Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mrs. Bill Clinton perpares herself to lose

From The New York Times:

To her longtime friends, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton sounds unusually philosophical on the phone these days. She rarely uses phrases like “when I’m president” anymore. Somber at times, determined at others, she talks to aides and confidants about the importance of focusing on a good day’s work. No drapes are being measured in her mind’s eye, they say.

And Mrs. Clinton has begun thanking some of her major supporters for helping her run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“When this is all over, I’m really looking forward to seeing you,” she told one of those supporters by phone the other day.

Mrs. Clinton has not given up, in her head or her heart, her quest to return to the White House, advisers say. But as resolute as she is, she no longer exudes the supreme confidence that was her trademark before the first defeat, in Iowa in January. And then there were more humbling blows, aides say: replacing her campaign manager on Feb. 10, then losing the Wisconsin primary and her hold on the women’s vote there last Tuesday.

If she is not temperamentally suited to reckon with the possibility of losing quite yet, advisers say, she is also a cold, hard realist about politics — at some point, she is known to say, someone will win and someone will not.

“She has a real military discipline that, now that times are tough, has really kicked into gear,” said Judith Hope, a friend and informal adviser to Mrs. Clinton, and a former chairwoman of the New York State Democratic Party. “When she’s on the road and someone has a negative news story, she says, ‘I don’t want to hear it; I don’t need to hear it.’ I think she wants to protect herself from that and stay focused.

“That said, she knows that there will be an end,” Ms. Hope said. “She is a very smart woman.”

Over take-out meals and late-night drinks, some regrets and recriminations have set in, and top aides have begun to face up to the campaign’s possible end after the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4. Engaging in hindsight, several advisers have now concluded that they were not smart to use former President Bill Clinton as much as they did, that “his presence, aura and legacy caused national fatigue with the Clintons,” in the words of one senior adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity to assess the campaign candidly.

[. . .]

There is a widespread feeling among donors and some advisers, though, that a comeback this time may be improbable. Her advisers said internal polls showed a very tough race to win the Texas primary — a contest that no less than Mr. Clinton has said is a “must win.” And while advisers are drawing some hope from Mrs. Clinton’s indefatigable nature, some are burning out.

Morale is low. After 13 months of dawn-to-dark seven-day weeks, the staff is exhausted. Some have taken to going home early — 9 p.m. — turning off their BlackBerrys, and polishing off bottles of wine, several senior staff members said.

Some advisers have been heard yelling at close friends and colleagues. In a much-reported incident, Mr. Penn and the campaign advertising chief, Mandy Grunwald, had a screaming match over strategy recently that prompted another senior aide, Guy Cecil, to leave the room. “I have work to do — you’re acting like kids,” Mr. Cecil said, according to three people in the room.

Others have taken several days off, despite it being crunch time. Some have grown depressed, be it over Mr. Obama’s momentum, the attacks on the campaign’s management from outside critics or their view that the news media has been much rougher on Mrs. Clinton than on Mr. Obama.

And some of her major fund-raisers have begun playing down their roles, asking reporters to refer to them simply as “donors,” to try to rein in their image as unfailingly loyal to the Clintons.

[. . .]

Mrs. Clinton has, though, increasingly sought to keep her fate in perspective. In her debate in Texas on Thursday with Mr. Obama, she delivered what some viewers saw as a valedictory — but what she said was a simple expression from the heart — when she spoke warmly about the race and her rival.

“I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored,” she said. “And you know, whatever happens, we’re going to be fine.”

She found herself explaining on Friday that the remark was not meant as some sort of farewell. Yet to some friends, she is in fact acting differently; to others, the situation has become simply heartbreaking. When Mr. Clinton said last week that his wife had to win in Texas and Ohio, it was not only the first public admission by a senior member of her circle that her candidacy was on the line, it was also a moment that deepened the feeling of shock felt by some of her supporters.

“A lot of her friends are just feeling, ‘How could this be happening to her?’ ” said James Carville, a friend of the Clintons and a former strategist to Mr. Clinton. “It’s just hard to understand. She is a very sympathetic person. I hope it turns around for her.”

I think old serpent head is going to be disappointed.

The more I see of Mrs. Clinton's behavior the more I am beginning to believe that the Clintons don't really have any kind of "scorched earth" strategy to steal the nomination from Hussein. I mean they are making an effort to keep the super delegates on board, which is entirely within the DNC's rules. And they are even making a sleazy play to get some of the pledged delegates to break their word and abandon Obama and they are trying to get the delegates from Michigan and Florida seated. But it is looking as though they aren't going to be willing to have the convention descend into a 1968-type riot and split the party.

Perhaps they have made some kind of deal. It is within the realm of possibility that Mrs. Clinton could be Obama's VP (unlikely, but possible). It is also a fact that the next president will make two Supreme Court appointments. Can you imagine Hillary on the Supreme Court? Can you imagine Bill and Hillary as the first husband and wife team of Supreme Court justices?

Or maybe Bill gets to be our ambassador to the UN (he can't be Secretary General because no nation with a seat on the Security Counsel can have one of their nationals as Secretary General) while Hillary gets to be the Attorney General (so she can go on fighting for the children).

It could be that Hillary wants to be the next majority leader in the Senate while Bill gets sent to Amsterdam as our ambassador to the Netherlands where pot and prostitution are both legal and the whores lie naked in storefront windows to better attract their customers. That would suit Bill's temperament even better than the red light district of Hot Springs.

The possibilities are nearly endless as to what Hill and Bill might take as their consolation prize for losing the big brass ring.