Friday, February 22, 2008

It Is Finished

It has not been a good week for Sen. Hillary Clinton. For all of the attention paid to its non-story about John McCain, the New York Times has given Ms. Clinton much more of a hard time. A NYT examination of her most recent campaign finance report paints a picture of a candidate sorely lacking the managerial skills necessary to shepherd a presidential campaign, belying her carefully crafted image as supremely qualified to do well as POTUS.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's latest campaign finance report... appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton's spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

"We didn't raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now," said a prominent New York donor. "So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late."
The bad news kept coming with a post on the Times' political blog yesterday reporting that
Ms. Clinton apologized for remarks made by her husband that were seen as racially tinged. Unfortunately she could not allow an apology to just be an apology. (It would seem that she should be good at this, as she has had a lot of practice.)
Appearing before a predominantly black audience [in New Orleans] Saturday afternoon, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defended her husband's legacy on race relations and offered an apology of sorts for comments he made in South Carolina several weeks ago that many people viewed as racially insensitive.

In a question-and-answer session after her speech at the State of the Black Union event, Mrs. Clinton was asked by Tavis Smiley, the host of the event, how she felt about "what some termed racial comments" by Mr. Clinton.

"I think there are enough of you here today who know him personally and know his heart," she said, then stopped for a long pause. "If anyone was offended about anything that was said, whether it was meant or not, whether it was misinterpreted or not, then obviously I regret that." (Emphasis added.)
By apologizing - as is Clinton standard operating procedure, it was too little and too late - she admitted what was already widely understood. But her positing that those who were offended may have "misinterpreted" comments for which the motivation was evident is fatuous. (Given that Jackson is ostensibly in support of Obama, the real question is what accounts for Jackson's quietude as regards a slur directed at him by Bill Clinton.)

Another story published earlier today had a "lion in Winter" affect, which may be in keeping with the valedictory tone she took towards the end of the last Democratic debate; the Edwardsian quality of her closing remarks that evening was difficult to ignore. But the most damning commentary from her "hometown" paper came from the NYT's Frank Rich, who excoriated Clinton for everything from a lackadaisical approach to field organizing to her penchant for Washington-based solutions to her denigrating the inspirational message of Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy.

It's not just that her candidacy's central premise — the priceless value of "experience" — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the [Iraq War]. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — "It will be me," Mrs. Clinton told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.

The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would "be over by Feb. 5," Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year's. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.

That's why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance.
It is not often that Frank Rich and I are on the same side of anything, but we both observe that Hillary was at least as wrong about America's response to her campaign as George Bush was about the Iraqi response to America's adventure in Mesopotamia. To be sure, both expected to be greeted - figuratively if not literally - with flowers, and neither prepared for a protracted resistance effort by an organized and well-funded insurgency.

So now Ms. Clinton is left to slouch into another fateful week. As this is the Lenten season, I wish to be neither sacrilegious or melodramatic, but this week might seem a Passion Week of sorts for her. As she goes toward her (final) trials in a Buckeye State Gethsemane and a Texas Golgotha, the NYT describes her "philosophical" and "somber," all of which befits the condemned.

Clintonism R.I.P.

Four More Years!

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