Senator Clinton's Fearmongering Won The Day

Sen. Clinton this week inaugurated herself into the elite He-Man Fearmongers Club with what was, for me, one of the most shocking moments on the Democratic side of the campaign.
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Senator Clinton didn't win New Hampshire because she cried. Yet here's how the very serious cable news logic (which is on the same deductive level as, say, Pictionary) sussed out Tuesday night: Senator Clinton went all soft-serve on television; women turned out and voted for Senator Clinton; therefore all of the weak, hormonorific dames, who are suckers for a tear-jerker, won the day for the senator.

Even if the crying wasn't a calculated news cycle grabber, narrating the entire victory as some kind of romantic chick-flick represents a misogynistic low point in non-FOX cable news punditry (FOX News punditry is quarantined within its own private phantom zone of hellish awfulness).

It's a low point for punditry -- not specifically in the context of Senator Clinton herself, but much more so in terms of the women of New Hampshire -- all of them -- who were unfairly painted as easily-manipulated hooples. (I'll get into the equally creepy "every black voter in South Carolina is waiting to see how white people vote" concept some other time.)

But let's rewind here. The presidential campaign coverage has been whipping the enthusiasm out of us for more than a year now. In that interminable length of time, Senator Clinton has been widely pegged as the frontrunner.

Being a shamelessly overzealous supporter of Senator Obama, even I will concede that there's no damn way anyone, however superhuman, could realistically reverse that trend in the span of what amounted to a long weekend between Iowa and New Hampshire.

Remember that Senator Obama remained in second place in the New Hampshire polls as recently as Sunday. Zogby, for instance, didn't really show Senator Obama in the lead until Monday -- a matter of hours before Dixville Notch. Couple that with an extraordinarily popular ex-president on the ground in New Hampshire attacking Senator Obama for that entire time, and you have to wonder how in the world Senator Obama came within a miraculous 2 percentage points (and a tie in terms of delegates) on Tuesday.

But wait. There's one other catalyst in Senator Clinton's victory which I believe carried more weight than is being discussed. It definitely carried more weight than the "crying."

When I wrote my endorsement of Senator Obama last month, I noted Senator Clinton's penchant for being a little too Cheney-ish to receive my primary season support. This week, she proved me accurate when she made with the Cheney-ish fearmongering just in time to scare the White-Mountain-sized-cockadoody out of New Hampshire voters.

"I don't think it was by accident that al-Qaeda decided to test the new prime minister. They watch our elections as closely as we do, maybe more closely than some of our fellows citizens do. Let's not forget you're hiring a president not just to do what a candidate says during the election, you want a president to be there when the chips are down."

In other words, the terrorists will surely attack us if a "less experienced" president is elected. So vote for Senator Obama if you want the evildoers to kill us all.

We've heard this line before:

"If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again -- that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States." -Vice President Dick Cheney, 9/07/04


"Whoever is elected in November faces the prospect of another terrorist attack. The question is whether or not we have the right policies in place to best protect our country. That's what the vice president said." -Cheney spokeswoman Anne Womack "clarifying" the vice president's fearmongering

We know the record. It's not just Cheney. Karl Rove, Rudy Giuliani, and President Bush himself have all engaged in this kind of manipulation -- this kind of political terrorism -- to achieve their political goals -- especially when times and polls are tough.

"Shouting 'fire!' in a movie theater" has been an effective Bush administration strategy for many more years than should have been allowed by law. And when the tide was turning against Senator Clinton this week, she inaugurated herself into the elite He-Man Fearmongers Club with what was, for me, one of the most shocking moments on the Democratic side of the campaign. She even nailed the "it's no accident" Cheney line, i.e. "it's no accident there hasn't been another attack."

In an MSNBC exit poll, New Hampshire voters were asked the usual terrorism question: "How worried are you that there will be another major terrorist attack in the United States?"

73 percent responded "very / somewhat worried."

If the Clinton campaign didn't have similar polling information in hand leading up to the senator's ooga-booga! remarks on Monday, the senator's campaign strategists weren't doing their jobs. I would be shocked if the most poll-driven political campaign in the race didn't have New Hampshire data on terrorism. Nothing is said that isn't polled for effect. That's modern politics, especially within the Clinton Loop. Without the proper intel, she never would have stood up at that Dover rally in front of live television cameras and leaned on the jolly, candy-like panic button: a vote for Senator Obama is a vote for another terrorist attack -- because the evildoers are watching!

And we're somehow expected to believe that Senator Clinton's almost-crying, voice-crackling soundbyte catapulted her to victory on Tuesday? That's rich. As much as I'd like to believe that fearmongering doesn't work anymore, it just isn't possible that the senator's "al-Qaeda is watching" toe-monster moment didn't have a more significant effect on the election results than her misty "this is very personal for me" remarks.

The too-close-to-call results from Tuesday night indicate that this whole fracas is just about to get uglier (quoting Patton: "God help me I love it so!"). And, like it or not, they're going to smack us with the Fear Stick while leaning down hard on the panic button all along the way. Just keep a mental tab of who's doing it and how. Then vote against those candidates. Make them the scaredy-cats. Al-Qaeda might be watching -- but so are we.

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