Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dowd, Denmark and Denver

When I wrote about Maureen Dowd's comparison of Obama to Mr. Darcy, I facetiously suggested she'd be turning to Shakespeare next. I was right, though I picked the wrong plays:

Now they’ve made Barry’s convention all about them — their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can’t win! He can’t close the deal! We told you so!

Hillary’s orchestrating a play within the play in Denver. Just as Hamlet used the device to show that his stepfather murdered his father, Hillary will try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior. [...]

Bill continues to howl at the moon — and any reporters in the vicinity — about Obama; he’s starting to make King Lear look like Ryan Seacrest.

The way the Clintons see it, there’s nothing wrong with a couple making plans for their future, is there? That’s the American way and, as their pal Mark Penn pointed out, they have American roots while Obama “is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”

Much as I relish Dowd's delicious takedown of America's Dysfunctional Former First Couple, I can't help but notice that the shredding is coming from a set of hardly-disinterested claws. Though Dowd can sometimes be an equal opportunity scold, I suspect that her particular interest in Obama has contributed mightily to the tone of this piece.

In fact, the two opening paragraphs, where Dowd seems to be chiding Obama for going to the movies and gadding about at silly Hawaiian-themed fundraisers instead of thwarting Hillary's dark designs to make the convention All About Her pretty much give it away; only real trepidation could cause Dowd to criticize Mr. Darcy in public like this.

And her fears may be well placed. Has anyone, anywhere in America ever expected the Clintons to fade quietly into retirement, a set of political has-beens whose former spheres of influence shrink until even the rounds of Sunday talk shows become a distant memory? Has anyone ever really thought they'd age gracefully, content for a cameo here and there in some dry PBS documentary about their Washington years?

Considering that Bill couldn't even let Hillary's campaign be about Hillary, it's not very likely, is it?

But I'm surprised that Dowd thinks the goal of this convention-stealing performance is focused simply on letting Hillary be the nominee in 2012. The Clintons are nothing if not contingency planners, and while I'm sure they're prepared to capitalize on an Obama defeat, making trembling-lip appearances on TV to say that, well, if only the Democrats hadn't been too sexist to choose Their Girl, etc., I'm equally sure that they're angling for at least a cabinet slot in the Obama administration, if not the coveted vice presidency.

In fact, they may already realize that Obama's unlikely to offer the veep slot; no one can take the measure of an arrogant histrionic time-bomb quite like another one can. But I'm betting they see Hillary heading up some Cabinet department or other, and it's possible that their convention speeches will give us a clue as to which.

So, whether something's rotten in the state of Denmark or of Denver remains to be seen; but I suspect that Hillary will emerge from the convention as the media's clear choice to head the Department of Something-Or-Other. Which a few months ago would probably have seemed like an inadequate consolation prize to the Clintons; but their pragmatic streak probably accepts the reality, and their spin machines are already whirring to cast whatever comes of it as a victory for Hillary, and for America.

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