Sometime last week, the narrative of Clinton's candidacy changed from the inevitability of her nomination to, as today's Daily News lede helpfully summarizes, “Where did Hillary Clinton's mojo go?” We dare propose it went right up the widening gyre of the news cycle: At this point, the media continue an enthusiastic pileup — while lamenting that pileup's largely imaginary toll. (“Clinton remains way ahead in national polls,” the News admits in the story's tenth graph, “Though some have shown a slip.”) Not to worry: The next, equally specious, chapter will probably be about how the victimized Hillary is racking up sympathy votes. With any luck, we can go through five or six more of these twists before Iowa, basing each one on a 3 percent shift in a poll with a 4 percent error margin. In the meantime, the latest outrages.
Hillary's campaign has copped to planting a question, a softball about her environmental policy, at the candidate's appearance in Newton, Iowa. After the Bush administration gave us stage-managed “town halls,” Jeff Gannon, and fake TV reporter “Karen Ryan,” one might not think that a single audience plant adds up to a scandal, but just wait: “While planting questions is not the worst sin of a campaign operation,” writes the Times, “the practice could reinforce negative opinions about Mrs. Clinton” — that she and her campaign are “manipulative and scheming.” In other words: It's no big deal unless it's Hillary doing it, in which case it's an enormous deal. It's rare to see the mechanism of a double standard spelled out in such literal fashion.
But hey, forget about that: Hillary's a bad tipper! A waitress at something called Maid-Rite in Toledo, Iowa, told an NPR reporter she didn't get a tip after serving the candidate a “loose-meat sandwich.” The meaty tidbit, pulled from a larger story on a different topic, became an instant Web meme and put the campaign into the idiotic position of having to explain that they did too leave a tip — $100 on a $150 check, in fact. (A staffer ran around the joint distributing twenties.)
With Hillary's recent luck, we wouldn't be surprised if that defense triggered even more indignation: fund misuse? Vote-buying? Thankfully, the supposedly slighted-then-overrewarded waitress, Anita Esterday, turned out to be the only sane person in the country. “You people are really nuts,” she told the Times. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”
Hmm. Esterday/Clinton '08? —Michael Idov