After John McCain essentially put to rest the shortest sex and influence scandal in Presidential campaign history, and before the debate could begin in earnest at what got into the New York Times to print a story more structurally unsound than any of Senator McCain’s marquee policy positions, the big questions going into last night’s CNN-Univision Democratic Debate was whether or not Hillary Clinton would deploy the nuclear option in a last-ditch effort to turn her campaign around before having to go ugly with attempting to strong-arm the superdelegates and the Florida-Michigan quandary.
The answer was more unclear than nuclear. It wasn’t quite the lovefest as the Los Angeles Kodak Theater duet of a few weeks back, but it ended with a mutual admiration pact and the most human performance Hillary has offered to date, maybe even more so than her lachrymose display on the eve of the New Hampshire Primary.
Thursday night, they fought to a draw that Hillary didn’t need. She needed Obama to completely go off the rails and start taking Hillary to task for her gender (“Now you just back up, woman!”), or give her a Lloyd Bentsen-Dan Quayle opening with a too-zealous comparison of himself to Martin Luther King, Jr. (“I worked for people who knew Martin Luther King, Jr., I studied Martin Luther King, Jr. in school, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a friend of people I worked with who knew him. Senator, as near as I’m qualified to say, you’re no Martin Luther King, Jr. For one thing, your ears are bigger.”). She needed Michelle Obama going off on her publicly (“Plagiarism? Bitch, please.”) to give her a sympathy trajectory coming into the debate. She needed a roundhouse that would knock his skinny ass over the ropes and onto the judges’ table.
It didn’t happen. She was persistent, but he was steady. Debate still isn’t his strongest forum, but as was widely noted, he’s a country mile from where he was last summer when Hillary slapped him around the stage like an impudent stepchild.
As debates go, this one was substantive and mostly above-board, and if you could swear you heard a giant sucking sound, that didn’t come from either of the candidates faltering badly but from the wind starting to come out of Hillary’s sails. It seems the most improbable scenario in the world from a couple whom friend and foe alike know will fight on even with an open chest wound. Don’t count them out, and don’t assume them to be giving up yet, but she and Bill are both looking a bit weary, and perhaps, old pros that they are, apprehending the fact that a napalm strategy is going to engulf their legacies as well. At the end of the day, even though being back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue again would be the realization of their most ego-intoxicated dreams, at what cost is it worth it? Hillary still likes having the biggest dick of any woman in the Senate, and Bill still likes being the quarter-mil-a-speech-commanding, perennially-BJ-getting elder statesman.
XERACK OBAMA: Hillary floated one negative trial balloon tonight and it went right into the power lines. Stirring up the Obama-Deval Patrick plagiarism flap from earlier in the week, Hillary weakly jabbed, “Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches…that’s not ‘change you can believe in’. That’s ‘change you can Xerox.’” And in flew the boo-birds. You would have thought someone said Duane “The Dog” Chapman was in the house. Granted this was Austin, which is as close to a liberal enclave and likely Obama sweet spot as you’ll find in Texas, but, as many of the yakocracy pointed out in the post-game tonight, it was embarrassingly calculated, canned, and, worst of all, phony. And most likely written by someone else. She was on her better behavior from that point forward.
“ALL THE NEWS THAT’S SHIT TO PRINT”: Just for the record, as a not-yet-published writer and wanting-for-traffic blogger, I have to say that I’m embarrassed to share a name one consonant away from NYT publisher Bill Keller, who’s boneheadedly defending this McCain nonsense and insisting “the story speaks for itself”. Yes, like a reeking turd, it really does–it smells. Bad.Not that I’m backing off my earlier assertion that Mitt Romney has his dirty fingerprints all over this.