Hillary: Obama's campaign asked me to attack Palin for being a woman. Obama aide: No, not really.

I realize she has to tiptoe away from O on certain subjects to protect herself for 2016 and I realize that crying “sexism” at every opportunity will be a core part of her campaign, but I’m still surprised to see her casually throw this roundhouse at The One. It’s one thing to criticize him on, say, the appropriate troop levels for Afghanistan, it’s another to suggest he and his team are callous towards the most important constituency in the Democratic coalition. She does more than just suggest it, too: In case anyone watching is too dim to grasp why she included this detail about Palin in her new book, she prefaces her discussion of it by asserting flat-out that Obama’s campaign was sexist at times.

Team O has a fair point in their pushback on this, I think:

A senior Obama campaign official said that the request for Clinton to speak was tailored specifically to Palin’s speech after McCain picked her as his running mate, in which she made a direct pitch for Clinton supporters.

“Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” Palin said at the time.

“We wanted Hillary to go out and say the Republican platform is completely inconsistent with the principles on which I ran,” said the official, adding that it was not supposed to be a broad-based knock on Palin.

Exactly. They weren’t asking Hillary to go out there and unload on Palin randomly. Palin specifically mentioned Hillary in her speech in Dayton after she was named VP. McCain’s team was trying to capitalize on the hard feelings towards Obama among Hillary Democrats by giving them a second chance to make history and elect a woman on a national ticket. (Remember the PUMAs?) All Obama wanted was for Hillary to give Palin the Marshall McLuhan treatment from “Annie Hall” — “you know nothing of my work,” conservatives. And Hillary understands that. The reason she’s crying foul now is all about signaling sisterhood to women voters as she gears up to run.

And that strategy’s smart enough that, I suspect, you won’t hear much grousing about it from the White House apart from the gentle retort quoted above. Go read this WaPo post from the end of last month to see just how huge the gender gap is right now in early polling between Hillary and Chris Christie, one of the GOP’s great moderate hopes. Men favor Christie, but only by three points. Women favor Hillary by … 15. For all the chin-pulling about the many things that could go wrong for Democrats before her coronation in 2016, unless the GOP figures out a way to dent her numbers with women, we’re dead on arrival. Tossing out sexism accusations here, there, and everywhere is a crude but effective way of turning the next election into a referendum on whether it’s time for a woman president. Even if it’s at Obama’s expense.

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