[declare] her husband's impeachment in 1998 -- or, more accurately, the embarrassing personal behavior that led to it -- taboo, putting her rivals on notice and all but daring other Democrats to mention the ordeal again.
Questions: 1) Does Hillary realize that this taboo-enforcement strategy plays into the worst aspect of her public image--the dogmatic PC enforcer whose loyal aides seem, at least in public, to live in zombie-like fear that too much candor could incur her wrath? I don't think it's too much to draw a line from Hillary's attempt to suppress the speech of her fellow candidates to a general, instinctive distaste for the tumult and self-expression inherent in democracy itself. One thinks of Clintonite Roberta Achtenberg's seeming tolerance, as a HUD official, of her agency's intimidating investigations of local opponents of group homes for the handicapped. (Defending the investigations, Achtenberg told the NYT, "These are very difficult judgments that have to be made." No they're not, at least if you have any feel for democracy.)
2) Has the Clinton campaign ever heard of, you know, the Internet? Enforcing taboos doesn't work like it used to, back when all you had to do was muzzle a few gatekeepers.** Today, if people have things to say they're going to say them. If the candidates don't say them, and the MSM doesn't say them, that doesn't mean they won't get said.** Note to Hillary: Your husband cheated on you and was fined $90,000 for lying about it to a federal judge. Everybody thinks he's still cheating on you. Your fellow Democrats are tolerant, but they wonder what the deal is. That isn't the "politics of personal destruction." It's due diligence.Attempting to repress this discussion only assures that it will quickly come to the surface.
The more modern and effective alternative to suppressing nasty questions, of course, is to air them out--let the voters talk about them, "process" them and "move on," something that happens awfully fast now. Maybe Hillary's seemingly clumsy strategy of last week was perversely brilliant: By heavy-handedly trying to enforce a taboo on discussing Bill's misbehavior, she guaranteed that it would become the topic of widespread public conversation immediately--early in the campaign when voters have plenty of time to process it and move on before the Iowa caucuses.
She only seems like a speech scold. She was really outmaneuvering everyone!Take it away, Nagourney.
**--When the Clintons weathered the Lewinsky scandal, remember, blogging was in its infancy.
***--Even if they don't get said, of course, voters would still think them--but they might be more likely to act on them if a public discussion in effect gives them permission.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
In a crowded theater: The performance of Arcade Fire's "Keep the Car Running" on SNL last night--available here--was better than the version on the CD (which is hurt by excess echo). [Adjectives, please. Is it: plangent? shimmering? twangy? chiming? Kinksy?-- ed . Hectic and cathartic!] 11:49 P.M.
Saturday, February 24, 2007