New York senator Hillary and former president Bill Clinton, who not too long ago were seen as America’s pre-eminent and prototypical power couple, have recast themselves as a coed Thelma and Louise.
Hill and Bill are on a road trip. Hill and Bill have spunk and energy. Hill and Bill have chips on their shoulders, but so do the legions of blue-collar voters who have been screwed by nearly eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.
It is a tribute to the Clintons’ considerable political skill that a couple who became undeniably rich while so many others became undeniably worse off can enjoy the rousing support of those on the losing end of the Bush equation. That, of course, is because Hill and Bill haven’t screwed the poor, shortchanged the working class, and pandered to the elderly, as Bush and the Republicans have done.
Still, as entertaining — and at times compelling — as the Clintons’ star turn as feisty underdogs out to beat the odds has been, it is wearing thin. The buzz is just not intense enough, the word of mouth not loud enough to catch on with those not predisposed to vote for the senator from New York.
The former president did his wife no favor when he suggested again recently that the Democrats are not likely to win the presidency in November if Hillary is not their nominee. At the moment, some polls may show that. But other polls tell different stories. The fact of the matter is that, after months of bruising political battle, none of the three major candidates still standing looks anything like a sure thing.
The McCain camp is in disarray, thanks to its (for the moment) warm embrace of Bush and the forced expulsion of the corporate influence peddlers who were running its show. Barack Obama’s wonder-boy image has been tarnished not only by his association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but also by the corruption charges faced by his former political patron Tony Rezko. And then there is the inconvenient reality that Hillary’s personal negatives are exceeded by only one other elected official: the loathsome Dubya.
Under kinder, gentler, and less critical circumstances, Bill’s windy warning to his fellow Democrats might pass for understandable hyperbole. Instead, the Clintons sound desperate. Adding to this sense of desperation is Bill’s charge that a media conspiracy is seeking to deny Hillary the nomination. It is true that over the years the press has been tougher on the Clintons than Bush. But, ironically, it was the media that helped maintain Hillary’s carefully cultivated aura of invincibility. Voters, not reporters, shattered Hillary’s dream.
As both Thelma and Louise knew, life is a bitch.
This has been a crazy political year, more unpredictable than anything Hollywood could dream up. The Republicans were supposed to have the self-destructive primary season. Renegade conservative Ron Paul might be able to make some interesting mischief when the GOP convention anoints John McCain this summer. And Libertarian nominee Bob Barr may, in the post–Labor Day final-election stretch, make life hot for him too. But in recent months, the Democrats have had a monopoly on strife and division.