There is no one who has been treated worse in presidential politics than Hillary Clinton.
The coverage of her historic campaign started and ended snarky, unforgiving and suspicious. Nothing was accepted at face value. That's fine if you are going to treat everyone that way. Imagine if the prior careers of Junior Bush were held up to the same scrutiny back in 2000. What would it have been like if his every move were interpreted as clever subterfuge and his every proclamation scoffed at as so much manipulative claptrap? But, no. Junior got a pass just like Reagan got a pass and Bush Senior got a pass, and so on. We are used to Democrats being held to a higher standard, but the Clintons are presumed to be trouble just by showing up.
Assumptions about Hillary's expectations in the race made by people who had no idea or interest in what she really thought hounded her at every turn. She viewed her nomination as "inevitable"; she felt it was "owed" to her because of her husband’s Lewinsky embarrassment; the "16 years of Clinton" was planned back when Bill was back in Arkansas. All complete nonsense, none of it sourced with anyone close to the Clintons, and all accepted as conventional wisdom throughout the campaign, with a knowing wink from those who, you know, just know.
After Obama won Iowa and just before New Hampshire, the long knives of the punditocracy were dripping with the blood of the victorious. They celebrated the fall they failed to predict, dancing and spitting on the freshly-dug grave, waiting on the edge for her to walk by so they could push her in and heap dirt on her candy-yellow suit. Alas, she showed emotion for her good causes the day before the NH primary and spit in the face of their dire, celebratory predictions. They appeared on cable shows near and far, beating their breasts and insincerely apologizing for their sexist and anti-Hillary attitudes. Then, they spent the next four moths wishing she would go away again, asking each other, night after tiresome night, why she stayed so annoyingly in and What the Hell Does Hillary Want.
Hillary righted her message, found her voice and started reaching real voters with real issues just before the Pennsylvania primary. So, when it looked like Hillary might be succeeding, they turned on Bill. Any time he got off script at all, they ran out the story-line of the out-of-control ex-president who kept saying uncomfortable things at uncomfortable times. It didn't matter that what he said about the brutal media coverage of his wife and the relative pass given to Obama happened to be true. The last gasp of this tired tack was when he went off on the "writer" of a piece in Vanity Fair this month. Well, have you read the damn thing? The article is a miserable hack-job. Todd Purdum doesn’t even pretend to prove anything, but uses the anti-Clinton mystique to let his readers make broad leaps from innocuous trips in planes with rich guys to...oh, you know, don’t you? Clinton was right – anyone who would write such a piece of crap – to say nothing of the editors who published it – is a "scumbag". But, as always, the truth is not a defense for the Clintons.
I always wondered what would have happened if it was Hillary, rather than Obama, who got the 150-delegate lead in February and then ran out the clock for four months. You could imagine the clucking of the commentariat at the temerity of it all, especially if it was she who lost 7 of the last 11 contests. You would have commentators shouting all hours of the day and night, begging the super-delegates to save us from this failed democratic result. Instead, they celebrated when Obama reached the threshold and scolded Clinton for not taking it like a man soon enough.
I could never figure out why media personalities who are otherwise sympathetic to Democratic causes and principles bought so readily into the right-wing anti-Clinton caricatures and agenda. I think it’s because Bill Clinton came to Washington, much like Jimmy Carter, as an unapproved outsider governor, who was able to beat established Washington candidates on the ground. Bill didn’t toe any party line – he triangulated, getting what he could through a hostile Congress. The Washington Dems went running for cover when they got too much heat from their health industry lobbyist friends on universal health care. They held their nose and fought off the ridiculously partisan Clinton impeachment, but used the incident to joke around about Bill's supposed proclivities with their all-too-amused friends.
When Hillary made her move, which they knew she would, they were happy to see Obama rise up and squish her, regardless of his unknown qualities and his vulnerability to unwanted and unwarranted definition by the desperate right.
I supported Hillary until this past weekend and I’m more than happy to back Obama in the fall. I supported her because I did think she was more electable. But, with the pathetic McCain on the GOP ticket (Republicans – see Reagan and Junior Bush – always get a pass by the setting of extremely low expectations, but even that won't save McCain), even an Obama weakened by the 24/7 wing-nut echo-chamber that has already raised his negatives 30 points (so much for Hillary being the one who will do anything to win) is destined to win in a landslide .
He will come in with an even stronger Democratic Senate and House, and then it will truly be our turn. I've always thought -- for all of the name-calling of "radical" and "socialist" that will rain down on him from the right-wing between now and election day -- that Obama kept it a bit vague about what he is actually going to do as president. This is a good thing. It leaves him open to work for the evolving solutions that the Democrats will put together by consensus to fix the mess left by the radical Bushies and face the nation's many challenges. Obama would be wise to follow the example of the last great Democratic president; to work for change he can get, while standing on principles he believes.
Barack Obama, meet Bill Clinton. Now, let's get to work.