So I was watching Jon Stewart on Larry King last night, and he said something that I found kind of bizarre: he basically proposed that Bill Clinton had subconsciously sabotaged his wife's campaign because they have such an obviously dysfunctional relationship. I found this bizarre, but then he said something that got my attention. Probably not an exact quote, but he mimicked Bill, saying "How dare you humiliate my wife -- that's my job!"
Now, I've criticized her campaign because, er, I think it's been worse than Obama's. But I don't want to be either a) the guy who only starts saying nice things about the other candidate after they've won, or b) the guy who only says nice things after they've lost. So let's set a few things straight.
First of all, Hillary Clinton has earned this shot at the White House. That's not the same as me saying she "deserves" the nomination, but if she wins enough delegates to win at the convention, I'll be rooting for her all the way. I laughed at her claim that being first lady counted as job experience for the Oval Office, but there's one thing that I think needs to be very clear: people who think she wouldn't be where she is without her husband have it, I think, exactly wrong. Even before he was elected President, Hillary Clinton had to endure some pretty humiliating things in order to ensure that Bill made it to the White House. A woman who wasn't committed to her husband's success could have torpodoed his campaign at any time. Nobody on Earth has been as lucky to have Hillary Clinton around as Bill has been. And anyone who thinks that Hillary Clinton endured the humiliation of Gennifer Flowers -- remember her? -- because she was planning her Presidential bid with a 16-year time horizon needs to get their heads checked. In short, Bill owes at least as much to Hillary as she owes to him.
But plenty of women have been humiliated, though few as publicly, and they don't get a shot at the White House. So it's worth pointing out that, while she hasn't run the best campaign, nor do I think she's the best candidate, she's still run a pretty good campaign, and she is still in fact a superb candidate. (Her biggest weakness, bizarrely, is her campaign.) None of this would have been predictable from her two previous elections. In 2000, she was a shoe-in after Giuliani dropped out, and in 2006 nobody even bothered to learn the name of her GOP candidate. So the fact that she's done as well as she has is a welcome development. Her campaign is correct when they point out that, outspent and out-staffed, she's still doing very well considering. (I think that Obama's fundraising, both the volume and the type of small donations, speak volumes about both candidates, but that's an issue for another day.) And I think that Sen. Clinton would make an excellent 2nd President Clinton.
It's stylish, at the moment, to bash Clinton's campaign, and I've bashed along with everyone else. But I think it's worth pointing out just how good the Democrats have it this year: Hillary Clinton took as many votes -- losing -- as all the GOP candidates combined yesterday night in Wisconsin. And this was only the latest in a string of states where that is true. If Obama had decided that 2008 wasn't his year, Hillary wouldn't just have won by now, but I think people would be talking about Sen. Clinton in much the same way they're talking about the Obama juggernaut now. Or to shift the emphasis slightly, John McCain won against two non-entities who he should have crushed by now, while Clinton is pulling 45% against one of the best/luckiest campaigns of the decade. If this comes down to getting out the vote, I think Clinton can still win in November.
McCain has this weird aura of electoral strength around him that I've never understood. Yesterday the New York Times has dug up some old stuff about the S&L scandal, plus some sex thing, and given what the Dems will inevitably have to go through that's fine. But I truly don't understand people who think he's going to be tough to beat. This is a guy who couldn't get Republicans to vote for him in 2000, and has barely gotten Republicans to vote for him in 2008. And I'm supposed to believe America is going to flock to his banner? With an even half-competent Democratic opponent, I just don't think it's gonna happen.
But a competent campaign is what it's going to come down to, and this is where Sen. Clinton's weakness has been. And here the fawning ends, because (without dismissing the obvious sexism the Clinton campaign has had to face) Clinton's worst wounds have been self-inflicted. Mark Penn is a moron, and he's the one person who's head hasn't rolled but most deserves to. But even without the self-inflicted wounds, the point remains that Obama has run, I think objectively, a much better campaign. Better organized, better planned, and now better-funded. It all adds up, no surprise, to winning more votes. Which is how you win, right?