Sunday, March 09, 2008

You Can Trust Us, We're Professionals

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For months, Hillary Clinton's campaign has been hammering on one major theme in its race against Barack Obama: Hillary is "tested." She's "ready to lead on day one."

All in all, they're trying to broadcast an image of steely-eyed competence. But recent events in the campaign have made the Clintonistas look like the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

For example, there was an interesting moment in a recent conference call between reporters and top officials of the Clinton campaign, including her national security director, Lee Feinstein.

You've probably seen the Clinton ads that show children sleeping peacefully in their beds as the announcer says in an ominous tone: "Your children are asleep at 3 a.m. There's a phone ringing in the White House. Who do you want to answer it?" The ad goes on to tout Clinton as "tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world."

So it's only natural to ask, as Slate's Jon Dickerson did, "What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary's career where she's been tested by crisis?"

Considering that this whole experience mantra is the centerpiece of her campaign, you'd think somebody would have been ready for that question. But in the recording of the phone conference, there's this long pause as if someone had just asked the people to conjugate Latin verbs.

Someone finally speaks up, stumbling through a long rambling speech that begins, "Well, I think she's been tested throughout her life" and going on to tell us that Hillary's really, really experienced. There's some mention that she stood up for women's rights in China, which is nice and stuff, but not what you could call a White-House-phone-ringing-at-3-in-the-morning kind of crisis.

Then there's what happened in Texas. This was one of the "firewall states" where Clinton supposedly had to win big. She won, but not big.

The way Texas apportions delegates is as, shall we say, unique as the rest of that state. It's insanely complicated, but what it boils down to is this: Districts that are strongly Democratic like urban areas and the liberal city of Austin get more delegates. There's also a caucus in addition to the primary, but thinking about that just makes my head hurt.

Suffice it to say that Clinton's "win" in Texas could still leave Obama with more delegates. As of this writing, by some counts she had a one-delegate lead in Texas; by others, she was behind, since Obama did better in the caucuses.

But what was really telling about this whole thing is that, according to some reports, this bizarre system took the Clinton campaign by surprise. The Washington Post reported on Feb. 18 that "several top Clinton strategists and fundraisers became alarmed after learning of the state's unusual provisions during a closed-door strategy meeting this month, according to one person who attended."

Considering the importance of winning Texas, this is something like an NFL team being surprised to learn, right before taking the field in a major playoff game, that a first down requires that you advance the ball ten yards. Sure, the Texas system is confusing, but these guys are supposed to be the experts. To quote the movie "This Is Spinal Tap," it's not their job to be as confused as we are.

The real highlight, or maybe lowlight, came in Texas at Hillary's "Texas Sized Town Hall" on March 3. According to The Wall Street Journal, when the members of the press corps who follow the campaign were taken to their press room, they discovered that they'd been placed in the men's room of the nearby community center.

"The tables set up for reporters," The WSJ chortled, "nearly abutted the urinals. That made for a more spirited rush than usual for the best working space, with female reporters quickly staking out chairs on the small room's opposite side."

Now, considering the way the so-called "liberal" media have savaged Clinton throughout this campaign, the staff might have been forgiven for showing the ink-stained wretches exactly what they thought of them.

However, an "abjectly apologetic" Clinton spokesman insisted that misinformation, not payback, was behind the mishap. She insisted she'd been told the area had been described as a "locker room-sized" space. Apparently the concept of actually going down and looking never occurred to anyone.

To be fair, how well-run your campaign is doesn't necessarily reflect how well you'll govern. George W. Bush for example, ran a crackerjack campaign. 'Nuff said. But keep in mind: Senior campaign aides often find themselves in advisory or even Cabinet positions if their boss wins. Let's just hope, if Hillary does actually take this thing, that the staffer who didn't know where the bathrooms are doesn't end up running FEMA.

1 comment:

David Terrenoire said...

"...there's this long pause as if someone had just asked the people to conjugate Latin verbs."

Very nice.