Nobody Fears Hillary

Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. Be afraid. Be very afraid, for if you don’t obey the Great and Powerful Oz will turn her wrath on you. Yawn. Hillary Clinton’s favorite girlhood movie was the “Wizard of Oz.” But now, as the primaries clank along,  her subjects are refusing to wear the green-tinted glasses and buy her act. She’s less and less terrifying every day, and fewer of  those closest to her — her Senate colleagues — are intimidated. Despite their best efforts, the Clintons’ powers seem to have gone on the fritz, and those Democrats who know Hillary best have strayed off to follow a new, more congenial character.

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Jr. was the most recent U.S. Senator to endorse Barack Obama for President. But he certainly is not the only one. The list is long: Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) (who avoided a formal endorsement but confessed he had voted for Obama in his state’s primary), Sen. Tim Johnson, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) ,Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Hillary Clinton is not without support. So far she has managed to snag: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). 

Although that might seem like a fairly even split, it likely has stunned the Clintons, who have come to expect undivided loyalty from the Democratic Party. The shock is aggravated by the fact that the Democrat power players are lined up with Obama and the minor-leaguers with Clinton. The Clintons seem dumbfounded that senators whom Hillary worked so hard to cultivate would not all fall into line. Time magazine revealed that the Clintons are shocked, just shocked to see so many desertions from the Clinton juggernaut (which looks more and more like a leaky row boat). Apparently, “She can’t stop from shaking her head in disbelief when longtime friends who are elected officials inform her that they are going to endorse Obama and were chiefly convinced by their children’s enthusiasm for his candidacy.” 

Maybe those she counted as “friends” were only those on whom intimidation worked.  Maybe the Godmother doesn’t have any capos to do her dirty work any more. How can you intimidate when the IRS doesn’t audit your enemies any more?

James Carville, a Clinton loyalist extraordinaire, expressed the mindset of the Clintons when he labeled New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (former Energy Secretary and U.N. Ambassador under Bill Clinton) “Judas” for the temerity to endorse Obama. After catching flak for his over-the-top metaphor, Carville then penned an indignant op-ed in the Washington Post saying he was happy he said what he did. He wrote:

"I was saying what I felt as an individual who — with no encouragement from the Clintons but as someone who is proud to consider himself a friend of theirs — thought that Richardson had done something deeply disloyal. . . Fully aware of this supercharged environment in which the slightest slight is elevated to the most egregious insult, I waded in — okay, dove in — by demonstrating what constitutes a real insult. I believe that loyalty is a cardinal virtue. . . . At the very least, I would have stayed silent. And maybe that’s my problem with what Bill Richardson did. Silence on his part would have spoken loudly enough."

So make no mistake about the message there: the Clinton’s chief pit bull is warning the Democrats who may “owe” the Clintons to, at the very least, hush up.

It should come as no surprise that the Clintons do not inspire loyalty any longer among Democratic office holders and why they are no longer feared. They did not exactly do wonders for the Democratic Party. Many, starting with Al Gore, likely still hold Bill responsible for the loss of the presidency in 2000 and for providing George W. Bush with the chance to run on a promise to restore decency to the White House. That, coupled with loss of the Democrats control of the House and Senate during the Clinton presidency, taught Democrats an important lesson: the Clintons aren’t going to help them hold their seats or stay in the majority.

So what does this foretell for Clinton’s future? First, she has reason to be worried about those superdelegates who will be critical to wrapping up the nomination. Those not already convinced that Clinton is ballot box poison for the Democratic Party may recoil from the bullying tactics of the Clinton surrogates. In the end, like all politicians, they will act in their self-interest (that’s a characteristic the Clintons should identify with) and certainly not out of any sense of devotion to a couple that has shown so little concern for their collective political well-being.

Second, and even more troubling for Clinton, may be the prospect that a loss, a bitter loss at that, would force her back to the Senate to face the turncoats face-to-face. How will it seem sitting next to Leahy who told her to get out of the race? How comfortable will she feel spending time with Kennedy who essentially said that she and her husband are the has-beens of the Democratic Party?

It seems an awful prospect, which in fact may explain why Clinton sees no reason to bug out of the primary race any time soon. That would mean returning to face the colleagues who, in the Clintons’ eyes, turned their backs on the monarchs entitled to return to the throne of power.

Well, with a career option like that, there is every reason to keep clawing her way to a possible nomination, however remote her chances become. And should she lose the nomination? Like Scarlett O’Hara, she would be forced to ask "But what will I do? Where will I go?" Many of her colleagues have already answered: they frankly don’t give a damn.