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Flap Over Clinton Remark Is Example of Synthetic Shock Syndrome

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Hillary Clinton said the House of Representatives is being run like a plantation. For some reason, her comment is being treated as a big story, linking Republicans to slavery. "The use of the term plantation is foolish and my guess is that she will live to regret this," said human quote machine Larry Sabato, who teaches at the University of Virginia during those rare moments when he is not dreaming up quotes for needy reporters. Well, maybe, Larry. Perhaps it wasn't the ideal comment for a Martin Luther King Day appearance at a black church. But is the word "plantation" politically out of bounds? If so, dozens of Republicans would be hauled into the dock for congratulating Condoleeza Rice and various conservative blacks for "leaving the liberal plantation."

The mini-flap over Hillary is an example of Synthetic Shock Syndrome (SSS). The classic example of this persistent ailment came years ago when Democratic senate candidate Bob Abrams called New York Senator Al D'Amato a fascist. Adroitly applying the core principles of SSS, D'Amato immediately accused Abrams of an anti-Italian smear, since everybody knows that fascism was a gift to the world from Benito Mussolini. Unable to cope with the implausible but fast-moving D'Amato, Abrams suffered some real political damage. Al Sharpton acomplished even more for SSS admirers after an attorney charged that the Rev. Al's demonstrations in Albany were a circus. Sharpton said, "To call something a circus is to imply the participants are animals," thoughtfully adding the comment that black demonstrators should not be referred to as beasts. Advantage Sharpton. Even Bill Clinton provoked a case of SSS once, urging both sides in Northern Ireland's peace talks to "belly up to the bar," which was, of course, quickly denounced as a slur on Irish drinking habits. A spokesman for the Irish embassy in Washington had a deadpan response: Clinton must have been referring to the judicial bar. Yes, and Hillary was referring to a cotton-raising settlement owned and run by blacks. Can we move on?