Tuesday, October 13, 2015


(Update Wednesday: Got this completely wrong.)

Because Mark Halperin believes that what the world needs more of is Maureen Dowd-style fake interior monologues, he's typed up what he believes are Hillary Clinton's thoughts going into tonight's debate, allegedly "based on interviews with those closest to her." According to Halperin, Clinton thinks she's going to be skewered for her debate performance unless she's flawless:
One mistake.

If I make ONE mistake in the debate, that’s all the media will focus on. I’m used to pressure and I’m used to tough scrutiny, but this is absurd. I get that I’m always treated differently than EVERYONE else, but still….

... I know full well my margin of error is zero. That’s why I have been prepping even more than usual. But all that work won’t matter if I get thrown by a single question and give an answer the media decides is a gaffe. Or if I cross some imaginary line trying to contrast myself with Bernie on policy, the press will cast me as a negative and desperate combination of Lee Atwater and Alex Forrest.
This is nonsense. Clinton's margin of error is not zero -- she has no margin of error. She's going to be declared the loser of tonight's debate no matter what she says or does, fails to say or fails to do.

The press will inform us that she was stiff or that she was overly animated. We'll be told she was excessively wonky or that she was trying too hard to be folksy. She'll be chastised for not counterpunching after being attacked or for being unappealingly aggressive. Whatever she does will be wrong.


The only question is who will be deemed "the big winner" of the debate. (Hillary will be "the big loser.") Here's one thought:

Maybe -- but I'm going to make a longshot bet on Jim Webb. Think about what's going on in politics right now: There's so much foaming-at-the-mouth partisanship in the Republican Party that even David Brooks is noticing. On the Democratic side, the two presidential front-runners are a socialist and a mainstream candidate who's tacking leftward to keep up with the socialist. What does the insider press claim to pine for more than anything? Centrism! Something that will "bridge the partisan gap"!

Thus, Webb -- a sometimes hawkish cultural conservative who sticks up for white folks from the holler (even when, or especially when, they wave the Confederate flag) but who also thinks modern-day Republicans are a bit too much, especially on economics. We had a hint of what might be coming from The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner a couple of days ago:
The wild card at the Democratic debate could be the guy no one’s talking about

... Webb falls both to the left and right of former first lady, senator and secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. Like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), he was an early opponent of the war in Iraq. Long before Black Lives Matter protesters demanded attention from the Democratic candidates, Webb was working on criminal justice reform in the Senate.

Yet Webb holds conservative leanings as well. He opposes President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. After a white supremacist massacred nine black churchgoers in South Carolina, he called the symbolism of the Confederate flag “complicated.” He speaks often of low-income white men as ignored and disparaged by the Democratic Party.
Oooh! A Democrat who criticizes other Democrats! And not for being insufficiently progressive! The press eats that kind of thing up.

Wait, there's more:
Like Carson and Fiorina, Webb is not a traditional politician. He left the Senate after one term. He likes to remind voters that he goes in and out of public service.

“He hates politics,” said Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a longtime friend and adviser to Webb. “He’s a Renaissance man.”

In an atmosphere where establishment politicians are despised on both sides of the aisle, Webb’s genuine rebelliousness could be an asset.
See? The press would love to turn Webb into a myth. The problem is that he's a terrible at politics and inevitably falls short of whatever hype he receives.


The simplest response to the debate, of course, would be to say that Bernie Sanders crushed Clinton -- but Sanders won't give the press the catnip it wants (endless attacks on Clinton) and doggedly clings to that icky, not-fabulous progressivism. He could be much further to the right than he is to the left and be treated as a dreamboat by the media (see, e.g., Paul Ryan), but he's just not the Beltway insiders' type.

It must be killing them: They want Hillary taken down, but they want her taken down by someone who loathes her, and Sanders just seems to like his own ideas more than he hates her. They'd love it if Sanders made this personal, the way Ralph Nader did against the equally despised Al Gore in 2000. But he's not coming through.

So sure, the press's chosen winner of tonight's debate could be O'Malley. But I'm going to risk picking Webb.


Sweet Sue said...

Lefties need to ask themselves why, out of all the candidates, the Corporatocracy and its lackeys in the press really want to crush Clinton so that she's fallen and she can't get up.
Maybe those feeling the Bern need to suck it up and support the one that General Electric-for example-doesn't want anywhere near the White House.
Hillary gets things done: good things.

Ten Bears said...

No Sue, lefties need to ask themselves why, out of all the candidates, Wall Street and the Corporatacracy really want Clinton to be President, just as why Wall Street and the Corporatacracy wanted Obama to be President. They threw the elections to Obama running a bunch of Bozos against him, and now they're throwing it running Bozos against Hillary. Why?

Steve M. said...

Those GOP bozos are starting to beat Hillary in the polls.

theHatist said...

"A Democrat who criticizes other Democrats!... A Democrat who criticizes other Democrats! And not for being insufficiently progressive! The press eats that kind of thing up."

Of the many good things you've posted, this is one of the best, I think.

I'm bad at guessing what stupid thinks smart looks like, so I'm always caught flat-footed by what happens in these popularity contests. What you've said makes a lot of sense to me, but maybe it's just what smart thinks stupid is like.

Or maybe I'm just stupid. It'd be impossible to tell...

Belvoir said...

At the Daily Beast:

Democratic Debate Could Be Hillary’s Waterloo
No one will compare health care to slavery, or the Iran deal to the Holocaust. But the lack of fireworks Tuesday night shouldn’t detract from some real drama: a potential Clinton fall.

Halperin is simply the worst, but this is by Ana Marie Cox. So yeah, it's a bit pathetic that so many people clearly want Hillary to do badly tonight, and you're completely correct that they've already written their chosen narrative.

Blackstone said...

Don't have cable or satellite so I am listening courtesy of KFI in Los Angeles. I don't think Hill is doing too bad at all, the Bern is fair. Webb is not doing well, poor Lincoln Chaffee is not going to last too long. Omalley not sure yet. He could get enhanced statture but I think he is running for VP.

CF2K said...

Webb = Stockdale.

Steve M. said...

Yeah, and Stockdale at least had the excuse of seven years in a Vietnamese POW camp and never having been in the public eye before. Webb has neither.

tony in san diego said...

Well, Hillary lost on the Drudge Poll.