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11:15 AM

Attack of the Day 

Spencer's Mating Rituals Stuck in Seventh Grade

Hands, touching hands, reaching outPhotograph by James Estrin/AP

Does John Spencer have the campaign war chest left to afford airline drink prices? Maybe he's already cashed in his hopes and decided to let the sauce see him through these final days on the trial. Why else would he discuss Hillary Clinton's appearance with Ben Smith of the Daily News on a flight to last Friday's debate?

"You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," said Spencer of Clinton's younger days. "I don't know why Bill married her." Spencer conceded that Clinton "looks good now," thanks to lots of plastic surgery.

Spencer's pinheaded comments are especially striking considering his fawning treatment of Clinton in their two debates this weekend. In fact, they suggest more is at stake than Spencer is letting on. If you'll recall the mating rituals of junior-high gym class, roughly the apogee of Spencer's intellectual maturation, the male often attempts to court the female through negative assertions about her appearance, clothes sense, smell, etc. Now John Spencer is not an untalented courtier. He has wooed women into wearing the sobriquet Mrs. John Spencer on three different occasions, so you know the guy can throw a little game. Telling Ben Smith "Hillary has cooties" would have tipped his hand too much. He played brilliantly, leading with the harsh stuff ("I don't know why Bill married her") and then throwing in the sweetener ("she looks good now"). Witness, amateur studs, he's got her coming and going.

On Friday night, he played it cool, showing Hillary his command of the issues and staying above petty political jabs to show her he's a gentlemen.

By Sunday morning, Spencer couldn't contain himself. At one point, viewers were shown a recent Time cover with a picture of Hillary Clinton and boxes in which readers could check "love her" or "hate her." Hillary chuckled. Spencer lunged like the jungle lion he is. "I like Hillary Clinton," he said plainly and clearly into his mike. Later he noted that she was younger than he is, making it pretty obvious that his "like" was, in fact, full on "like-like."

This doesn't just explain why Spencer wants more debates; it explains his entire candidacy. He can't win. He wouldn't know what to do if he did. He's underfunded, shunned by his party, and unpopular among prospective voters. But he'll endure all that for a chance to get near the maiden he pines for. You have to admire a guy who'll travel all over the state staging events no one shows up for and espousing ideas most people find terrifying, just to get a few fleeting moments in the same room as the girl he fancies. Of course Spencer wants more debates; they're the only opportunity his hungry heart has of finally being made whole.

Mud in the Face [NYDN]