Somewhere in a well-appointed private suite in a major American downtown hotel, in late 2003, Bill and Hillary Clinton sat over a Pu Pu Platter and plotted out the drama which is currently unfolding on the great American political stage.
A television buzzed in the background, unwatched. “Hill,” the former President polished off a Spring Roll and paused to lick the duck sauce off his fingers, “I think we’ve figured out how to out spend or out maneuver all of the viable alternatives for the nomination. What worries me is the final phase, what with the primaries and all. Now, we both know, and don’t get me wrong darlin’ but you rub a certain percentage of the electorate the wrong way. Opposition is gonna coalesce. In the end it’s goin’ to come down to you and some guy. One guy.”
“So?” Hillary had on her tough and determined look, which intimidated everyone except Bill, “I’ve been shutting down guys since I locked Hugh and Tony in the closet playing hide and go seek.”
“I know Hun, and in a fair fight my money’s on you, But on top of all the people you rub the wrong way, a lot of Americans worry about going to war with a woman commander in chief. All it would take is one bellicose incident right before the convention, and you versus that guy wouldn’t be a fair fight anymore.”
“So that’s it?!” Hillary was as incredulous as she had been the first time she had let Bill score, “We’re going to give up on my half of the plan we swore ourselves to 30 years ago because a skirmish in some Godforsaken backwater is going to push America into the arms of some GUY?”
“Well, Hill,” Bill was simultaneously wiping up General Gao and scouting out the fortune cookies, “I been thinking about that, and I figure the only way we can weather that final stretch is to make sure that last guy is OUR guy. We get the right individual into that final mano a mano leading up to the convention, and you’re a lock. In the general election the Republicans’ll be luck to get out of town free of tar and feathers.”
“Well, what kind of guy do you think we could get? He’s got to be a credible candidate, but on a short leash. What kind of sucker did you have in mind.” Hillary was leaning forward, her breath coming quicker.
“Well, I been thinking about that.” Bill leaned back and fished a toothpick from an inside pocket. “What would you think about some good-looking guy about a 10 years younger than you, wet bejind the ears, with no experience in national politics or foreign relations. Maybe an African American or a dark-skinned Asian. It’d be great to use a foreigner, but then he couldn’t be President, so maybe someone who grew up outside the US.”
Hillary stopped goggling and started giggling. “Be serious!”
“I am serious. I think we could pull it off. Maybe someone with an Arabic-sounding name, and some Islamic family members. And it would be nice if he had some secret flaw only we knew about that we could use as a fail-safe in case our golem threatens to get out of control. Think you could beat up on a guy like that?”
“Of course, silly. But where are you ever going to find someone that perfect, and more to the point, how are we ever going to convince the electorate to take him seriously.”
Bill unbuttoned his vest and put his feet up on the table, earning a scowl from Hillary. “Oh, you never know….”
For over a year the Dowbrigade has been convinced that Barack Obama is a creature and a creation of the Clintons, manufactured from whole cloth to be a straw candidate, a tar baby for contributions and support, a black hole drawing in energy and attention and eclipsing the other real alternatives to Hillary’s inevitability.
Bill Clinton, for all of his flaws and foibles, needs to be recognized as the preeminent political genius of his generation. Hillary may be smarter, in raw mental horsepower, but Bill has the kind of survival instincts and perfect political pitch that can change history. Bill and Hillary forged some kind of Satanic Pact back even before they got married, which is only now playing out on the trail to the Oval Office.
Around the time of our fictional conversation between Bill and Hillary, Barack’s life suddenly became charmed. He was plucked from obscurity in the Illinois State Senate and invited to address the Democratic National Convention and a national, prime time audience. Out of nowhere, the State party super structure selected him to run for US Senate. Like a bolt from the blue his multi-millionaire primary opponent was rocked by a series of scandals. Then, in the general election, his Republican rival, state attorney general Jack Ryan, was swift-boated by charges of sexual cruelty leveled by his photogenic actress ex-wife.
Suddenly, Barack Obama was in the Senate, and instantly a viable Presidential candidate. Do they really expect us to believe this stuff? If the striking writers came up with a plot line like that, they’d never get their jobs back. And yet everybody in the country except the Dowbrigade seemed to eat it right up!
Get real, people! This is all political theater. Barack belongs to the Clintons, he may have already agreed to accept a cabinet position; he’s young, his time will come. In the meantime, he’s playing his role perfectly. He prevented anyone else from gaining traction, his movie star mug attracted all the attention, press coverage and volunteer energy, not to mention money. When it’s time for him to exit, stage left, we are sure he’ll stage a memorable, tear-stained final scene.
The only real danger in the whole scheme is that all this fake success will go to the boy’s head, that he’ll start to think he’s really doing it on his own, and seek to slip the leash. However, we have enough respect for Bill’s foresight and perspicacity to know he kept a hole card for just such an eventuality, a self-destruct button he can press if his sacrificial stalking horse gets out of control.
So enjoy the show, folks, but don’t get carried away. Barack Obama is a figment of our collect imagination and deep seated need for an alternative we aren’t going to get. He is a spunky sparring partner for our girl Hill, making her sweat and look good, foisting some fake suspense onto a foregone, scripted scenario. He is a Republican wet dream. If the Clintons can pull off this masterpiece of political prestidigitation, they deserve a return trip to the White House.