Tuesday, March 25, 2008

'The Audacity of Hopelessness'

David Brooks doesn't get much right, but in today's column he nails Hillary Clinton's chance of winning the nomination, and what her quest is likely to do to the Democratic Party during the months between now and the convention.

Last week, an important Clinton adviser told Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (also of Politico) that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance.

Five percent.

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.

For three more months, Clinton is likely to hurt Obama even more against McCain, without hurting him against herself. And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance.

When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.
Of course, the piece falls apart after that as Brooks indicts Clinton for political disingenuousness as though she is its sole practitioner. She attends staged events! She spouts cliches! She poses for photos! Wow, I guess she really is a monster.

And George W. Bush is a real cowboy.

It is becoming clear, however, that Clinton is losing her campaign to obscure the fact that she has already lost the nomination. This is at least the third prominent essay to highlight that inescapable fact.

(And for what it is worth, the first one wasn't the Politico piece from last week that Brooks refers to. It was this excellent column by Eugene Robinson from more than a month ago.)

Before too long, the party's superdelegates are going to notice which way the wind is blowing, and then it will be time for a frank discussion with HIllary.

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