Hillary Flips over her Debate Flop
By: Carey Roberts
What are we to make of a presidential candidate who portrays herself as strong and independent, a courageous exemplar to the members of her gender — but at the first hint of criticism collapses as the pitiable victim of gender politics?
Last Tuesday Hillary Clinton delivered a horrendous performance at the Democratic debate. She claimed she wanted to end the war in Iraq — and in the next breath explained that as president, she would continue to guard our embassy, provide training, and continue to wage the fight against Al Qaeda.
As far as allowing illegal aliens to get a driverâ€™s license, her answer was more convoluted than a New York City subway map. And when it came to rescuing the Social Security system, she declared, â€œI do have a plan, but personally I am not going to be advocating any specific fix until I am seriously approaching fiscal responsibility.â€
Debate moderator Tim Russert tried without success to pin her down. Finally candidate John Edwards stated the obvious: â€œUnless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes.â€ Barack Obama of Illinois added, â€œShe had not been truthful and clear.â€
Clinton launched an immediate counter-offensive. First she accused Russert of playing â€œgotcha.â€ No, Hillary, he was trying to clarify your contradictory statements â€“ thatâ€™s what a moderator is supposed to do.
Then the Clinton campaign released a memo called â€œThe Politics of Pile-On.â€ Implying that her competitors werenâ€™t bowing and scraping to the inevitability of her nomination, the statement ended with the incongruous claim that Hillary is â€œOne strong woman.â€
Still fixated on playing the gender card, Clintonâ€™s media spinners held a conference call. Senior strategist Mark Penn make the shrill claim that he was already â€œdetecting some backlashâ€ among female voters because they fretted the debate had turned into an ugly â€œsix-on-one to try to bring her down.â€
Would someone please order the de-caf next time?
Clintonâ€™s surrogates in the media rose to the occasion, but their comments were so off base I wondered if they had actually watched the debate. â€œHer fighting spirit was all the more impressive because so many of the positions she was defending were virtually indefensible,â€ Gail Collins argued in Thursdayâ€™s New York Times. Problem was, no one could figure out exactly what positions she was defending.
Then HRCâ€™s handlers had the gall to send out a fund-raising letter condemning the menâ€™s actions with the plea, â€œHillaryâ€™s going to need your help.â€
But the counter-offensive stalled when bloggers ridiculed Clintonâ€™s scripted and evasive answers. Commentator Jed Babbin noted, â€œBut one thing isnâ€™t in doubt after Tuesday night: Hillary Clinton can dish it out, but she canâ€™t take it.â€ Jennifer Rubin satirized, â€œIndeed it is sometimes difficult to follow the Hillary rules of etiquette.â€
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker offered this sisterly advice: â€œSorry, but when girls insist on playing hardball with the boys, they donâ€™t get to cry foul â€“ or change the game to dodge ball â€“ when they get bruised.â€
Clintonâ€™s Democratic rivals kept the heat on. Asked on NBCâ€™s Today show whether Clinton was trying to play the gender card, Barack Obama responded it didnâ€™t make sense that when â€œpeople start challenging her point of view, that suddenly, she backs off and says, â€˜Donâ€™t pick on me.â€™â€
John Edwards hit on Hillaryâ€™s double-standard. â€œI think that Senator Clinton ought to be held to the same standard that every presidential candidate is held to,â€ Edwards told reporters. â€œThat standard is to not engage in double-talk.â€
Finally Mrs. Clinton made a lame effort to defuse the controversy. â€œI donâ€™t think theyâ€™re picking on me because Iâ€™m a woman; I think theyâ€™re picking on me because Iâ€™m winning.â€
â€œPicking on meâ€?
When Barack Obama was excoriated for offering to meet with Fidel Castro, I donâ€™t remember him saying he was being singled out because of his skin color. And when persons ridiculed John Edwards for his $300 haircuts, he didnâ€™t provide the sad-sack defense of being â€œpicked on.â€
In the past, playing the victim worked wonders for Mrs. Clinton. During her eight years as First Lady, her highest approval ratings came in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And following a debate with candidate Rick Lazio, Clinton and her aides claimed that his actions were â€œmenacingâ€ and â€œthreatening.â€
But in 2007, the last thing our country needs is a candidate who uses divisive gender tactics to satisfy her need for personal satisfaction and political gain.
New Media Alliance Televisionn (www.nmatv.com)
Carey Roberts is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. (www.thenma.org). The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.