Saturday, January 14, 2006


It has been said by critics of Hillary Rodham Clinton -- both here at TPS and elsewhere -- that her obsession with being all things to all people will be her ultimate undoing. Last week's antics do nothing to undermine that assessment.

The New York Daily News reported on Friday that Clinton was scheduled to appear earlier in the week at a Children's Defense Fund (CDF) luncheon with none other than singer and activist Harry Belafonte, who, in addition to being known for putting calypso on the map, has been known to have choice words for this administration on occasion. Only days before the scheduled appearance with Clinton, during an overseas visit with Venezuelan dictator and all around bad guy Hugo Chavez, Belafonte took the opportunity to say, among other things, that our own President George W. Bush was "the greatest terrorist in the world." The CDF luncheon had Belafonte and Clinton scheduled to be in close proximity the whole time, since the former was to be a presenter and the latter the keynote speaker.

What is a calculating political opportunist to do under such circumstances? Does she embrace Belafonte, who is a legitimate political ally and close to her heart ideologically, and risk the wrath of Americans who think his remarks were beyond outrageous? Or does she rebuke Belafonte publicly, drawing the ire of Mr. Tally-Man and some socialists within her own party but pleasing middle-of-the-road voters?

Hillary's reaction to the debacle speaks volumes about her lack of genuineness: somehow, she figured out that if she kept 15 feet away from Belafonte at all times (a distance guaranteeing that she and Belafonte would not appear in a single photograph together), and totally ignored his presence, she could avoid a public relations firestorm. She swept into the event, gave her speech, and fled the stage before Belafonte could even take to the podium. She also refused to comment upon the earlier event at a subsequent health care-related press conference, even when asked about further idiotic comments made by Belafonte after the CDF luncheon.

Admittedly, I am no fan of Hillary's (and no, I will not be voting for her, for senator or president), but I think that, by playing the willful blindness game at the CDF event, she missed a golden opportunity to rebuke Belafonte and score some points. It was her husband's infamous public spanking of Sister Souljah in 1992 that helped create the perception that he was an independent-minded centrist Democrat. With a couple of subtle lines in her speech, or a stern comment or two at some point after leaving the charity event, she could have quashed any doubt in people's minds that she actually might sympathize with Belafonte's nonsense. Her too-smart-by-half maneuver leaves her vulnerable (fairly, in my opinion) to the implication that she does not quite reject what Belafonte said, so long as it gets her votes.

I have no doubt that any such anti-Belafonte comments would have been any less premeditated, but at least they would have made sense, and also would have been consistent with the image she is trying to present as being tough on terrorism. Now, this anecdote will become one of the thousands cuts her presidential campaign must endure to succeed.

Here's hoping she bleeds out.


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