With Politico announcing that even "average Americans" are consumed with the question of whether Hillary Clinton will be running for president 40 months from now, the Beltway press corps has officially slipped into Hillary Watch mode. It's a mostly lazy and pointless variety of speculation that requires very little work and produces even less insight.
In fact, perhaps the only telling trait that's been highlighted came via longtime Clinton hater Maureen Dowd, who signaled in her New York Times column on Sunday that she's committed to rewriting the history of her 2008 campaign coverage. I assume Dowd won't be alone as pundits scramble in the face of Clinton's rising popularity to whitewash the extraordinary venom they unleashed on her during her last White House run.
When not detailing Hillary's "hot pink jacket" and new hairstyle, Dowd in her weekend column wondered whether voters will see a new and improved candidate in 2012, one without the "foolery" of 2008, as the headline put it.
"Foolery," as in Clinton acting with ambition and wanting to be taken seriously as a national leader. "Foolery," as in Clinton representing an historic female figure on the campaign trail. (Dowd hated that in 2008: "Hillary often aims to use gender to her advantage, or to excuse mistakes.")
A sizable portion of the D.C. punditocracy, led by Dowd, lost its collective mind covering the Clintons five years ago. They were so far gone that the former first lady's coverage at times represented a house of mirrors featuring manufactured smears and controversies. (See here, here and here.)
And oh yeah, the sexism.
But that's not to be acknowledged now, especially as pundits pass their time "analyzing" Clinton's future. See, according to Dowd it's not the press that needs to learn from its monumental mistakes in 2008, it's Clinton.
From the Times Sunday column [emphasis added]:
Did she learn, from her viper's nest and money pit of a campaign in 2008, how to manage an enterprise rather than be swamped by rampant dysfunction? Did she learn, when she wrapped herself in an off-putting and opaque mantle of entitlement in the primary, that she's perfectly capable of charming reporters and voters if she wants to, without the obnoxious undertone of "I'm owed this"?
Shorter Dowd: I was right all along about Clinton in 2008. She was awful and wasn't ready to be president so my (misogynist) coverage was okay.
No surprise here. As the Daily Howler noted after Dowd wrote a hit piece on United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice (i.e. she's too ambitious!), "Dowd has conducted a terror campaign against liberal/Democratic women for the past several decades."
In June 2008, Times public editor Clark Hoyt observed that "Dowd's columns about Clinton's campaign" were "loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband," Hoyt detailed the "relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton."
And that's why that same year blogger Melissa McEwan crowned the columnist the World's Most Obnoxious Feminist Concern Troll.
As one example, Dowd joined right-wing media voices who claimed Clinton had faked a display of emotion during a New Hampshire campaign appearance, just days before that state's pivotal 2008 primary:
When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.
A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the "humanized" Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. "We are at war," he said. "Is this how she'll talk to Kim Jong-il?"
Another reporter joked: "That crying really seemed genuine. I'll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand." He added dryly: "Crying doesn't usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships."
"Nope, no sexism there among the witty banter of the measured, objective professionals at the Gray Lady," wrote McEwan at the time. Indeed, contempt for a female politician is rarely broadcast more openly than that, which made it all the more remarkable to find it in the pages of the New York Times.
Clinton's subsequent New Hampshire primary victory, a win that Dowd and her Clinton-bashing pundit pals never saw coming, gave Dowd more months to wallow in her gender-based contempt for the candidate:
- "Her sunshine-colored jackets hardly disguise the fact that she's pea-green with envy."
- "Certainly, Hillary understands the perils of glitter. The coda of her campaign has been a primal scream against the golden child of Chicago, a clanging and sometimes churlish warning that 'all that glitters is not gold.'"
- "After saying she found her 'voice' in New Hampshire, she has turned into Sybil."
Now, Dowd insists the real question for Hillary is, "When people take a new look at her in the coming years, will they see the past or the future."
The better question is, will Dowd break from the past and finally abandon her Clinton foolery?