Politico chief political columnist Roger Simon began his November 16 column by asserting, “The (rhymes with rich) is back.” Simon began his column with that phrase just two days after his colleague, Politico chief political writer Mike Allen, responded to a question about referring to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as a “bitch” by saying, “All right. But what Republican voter hasn't thought that? What voter in general hasn't thought that?” Allen made his comment on the November 14 edition of CNN's American Morning while discussing a recent campaign event in Hilton Head, South Carolina, during which a questioner asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “How do we beat the bitch?” -- presumably referring to Clinton. McCain called the question an “excellent” one, later adding, “I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat [sic] Party."
In his column, Simon asserted: “In a Democratic debate here Thursday night, Hillary Clinton was not the passive, parsing, punching bag that she was at the last debate in Philadelphia two weeks ago,” adding, “She gave as good as she got. And those who tried to kick her stubbed their toes.”
Simon's phrase, “The (rhymes with rich) is back,” recalled the song "The Bitch is Back," by Elton John and Bernie Taupin from John's 1974 album, Caribou. In it, John sings, “I'm a bitch, I'm a bitch/ Oh the bitch is back/ Stone cold sober as a matter of fact,” and continues, “I can bitch, I can bitch/ 'Cause I'm better than you/ It's the way that I move, the things that I do.” The phrase also recalled Barbara Bush, wife of former President George H.W. Bush, who, in 1984, called then-Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro “that $4 million -- I can't say it, but it rhymes with 'rich.' ”
Additionally, as Talking Points Memo Media reporter-blogger Greg Sargent noted, a November 16 New York Times article by Katharine Q. Seelye wrote that the McCain campaign “episode may remind voters that many people have strong feelings about Mrs. Clinton and make them question whether they want to live with animosity and polarization.” Seelye also wrote that the episode is “a reminder that many voters view Mrs. Clinton as divisive.” From the article:
Senator John McCain of Arizona has sent out a fund-raising appeal based on an episode this week in which a voter referred to Senator Hillary Clinton using a slur.
In Mr. McCain's case, his fund-raising letter voiced his supposed outrage at CNN after one of its reporters, Rick Sanchez, suggested that he should have admonished the voter after she asked him, “How do we beat the bitch?” referring to Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. McCain's attack on CNN also serves to keep the episode involving the hostile question alive and as a reminder that many voters view Mrs. Clinton as divisive. Mr. McCain used the moment to portray himself as the victim of liberal news media -- a common fund-raising tactic by Republicans -- and to suggest that he can go toe to toe with Mrs. Clinton.
The Clinton campaign has not responded to the slur, which occurred in Hilton Head, S.C., at a McCain campaign event. But Clinton allies have suggested in the past that sexism-based attacks can actually help Mrs. Clinton by inspiring sympathy among women. They may even win over some voters who understand that campaigns are brutal but who appreciate a candidate who can “handle it,” as former President Bill Clinton recently said of his wife.
At the same time, the episode may remind voters that many people have strong feelings about Mrs. Clinton and make them question whether they want to live with animosity and polarization.
From Simon's November 16 column:
The (rhymes with rich) is back.
In a Democratic debate here Thursday night, Hillary Clinton was not the passive, parsing, punching bag that she was at the last debate in Philadelphia two weeks ago.
She gave as good as she got. And those who tried to kick her stubbed their toes.
From John and Taupin's 1974 song “The Bitch is Back”:
I'm a bitch, I'm a bitch
Oh the bitch is back
Stone cold sober as a matter of fact
I can bitch, I can bitch
'Cause I'm better than you
It's the way that I move
The things that I do
From the November 14 edition of CNN's American Morning:
CHETRY: All right, so then on the flip side, let's go over to the GOPs for a second, and maybe being too candid can be the problem in this case. This was a campaign event of John McCain's in South Carolina on Monday. And let's just listen to what happened.
[begin video clip]
FEMALE QUESTIONER: How do we beat the bitch?
McCAIN: May I give the translation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: Leave it alone.
McCAIN: The way that --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2: John, I thought she was talking about my ex-wife.
McCAIN: But that's an excellent question. ... I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat [sic] Party.
[end video clip]
CHETRY: All right, Mike, does that hurt McCain?
ALLEN: Oh, give me a break. Of course not. First of all, I think it's kind of funny. You watch that tape, it's clear to him who she was referring to. He could have said, whoever were you talking about? Which might have been the deftest way to handle it.
CHETRY: But he said that's an excellent question.
ALLEN: All right. But what Republican voter hasn't thought that? What voter in general hasn't thought that? And what people like about McCain is his straight talk, his candor, and if he had folded or buckled under that question, that would have looked ridiculous. There's no question about, as he said, the respect that the two of them have -- this is something actually your viewers would not know -- Senator McCain and Senator Clinton actually do have a genuine friendship in part because of their overseas travels from the Armed Services committee, so they do not attack each other. But Kiran, this was just a funny moment on the campaign trail.
CHETRY: Well, it's only funny unless you're offended by somebody calling a woman the b-word. And I'm sure there are many who are. So it'll -- I mean, yes or no before I let you go: Should Hillary address this or just leave it alone?
ALLEN: This question? I think she should leave it alone because others will address it for her. People who are upset about it will have seen this clip, and Senator McCain will pay that price.
CHETRY: All right, it was great to have you on the show this morning. Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for Politico. Thanks.
ALLEN: Likewise, have a good week Kiran.
CHETRY: You too.