- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Memo to Democratic superdelegates: While the news media buzzes on about Sen. Barack Obama’s remarks concerning working-class frustrations (which have the merit of truth), the scuffed ball remains likely to land in your court by summer. That’s the pitch Sen. Hillary Clinton is ratcheting up for your elite band if or when you are summoned to nominate the party’s candidate to oppose GOP Sen. John McCain in November.

Sen. Clinton’s strategy is obvious enough. Since it’s still a virtual certainty that she will lose both the popular vote and delegate count to Sen. Obama in the primary contests, her only real chance to gain The Oval Office of which she feels entitled, is to persuade super-delegates that she is the likelier candidate to defeat Sen. McCain - all polls to the contrary. So her ever-helpful husband, former president Bill Clinton is whispering in your ears, Obama is unelectable.

Of all the ironies in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of Democratic primary conflict, this one quickly snakes its way to the top of the chart. As a registered Democrat and a writer who has spent five years investigating the Clintons, I cannot imagine anyone less electable than Sen. Clinton.

First, she brought to her bid the baggage she’ll carry forever of the Clinton administration and its attendant misdeeds. Then she got away with political murder when her senatorial colleagues, led by John Kerry, redacted 120 pages of the 2006 Barrett Report - documents which insiders say contain enough damning evidence to bury her alive. Even now Republicans are dying to waylay her should she turn her campaign around and gain the nomination.

Note: Beyond Rush Limbaugh’s schoolyard Operation Chaos, has anyone ever heard GOP drumbeater Pat Buchanan beat his drums this loudly for any Democratic candidate? The problem is, Sen. Clinton has bungled her campaign as badly as any other presidential hopeful since Michael Dukakis - and he was practically invisible. She has shifted positions weekly and changed faces daily to the point at which bewildered voters hardly know where to find the real Mrs. Clinton. Add to this the ongoing Bosnian sniper-fire fairy tale, with her husband lying in defense of her lies, the looming questions about their nine-figure income and the yet undisclosed funding of the Clinton library. We’re thus left to wonder not whether Sen. Clinton can win a presidential race, but what is she doing on the course in the first place? As actor-producer Larry David put it: I don’t even want her talking to my nephew at three o’clock in the morning. The answer is her celebrity.

Sen. Clinton has come this far because a worshipful public and a compliant press have conceded without question her place among the stars. The mainstream media, of which I was a part of for many years, bears primary responsibility in covering for Sen. Clinton. Why? Let’s go back to the Eighties, when Warner and Disney came to New York City and transformed midtown Manhattan into Hollywood East. Journalism, the profession which once revered justice, soon learned to venerate power or risk losing access and jobs. The rules of reporting became those laid down years ago in Hollywood by Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons: “You may gossip (read: buzz) round the clock - but never lay an investigative glove on the power players.”

The Clintons were the primary beneficiaries of this corrupt new code. Looking back, it’s clear that Bill Clinton would have remained bowed but not bloodied during his White House reign had the tabloids not first exposed his mischief - leaving the establishment media no choice but to follow up. Cut to: the 2008 presidential campaign, wherein the media has deliberately ignored all reports of criminal misconduct in Sen. Clinton’s past. Instead, it buzzes around her lamplight throughout the 24-hour news cycle about matters (see above) which have nothing to do with the core issues or a candidate’s capacity for responsible leadership.

Her free pass once seemed to forecast her inevitable ascendancy. As late as last December the question highlighting every political talk show was: Can Hillary be stopped? As it happened, she could be and was. Enter Sen. Obama who, by his personal magnetism and political message, managed the extraordinary feat of achieving celebrity before his time. Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton, in her exorbitant self-regard, forgot that her celebrity came second-hand. A snarky little sunbeam whose mad grin could freeze a child’s heart at ninety paces, Hillary’s hasn’t a slender ray of Bill’s cornpone charisma.

Moreover, while sullying the campaign process with kitchen sink-slinging even as Sen. Obama has consistently taken the high road, Sen. Clinton has overlooked a home truth: Even an idolatrous nation can still distinguish between the good celebrity and the bad celebrity. By this metric, Sen. Obama rings of Tom Hanks, while Sen. Clinton reeks of Tom Cruise. So, noting that your party’s leadership has spoken out in near unison for Sen. Obama, I ask you super-delegates: Do you really think it politically sane to nominate Tom Cruise to man the doomsday phone at three a.m?

Mark Goodman is a veteran journalist and author of the novel Hurrah for the Next Man Who Dies.


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