Sunday, September 30, 2007

Like a hyena with dry heaves

From The Independent:

They call it the Clinton cackle. It comes out of the blue, lasts a few seconds and leaves those who witnessed it wondering if they have missed a joke. Hillary Clinton's deployment of the full belly laugh is the latest weapon used by the leading Democratic presidential candidate when she is being pummelled by reporters or rivals.

No, we aren't "wondering if we have missed a joke". We are wondering if we have a ringside seat at a nervous breakdown.

Friends say the cackle is her way of deflecting aggressive questioning. It may also be a sign of nervousness over Iowa, where she is now running second to Barak Obama, according to one weekend poll.

Hillary Clinton still leads comfortably in the national polls over her closest Democratic rivals – Mr Obama and John Edwards. But Iowa is the first bellwether state in the race, where the first major event in the nomination process occurs in early January followed immediately by the New Hampshire primary.

Defeat in Iowa would be a serious blow and may explain why Clinton is using humour to deflect criticism rather than the withering ripostes she is known for.

Mrs Clinton's friends say she has a terrific sense of humour. But her sarcastic tendencies do not go down well with Mid Western voters. So she has turned to laughter. When attacked about her many flip-flops – she voted for war in Iraq but now opposes it and she opposed universal healthcare but now wants it – she now bursts out laughing.

But she isn't using humor to deflect criticism. If that were the case she would say something funny, or at least something she hoped was funny. Her normal use of humor in the face of criticism is to deploy an incredibly hateful form of bitter sarcasm which implies the question, the person asking it and anyone who thinks that it is a relevant point is unutterably stupid and so far beneath her that she has trouble even seeing them.

What Mrs. Clinton is doing is, apropos of nothing, issuing forth with this bizarre deeply unpleasant. . . noise. I hate to call it a cackle because that word brings to mind the laugh which actress Margaret Hamilton gave to the Wicked Witch of the West in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz and Hamilton was able to infuse elements of actual personality into her cackle. The vocalization, I guess is the best word, emitted by Hillary is devoid of any trace of personality, humor and anything else remotely connected to humanity.

Clearly Mrs. Clinton's handlers have impressed upon her the fact that if she goes out in public and does what comes naturally that she will never see the inside of the White House again unless she takes the guided tour. The problem for her is that in doing what is unnatural she is managing to come off like some freakish apparition out of a mescaline nightmare.

2008 is Hillary's one and only chance at the brass ring. Right now she is out front in the national polls, but the only thing keeping here there is the sense among Democrats that she is the candidate best able to win. The instant, the very nanosecond, that something comes along and puts a crack in that illusion the entire thing will shatter.