" has evidently not extended to the dynamic give-and-take of authentic debate. The mild challenges she has faced would be pitiful indeed by British standards, which favor a caustic style of witty put-downs that draw applause and gales of laughter in the House of Commons. Women had better toughen up if they aspire to be commander in chief.
Whether John Edwards or Barack Obama (toward whom I'm currently leaning) has conclusively demonstrated his superiority for the top of the ticket remains to be seen. They may unfortunately split the anti-Hillary vote (a majority of registered Democrats) so that she slips through. If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, I will certainly vote for her. But I continue to find it hard to believe that my party truly craves that long nightmare of déjà vu -- with scandal after scandal disgorged and an endless train of abused women returning from Bill Clinton's sordid, anti-feminist past.
An amusing video (posted by Matt Drudge) shows a row of American flags chaotically tumbling down behind and almost on top of Hillary last weekend--hardly an auspicious omen for Veterans Day. I like the way Hillary uses her flat, practical, real-life voice to admonish the event organizers about properly weighting the poles. A plus is a glimpse of Hillary's top aide, the elegant Huma Abedin, wielding one of her formidable designer handbags:
Aside from the stylish Huma, there's definitely something weird and cultish in the sycophantish cathexis onto Hillary of the many nerds, geeks and vengeful viragos who run her campaign -- sometimes to her detriment, as with the recent ham-handed playing of the clichéd gender card. I suspect the latter dumb move, which has backfired badly, came from Ann Lewis (Barney Frank's sister), a fanatical Hillary true believer who has been spouting beatific feminist bromides about her for the past 15 years. (The transcript of my tangle with Lewis about Hillary on CNN's "Crossfire" in 1994 is reprinted in my second essay collection.) Hillary seems to have acolytes rather than friends -- hardly a reassuring trait for a potential president whose paranoia has already been called Nixonian. Isolated monarchs never hear the bad news until the people riot and the lynch mob is at the door.