-- Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Give disease so the swine will marry and propagate lies.
Tough luck for elected officials. The beast you see got fifty eyes.
Bring it on home. Spread the wealth. Play it cool, the hand's been dealt.
Now all the odds are in our favor. Save the victory speeches for later.
-- Clutch, The Mob Goes Wild
At first, inexplicably, I was ready to give Hillary Clinton some benefit of the doubt in her tactless invocation of RFK's assassination. The point seemed clear -- Democratic primaries are sometimes so contentious, they run into June. Of course, none of the previous ones have ever run this long; comparatively, this probably should have been settled back in February, or maybe even late '07. Still, the point seemed innocuous enough, if inaptly phrased.
But the more you think about it, the more you recall that very little that emanates from the Clintons is ever accidental; they perfected the black art of focus-group-driven triangulation, the both of them, always adding a theatrical cherry of rhetorical anguish on top. They loved them some gay folks, until that two-ply bumwipe DOMA got drafted. Bill was all about those rights for the humans when Milosevic got uppity, even though just a couple years prior, he sold the Turks artillery so's they could level a few thousand Kurdish villages, killing far more people than Milosevic actually did. When Srebrenica happens in a day, it's a certifiable atrocity; when it happens over the course of months or years, it hardly gets noticed. Cost of doing business, really.
Obviously it's not hard to find episodes of situational ethics from the Clintons' political history; indeed, moral convenience is the grease of political ascension in every party and every country. The fact is, despite our surface cynicism and misanthropy, we are still loath to ascribe truly morally craven impulses to persons who would aspire to be
But when cast against the antics of the past two primary weeks, Clinton's comment seems especially abysmal, at least in phrasing and timing, if not explicit intent. Look, we can sniff the quals of the Appalachian mossbacks all the doo-dah day, and make our PC pretenses at avoiding the easy stereotyping of inbred hicks hatin' them some nigras. But the fact of the matter is that Clinton carried Kentucky and West Virginia by 2:1 margins, and nowhere to be found was even an anomalous townie willing to stick up for Obama, though the media lives for such cooter-bites-dawg narratives, 'specially come horse-race season. The most notable aspect of the KY and WV primaries was the proportion of Clinton voters asserting their willingness to vote McCain rather than Obama, as if wishing to affirm everyone else's assumption that these idiots would rather fuck a knothole than pay attention.
Bottom line though -- what the hell is wrong with those people, and what the hell is wrong with her? She's not remotely stupid; she knows exactly what she's saying, and what it means to her remaining marketing niche. It's not that complicated. It could have been entirely accidental, and in fact probably was. But it's of a piece with everything else the Clintons have said and implied throughout the primaries, at least once her inevitability was undone.
She has been backed into a corner where literally her last best hope is to cater to a subset of spiteful, withered crackers, people who detested her and her husband a decade ago. Her bumptious technocratic refrains mean less to many of these people than the quadrennial opportunity to once again affirm their baseless assumptions and validate their toxic insecurities, apparently based on whatever chain e-mail has been passed into their Outlook box.
It should be less of a concern that HRC might damage her career or her party -- how many Republican congressmen have to be caught wearing diapers with hookers or trying to molest teenage pages before their edifice crumbles? -- than the fact that once again, instead of disempowering and/or forcefully repudiating the stultifying ignorance these lapel-pin/apostate Muslim goobers exhibit routinely, they are once again catered to as a coveted demographic niche.
This is less about her "mistake" in particular, and more about what her campaign has left to offer at this point. She's hoping to stick around just long enough for the lawyers to intervene and fuck everything up, which is as Bushian as you can get, while she stokes classist and racist resentments, which is as Nixonian as you can get. All that's left for her is the prize itself since, win or lose, her credibility is pretty much shot. Politics is full of animals who will do literally anything to win, but rarely does it seem to come quite so naturally.