November 13, 2007

Have The Wheels Come Off For Hillary?

For a candidate whom everyone expected to march confidently to her party's nomination, Hillary Clinton has begun stumbling and cannot seem to right herself. First came a disaster of an answer at the last presidential debate, and the breathtaking attack on Tim Russert for having the temerity to question her about an immigration issue in her home state. Next came the revelations of question planting at campaign events. Now Drudge reports that the Clinton campaign warned Wolf Blitzer not to get tough in this week's debate, or else:

CNN's Wolf Blitzer has been warned not to focus Thursday's Dem debate on Hillary. 'This campaign is about issues, not on who we can bring down and destroy,' top Clinton insider explains. 'Blitzer should not go down to the levels of character attack and pull 'a Russert.'' Blitzer is set to moderate debate from Vegas, with questions also being posed by Suzanne Malveaux...

The Clinton team has forgotten the First Rule of Holes: stop digging. No one except the most ardent of the netroots bought the explanation that Tim Russert was a right-wing plant at MS-NBC. If the Clintons expect that anyone will believe them when they hang the same jacket on Blitzer, they're not just mistaken, they're delusional.

Today, CNN also notes that the explanation given for the Grinnell University incident doesn't quite wash, either:

Gallo-Chasanoff, whose story was first reported in the campus newspaper, said what happened was really pretty simple: She says a senior Clinton staffer asked if she'd like to ask the senator a question after an energy speech the Democratic presidential hopeful gave in Newton, Iowa, on November 6.

"I sort of thought about it, and I said 'Yeah, can I ask how her energy plan compares to the other candidates' energy plans?'" Gallo-Chasanoff said Monday night.

"'I don't think that's a good idea," the staffer said, according to Gallo-Chasanoff, "because I don't know how familiar she is with their plans."

He then opened a binder to a page that, according to Gallo-Chasanoff, had about eight questions on it.

"The top one was planned specifically for a college student," she added. " It said 'college student' in brackets and then the question."

It wasn't just an overeager staffer who improvised the planted question out of excess zeal. The student noted at least seven other prepared questions, along with the profile of questioner they wanted with each question. That indicates a lot more preparation and thought than the Clinton response acknowledged. It looks like question-planting has its own process and procedure, indicating a more extensive use of it than first thought.

Gallo-Chasanoff says that she informed the campaign as a courtesy of her interview with the press. The Clinton team responded by urging her to keep silent, or to check with a campaign staffer if she had any more contact with the press. She refused to do so, wondering why the Clintons would have any problem with her speaking the truth about what happened.

A good question, indeed. Why did the Clinton campaign want her to keep quiet? A better question is why the campaign feels the need to exercise such tight control over Hillary Clinton. Is she such a bad candidate on the stump that they have to fake questions and attempt to intimidate and vilify national news reporters in order to keep people from discovering it?

Apparently they think so. And if they think she's that bad, imagine how bad she really is.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty's on the same wavelength, noting that the threat to Blitzer isn't quite as dire as the Clinton team might imagine it.

UPDATE II: Jonah says he doesn't get how asking about an honest-to-goodness issue amounts to a "character attack". What Jonah doesn't understand is that Hillary's answer, and subsequent whining and lashing out, revealed a lot about her character than the campaign desired. We're getting close to a meltdown now.

UPDATE III: Even Chris Bowers of Open Left is "spooked", and he should be. His points about the Armstrong Williams fiasco, fake news programs, and the FEMA press conference are also well taken in this context.

UPDATE IV and BUMP: Welcome, RCP readers! How bad has this scandal become? Even The Nation has joined the chorus of criticism:

But compared to the big issues, does any of this matter?

Yes. This kind of critique, like lots of media criticism, reflects real concerns about our public discourse. As a "process" complaint, sure, it ranks lower than public policy. But how candidates relate to voters -- just like how they deal with the press or disclose information -- affects the electorate's ability to appraise them.

That's fairly light criticism, but remarkable for its source. To their credit, the Left won't play along -- and Hillary's rebuttal that John Edwards is acting like George Bush by dividing Democrats won't do anything to calm the waters.


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» Have The Wheels Come Off For Hillary? from Wise Golden Retriever
From Captain’s Quarters: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer has been warned not to focus Thursday’s Dem debate on Hillary. ‘This campaign is about issues, not on who we can bring down and destroy,’ top Clinton insider explains. ‘Bl... [Read More]

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The “plant” spoke on CNN and insisted a senior Clinton campaign staffer gave her the question to ask and she wonders, as have many of us, how HRC knew to call on her if HRC didn’t know who had the right question: [Read More]