Back in the days when Johnny Carson used to host “The Tonight Show” he occasionally featured a comic who joked that “I do impersonations of people, and I’m often mistaken for one.” Although we’ve long since forgotten the comic, we were reminded of the line by a New York Times report about Hillary Clinton’s most recently revised campaign strategy.
The Times isn’t so impolite as to say that she is going to attempt an impersonation of a actual person, but its headline does hilariously promise “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” According to the lead paragraph the humor will include “no more flip jokes about her private email server,” and the heart will supposedly be demonstrated by “no rope lines to wall off crowds, which added to an impression of aloofness,” as well as “new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes wooden and overly cautious.” If she’s looking for some intentional humor as well she’s welcome to that old line, but we doubt that her aloof and wooden delivery would put it over.
A woman who hasn’t driven a car or microwaved a burrito or figured out how to send an e-mail for the past 25 years is hard-pressed to convince anyone that aw shucks, she’s just a regular gal at heart. One that has ruthlessly dealt with her husband’s serial sexual harassment victims and too-honest White House travel office managers and obscure anti-Islamic videographers and any big-money donors to her family’s foundation, and not nearly so ruthlessly with the likes of Vladimir Putin and the Chinese communists and the mullahs of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood almost everywhere, will find it a particularly hard act to pull off. Clinton was never any good at it, even before all the baggage and the years of pampered living accumulated, and her crack team of public relations experts seem no more suited to the task than they were back when her inevitable candidacy lost to a little-known radical back in ’08.
The little-known radical Clinton currently trails is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose humor and heart are such that he’s a self-described socialist and a plausible advocate of all sorts of Democratic craziness that Clinton’s many corporate boards and big money donors won’t allow her to pursue, so no matter what folksy accent she might try to impersonate Clinton will be hard pressed to match her opponents insane but undeniably authentic appeal. There’s also talk of Vice President Joe Biden getting in the race, who would immediately enjoy the apparent imprimatur of the same Obama administration that is currently pursuing a criminal investigation in the matter of Clinton’s suddenly humorless private email server, and although even his most ardent supporters admit he’s something of a buffoon even his harshest critics concede that he’s a humorous and heartfelt buffoon. No matter what Democrats might decide to enter a suddenly winnable race, Clinton will be at a disadvantage regard humor and heart and the ability to impersonate an actual person.
The problem is such that some polls show Clinton trailing the top Republican contenders, even the ludicrous front-runner Donald Trump. This situation is dire not only for Clinton but for the country at large, which would be faced with a choice that makes Nixon versus McGovern look like a golden age of American politics, but it does suggest a more realistic strategy for Clinton to pursue. Although we have no use for the bombastic braggadocio of Trump we will concede that he’s at least honest enough to eschew all that aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-regular-guy hokum, and that it seems to be working for him. He flashes the bling and dishes the disses with all the sneering disdain of the most hard-core gangsta rapper, and well enough that he’s getting an uncanny-for-a-Republican 25 percent of the black vote, although we suspect his hard-line stance on illegal immigration also has something to do with that, and it suggests that the public isn’t necessarily looking for a regular guy to be president.
The guy who served the last two terms ran on the exoticism of his life story, emphasizing the interracial birth and the hauntingly absent father and the hippie grandmother and the Indonesian madrassa schooling and the typical white people grandparents who sent him through an elite prep school and Ivy League education, with the strange halo effect in all the press photographs and the crowds chanting his name as if he were some of maharaja, so the Democrats are at least as susceptible such nonsense as Republicans. In the past Clinton has brusquely assorted her immunity from criticism, such as that time she scolded a congressional committee looking into those four deaths at an insecure consulate in the anarchic country of Libya by sneering “What difference, at this point, does it make,” and all the Democrats stood and cheered. A bold declaration by Clinton that she’s still immune to criticism, and still entitled by some birthright to her rightful place on the American throne, and too frightening a harridan to be opposed, might well be the winning argument. It’s worked so far, at least among the Democrats who will be nominating the party’s nominee.
In any case, it would be more convincing than her impersonation of a person.
— Bud Norman