She generally tries to take the moral high ground, but when she does attempt to be more scrappy, it backfires.
She insists that hers is the honest narrative, but she can’t surmount the fact that she is regarded as part of a corrupt establishment.
People lambaste her for the way she dresses, the way she has her hair styled.
And the animus toward her for simply being a woman is quite staggering.
I’m talking here about Hillary Clinton, but much the same could be said of Marcia Clark, the unfortunate prosecutor of O.J. Simpson in the trial that monopolized America’s attention 20 years ago.
There are of course limits to the parallels between the Democratic nominee and that other scrutinized and debated presence who has so dominated American television screens in recent months. One of them wants to lead the world; the other sought to convict a murderer. And to the extent that the 2016 presidential elections are a black-white thing, it’s Trump who’s playing the race card. But when watching Clinton brought low as the presidential campaign enters its final crucial weeks, hard on the heels of two major O.J. TV fests that dragged the hapless Los Angeles attorney back into the spotlight, some of the echoes are stark — and, for Clinton supporters, doubtless dispiriting.
To be — using the term of the hour — “grossly generalistic,” Clark tried to focus on the evidence: Simpson’s history of spousal abuse, the blood, the gloves, the attempt to flee. But she was up against a defense team that was appealing to the jury’s emotions, to their gut. She knew it, she knew she was in trouble, but she simply wasn’t capable of fighting, much less winning, that kind of battle against that master of melodramatic outrage, Johnnie Cochran.
Clinton, likewise, wants to focus on the issues, to assert her calm and her competence. Trump, all swaggering, Cochran-style bombast, just bats all that away, and derides her as the dishonest face of an unscrupulous establishment — depicting today’s Washington DC as the object of contempt in much the same way as Cochran stained Clark as the ostensible figurehead of a racist, brutal LAPD.
But when Clinton allows herself to be drawn into the fight on Trump’s terms, it’s immediately obvious that she hasn’t got the instincts for it. When I watched her tell Channel 2’s Yonit Levy last Thursday that “you can take Donald Trump’s supporters and put them in two big baskets: there are what I call the deplorables; you know, the racists and the, you know, the haters, and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he’s going to restore an America that no longer exists,” I wondered about how smart a tactic that was, with its clear risk of alienating the undecideds.
When she then quantified those deplorables in a speech the next day, declaring that “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it” it was clear she was trying to out-shock, to out-offend Trump, but without his spokesman-for-the-unhappy-masses flair, without the dismissable buffoonery that enables him to get away with it.
Throughout this campaign, expert voices deemed it impossible that Trump would last long, would win the nomination, would have a prayer come election day. Yet there was no solid basis to such definitive punditry. And once the two nominees had emerged, it was always obvious — or should have been — that a surge in terrorism, or a Hillary health scare, or a host of other unpredictables, could provide Trump with a route to the White House. I wrote here a month ago: “The fact is that if anything tremendously dramatic happens to Clinton (legal troubles, health issues, whoknowswhat), or if anything tremendously dramatic happens to America that is seen to deeply discredit Hillary Clinton’s political approach (with the threat of terrorism, heaven forbid, at the head of the list), Trump would be the last man standing.”
So now we’ve got the health scare. That wobble and lurch next to the van looked awful. Heart-sinking. It may prove terminal for her presidential ambitions.
Her rival — it should not be forgotten even at this, the darkest hour of her campaign — is also eminently capable of self-combusting. But at the very least, the notion of Clinton sailing serenely to the presidency, all poise, unflappability and confidence, a notion that was never really credible, is thoroughly shattered now.
Even before the slump on the sidewalk, Hillary Clinton was looking out of her depth in the no-outrage-too-outrageous currents. Marcia Clark-ily out of her depth. And we all know how that ended.