The Power of Shamelessness
About ten years ago, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was threatening to engulf the Clinton administration and capsize his presidency, I remember thinking with admiration that Bill Clinton had no shame. How else, I asked myself, could this guy go out every day, in the highest of high-profile positions, and continue to do his job? In his place, I thought at the time, not only wouldn't I be able to go in front of cameras and talk about intervention in the Balkans or instability in the Russian economy or whatever was on the table at that time; I wouldn't have been able to breathe. The embarrassment, and the pain caused to those betrayed, might or might not be survivable.
The Clintons' shamelessness served them well then, in a cause I supported. Now they're displaying the same trait in one I deplore--but it might serve them well again. Sending out Geraldine Ferraro as a sort of Archie Bunker with estrogen might drive away some of their already-meager support among People Like Me and You: the over-educated, upper middle classish, online types who demographically if not temperamentally speaking are already inclined to favor Barack Obama. But will it hurt Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary where the former president now has declared she needs a "big win"? I'm inclined to believe not. Racial resentment is still a powerful motivating force at the polls: just ask whatever's left of Jesse Helms, or his opponent Harvey Gantt. An effort to paint Obama as an affirmative-action candidate could play well in the part of the state that James Carville famously described as "Alabama."
We who oppose this Clinton candidacy and decry the former First Couple as supreme narcissists can wring our hands and threaten to sit out the fall election, though they don't necessarily need us anyway. I do wonder if this sort of soft-racism-by-proxy would hurt Sen. Clinton in November; if African-Americans sit home in large numbers, she'd be sunk. But maybe they wouldn't; part of the Clintons' sick genius is that they frame the world in such a way that we all must be partisans, typically on their behalf. That they resemble nobody so much as the Bushes, who also see the world as two camps With Us or Against Us, doesn't strike me as a coincidence.