Long ago, in the days when disco ruled the earth, Esquire magazine awarded one of its Dubious Achievement Awards to a most resilient Russian woman. A dozen times she had been declared dead, if I remember it right, and a dozen times doctors brought her back to life. The headline was unforgettable. "Hit her with a stick."
That pretty well sums up the general mood of liberal bloggers in the wake of Sen. Hillary Clinton's March 4 return from death after victories in Ohio and Rhode Island: Just hit her with a stick.
They charge, as Oliver Willis puts it, that "the Clinton campaign has decided that it will lay waste to the Democratic party if she cannot get the nomination." And Exhibit #1 in that indictment is Clinton's March 6 statement that only she and Sen. John McCain "can cross the commander-in-chief threshold."
The statement precipitated an instant hail of adjectives: "repugnant"; "fratricidal in a way that's not excusable... disgraceful"; "inexcusable"; "unforgivably self-destructive"; "appalling, totally beyond the pale... a special kind of stupid." "To produce a clip that the McCain campaign could run unedited every single day of a campaign against Obama?" James Fallows writes at TheAtlantic. "That is something special."
One of the rules of politics, writes former Sen. Gary Hart, who knows them from his own rough experience as a presidential candidate, is not to give the opposing party ammunition to lob at your party's eventual nominee.
"By saying that only she and John McCain are qualified to lead the country, particularly in times of crisis, Hillary Clinton has broken that rule, severely damaged the Democratic candidate who may well be the party's nominee, and, perhaps most ominously, revealed the unlimited lengths to which she will go to achieve power. She has essentially said that the Democratic party deserves to lose unless it nominates her."
In the eyes of many liberal bloggers, Clinton is guilty not just of tearing down Sen. Barack Obama, the frontrunner for the nomination, but of puffing up her own foreign credentials.
"The obvious downside to making this case is the inconvenient fact that she actually doesn't have extensive foreign policy experience," hilzoy writes at Obsidian Wings. "She must, therefore, be gambling that people won't notice this." In a series of posts, hilzoy looks at the record and recent newspaper reports and she finds the record doesn't support Clinton's boasts.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo similarly finds Clinton's claims "a joke." With no executive experience and only seven years in the Senate, "she's pushing a metric by which she's little distinguishable from Barack Obama. I'm honestly surprised she's not drawing chuckles on this one." Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report agrees. "Clinton simply isnt a Joe Biden-like candidate. Why pretend that she is?"
The real dagger thrust comes, though, from that sleeping little blond girl that Clinton vows to protect in her much-discussed (and much parodied) 3 a.m. telephone ad. It turns out the girl has somehow managed to grow up safely even with George Bush answering the telephone and is taking part in her first presidential electionas a precinct captain for Obama.
The optimists in the liberal blogosphere believe that the extended presidential contest is good for the Democratic party. It is "creating vast numbers of new Democrats, improving our general election standing, creating new swing states, turning existing swing states blue, allowing small donors to take over direct funding the Democratic Party in the Presidential election, and swamping Republicans in fundraising," Chris Bowers writes at OpenLeft. "This process is working," TeddySanFran crows at Firedoglake, "and Americans are listening."
And none more happily these days than conservative bloggers. For once, they don't want to hit Hillary with a stick; they want her to keep talking. Scott Johnson at Powerline links to the "inspired" John McCain remix of Hillary's 3 a.m. phone ad. And Mark Kilmer, listening to Clinton praise McCain's readiness, urges her on: "Hillary's yap, when she opens it, can be a fine thing."
Hillary Clinton, the darling of Rush Limbaugh and Redstate.com. Can this year get any more strange?