The presidential election of 2008 is not primarily about the problems facing America: the Iraq war, relations with Iran, illegal immigration, and healthcare. It’s all about her, and her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton: her personality, her smile, her laughter, her marriage, her honesty, her courage, her husband, her toughness, her ability. Hillary’s position on issues attracts some attention as does her managerial skill, but Democrats and Republicans, men and women, liberals and conservatives are simply fascinated by her mind, body and especially her chutzpah. Let me count the ways.
1. Hillary dominated the Democratic debates, her opinions and personal style were constantly under analysis, review and attack.
2. The media regards Hillary as a prize for their business. Loving or hating her keeps interest alive in a contest already boring the nation.
3. The attacks upon Hillary make the repetitious and sloppy debates watchable. Will one of the candidates finally act out his hostility and frustration by actually roughing her?
4. The National Journal’s political expert writes, “The Democratic race is a locomotive with Hillary Clinton’s face on it.”
5. A poll of parents of kids 12 years old and younger asked this question: of the presidential candidates, which is the most and least trusted to baby-sit their children? Hillary won both, the best and the worst.
6. For a large section of the electorate, Hillary is too liberal while many Democrats think she is too conservative.
7. The new French President Nicolas Sarkozy, absolutely frenetic in a rushed trip to Washington, DC, the capital of the world, finds the time (15 minutes) to call Hillary, but called no other candidate.
8. National Public Radio reports an incorrect rumor that Hillary failed to leave a tip in an Iowa restaurant. The Clinton campaign rushes another hundred dollars to the waitress (on a $200 group lunch). The rival campaigns race around the country interviewing other waitresses.
9. At Hilton Head, South Carolina, on November 12, at a McCain rally, a woman asked the candidate, “How do we beat the bitch?” McCain smiled and replied “An excellent question.”
So far Hillary appears in command of the competition, maintaining her self-control, knowing the issues, and getting good marks from disinterested observers (is there such a category?) on personality, appearance, demeanor, ability to give impromptu organized answers, defending herself when attacked, attacking when necessary.
This woman is in charge. Who or what will replace her as the object of our tangled emotions once the campaign is over and she becomes the mother (but not the lover) of us all? But for now – it’s all about her.