This was Sen. Hillary Clinton’s lucky week. First came the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Chauncey Gardiner.* Then Sen. Larry Craig’s ill-timed toe-tapping put him in the blogsphere’s pillory, leading conservative blogger Michelle Malkin to bestow upon him the title “lying crapweasel,” a distinction she has never accorded to a liberal. So busy were bloggers they barely had time to chew on Clinton’s assertion that a terrorist attack in the United States would help Republicans in 2008 or savor the revelation that a leading Clinton fundraiser has been on the lam for 15 years after pleading no contest to grand theft in California.
“It’s a horrible prospect to ask yourself, ‘What if? What if?’” Clinton said at New Hampshire house party on Aug. 23. “But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world. So I think I’m the best of the Democrats to deal with that, as well.”
On both the right and left, bloggers were quick to pounce. Pejman Yousefzadeh at RedState writes that the comment proves Clinton is gaffe-prone. “It implies that Republicans look forward to terrorist attacks taking place so that they may benefit politically, an appalling and despicable notion that shouldn't even go over well in an exclusively partisan gathering on the other side of the partisan divide.” Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft also sees a gaffe, but of the political kind that makes Clinton less appealing to the liberals she has been courting. “For the first time in quite some time, Hillary sounds like the DLC and Mark Penn.”
Matthew Yglesias at AtlanticMonthly.com disputes Clinton’s assertion that she’s best prepared to deal with the political fallout from a terrorist attack. “The Democrat best positioned to deal with GOP political mobilization in a post-attack environment is going to be the one who isn't reflexively inclined to see failed Republican policies resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Americans as a political advantage for the Republicans.”
For others, Clinton’s statement was a gaffe only as Michael Kinsley once famously defined it: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.” “Look, maybe Hillary Clinton shouldn't have said this. Probably she shouldn't have,” Kevin Drum writes at Political Animal. “But let's not stick our heads in the sand and pretend that she's actually wrong. She's not, and we'd better be prepared to deal with it.” And Ann Althouse goes one step further, finding a shrewd, complex game:
It's not really a question of whether it's calculating or in bad taste to talk about how a terrorist attack might affect the race. It's a question of which candidates see political advantage in asking voters to visualize the election under changed circumstances and which ones would like to soothe us into thinking only in terms of existing conditions. Clinton is prodding us to think about what a good candidate she will be in different situations that may develop over the lengthy campaign season. The others don't want to talk about that because they look worse in these imagined scenarios…. Doesn't this suggest not only that she will be a more capable candidate, but also that she will operate more effectively in foreign affairs if she becomes President? In this view, fretting about taste and calculation seems rather childish. I want a President who can calculate and is not afraid to say tough things at the right time.
No blogger, though, has found a silver lining in the news that Norman Hsu, a leading Clinton donor and fundraiser is a fugitive from a California arrest warrant.
Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters notes that Clinton will donate to charity the $23,000 contributed directly by Hsu, but not the money he raised. “Why not part with all of it? She's been raising at least 1000 times the amount of her divestment in each of the last two quarters. While she will certainly need the money, clearing her name should take a higher priority.” California Yankee at RedState agrees. “Maybe Hillary is consulting with Al Gore, who remains unaware of any controlling legal authority.”
Fortunately for Clinton, a campaign finance kerfuffle is so far no match for a senatorial sex scandal, even if it’s a tempest in a tearoom.
* Correction: The correct name of the U.S. Attorney General is Alberto Gonzales. Chauncey Gardiner is the lead character in the 1979 Hal Ashby movie,