Yesterday, Noah did a good job of ripping apart a Politico analysis that claimed Hillary Clinton was getting newfound respect from Republicans for her campaign strategy. Only in the narrowest sense could Hillary’s rollout be praised, Noah argued. “Clinton is making the most of her unprecedented abundance of resources,” he wrote, “by refusing to make use of them all at once.”
When the launch (finally) occurred on Sunday followed by the Scooby-van road trip across Iowa, my initial instincts were as cynical as Noah’s. As I explain in my column at The Fiscal Times, I’ve changed my mind — and not because Hillary is expertly managing a surfeit of resources. She’s doing exactly what she needs to hide the fact that she hasn’t got any talent for the job ahead of her:
The media has been kept at arms’ length during this time, resulting in one embarrassing display of media desperation when her van came to a halt outside an announced venue. Dozens of reporters went running after the black van as if they were grade-schoolers running after the ice cream truck in summertime.
NBC sent out an e-mail blast announcing EXCLUSIVE: NBC’S KRISTEN WELKER CAUGHT UP WITH HILLARY IN IOWA [bold and caps in the original]. What was NBC’s exclusive? Welker asked Hillary whether she’d changed her strategy from her losing Iowa effort in 2008, and Hillary replied, “I am having a great time, can’t look forward to any more than I am. Thank you.”
That was the exclusive.
The “artificial shortage” media strategy reverses the dynamic, at least for now. Hillary won’t engage, so they can’t ask questions. The campaign can offer an occasional “exclusive,” but under their terms, which gives them plenty of leeway to control the kind of questions Hillary will have to face. The competition on the Republican side forces the three Senators to keep up their media blitz, but for now Hillary faces no such pressure and has lots of leeway to manipulate the media.
The campaign strategy can be summed up in this old adage: It’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. The dust-up over the immigrant status of grandparents over the last 24 hours only proves the point, and demonstrates why “small ball” isn’t just a smart campaign strategy, but Hillary’s only shot at survival.
The big risk is whether the media plays along, or decides to call her bluff. If we keep getting breathless alerts about “exclusives” like the ten-second brush-off Welker got yesterday, we’ll have our answer. And if you think I’m kidding about this “exclusive,” here it is:
If this works, though, it won’t be Hillary’s fault, Liz Mair argues. She’s selling condescension and deception — but who’s buying?
When we have a choice between uncomfortable substance and truth on the one hand, and reality or feel-good talking points and make-believe on the other, we reject the former.
When we have a choice between airbrushed images in magazines or seeing the way people actually look, we want the photoshop.
When we have a choice between meeting people in real life, with all the potential awkwardness that might entail or just sitting around texting and Facebook messaging, more and more, we seem to go for the “virtual.” We don’t want the sacrifices or pain entailed to really achieve; we prefer the comfort of telling ourselves that we are excelling, even when any objective analysis would show that is at best a half-truth. We don’t actually want reality, whether in our entertainment, our jobs, our education, our lives or our politics. We just want something that kind of looks like it.
Hillary Clinton may appear past her political prime: a constructed, fake and self-obsessed persona; a boring, risk-averse, default option for a party out of touch with many of its would-be constituents and lacking in creativity and ambition.
But given the way many Americans lead our lives now, she may also be exactly what we deserve.
Let’s hope we all wake up to actual reality soon.