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Richard (RJ) Eskow Headshot

Hillary Get Your Gun

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Are you a Hillary fan? Then put ZZ Top's "Gun Love"1 on the turntable and let 'er rip. Sen. Clinton is, in that song's words, "running with the wild bunch, makin' like Robert De Niro." And when it comes to this primary race she's decided, in the words of that song, to "play Russian Roulette but she'll load all six."

This isn't a primary race anymore. It's a suicide pact. It's Gun Crazy II, starring Sen. Clinton as the gun-totin' candidate who fought her way up from her hardscrabble origins. There, where the tears and Pabst Blue Ribbon flowed, she learned the skills that later made her leader of the pack at the Wellesley Rod and Gun Club ...

The Democrats have two candidates whose policies are very similar -- and, despite claims to the contrary, are equally well-detailed on their websites. It was inevitable, then, that the race would become about personalities and biographies. With one candidate symbolizing minorities and the future, and the other representing women and the perceived good old days, there was no way things weren't going to get personal and weird -- not just between the candidates, but their supporters too.

All of a sudden Hillary's a born-again redneck, throwing shots back at an Indiana bar and bragging (excuse me, make that braggin') about her gun history. But will it play? Mitt Romney trashed his presidential chances, in part by portraying himself as a "varmint"-huntin' regular guy -- who just happened to be the son of a Senator and car company CEO. Romney claimed his "varmint" of choice was squirrel, however, while Hillary suggested that ducks were her "target of opportunity."

Hillary waxes nostalgic about having hunted once as a little girl. Guess she wants us to know she has the common touch. In fact, her father was a wealthy Republican textile wholesaler who moved to the tony environs of Park Ridge, Illinois, where Hillary lived until leaving for an Ivy League college where she joined the Young Republicans.

Or, as country singer Gretchen Wilson says, "Let me get a big 'hell yeah' from the redneck girls like me."

Hell, yeah.

Sensing opportunity, Sen. Clinton decided to rail against "elitist" Obama. Will it work for her? Yes, no, and maybe. It has definitely hurt Obama, which was her main objective. It gives the Republicans yet another talking point, one she herself observed they've used year after year against Dems: namely, that they're elite and out of touch.

Will this gambit persuade any of those non-Democratic blue collar Americans -- the ones that Obama was so truthfully describing in those much maligned remarks -- that she's one of them? No. Will it backfire, Romney style, and make her look phony? That's a toss-up, although she's already "ducking" (sorry!) embarrassing questions about when she last went to church or fired a gun. That's "not relevant," she says.

Here's the main reason attacks like these alienate the majority of Democrats who are not Hillary supporters: They know Obama's comments about disillusioned white voters were both accurate and well-intentioned. They know that Hillary knows they were accurate and well-intentioned (especially since Bill said virtually the same exact thing when he was running). They don't want a candidate who says whatever they need to say to win -- even if it cheapens the discourse and hurts the party. Statements like these make them feel that, for the Clinton team, the low road is the scenic route. Should Hillary persuade the superdelegates to give her the nod, a large chunk of her base will be alienated and discouraged.

Is Pyrrhus the newest member of her turbulent team?

Actually, this latest attack bears the hot sauce-stained fingerprints of Mark Penn, whose "firing" from the Clinton campaign we have since learned was yet another deception. The "elitist" gambit is one more attempt at victory by division -- a trademark Penn strategy that has cost her dearly. But the Clinton campaign seems optimistic that it, like other leaves from the Rovian playbook, will work out in the end.

And it might. The Clinton campaign could yet ascend to electoral heaven on buffalo wings. That's why she continues to insist she's a plain-speakin' American. But what about that nagging question -- when she last went to church or fired a gun?

"We can answer that some other time," Clinton said at a press conference held in a working class neighborhood here. "This is about what people feel is being said about them. I went to church on Easter. I mean, so?""

Let me get a big 'hell, yeah' ... I mean, "so?"

There's a part of me -- a bad part -- that likes the notion of a president who knows her way around a Remington 870, or is even willing to pretend. (Although the 870's a pump-action shotgun, if I recall correctly, and I think you'd need two hands to fire a repeat shot. I can't remember for sure, since I'm just an elitist -- but I'm sure Hillary knows.)

Some Dems will rankle at the fact that a white candidate raised in wealth and privilege is mocking an African American raised by a single mother as 'elitist.' But the blow has landed. The problem isn't that the primary campaign is going on and on. The problem is that the primary campaign is going on and on while one candidate wages a relentlessly negative campaign, damaging the probable nominee at every opportunity. But those who can be persuaded by that argument already have been. Apparently, at least for the moment, the Democrats want to play out this destructive charade.

Well, alright then: Lock and load. The party's chances might be destroyed in the process, to which the response will no doubt be "so?" Meanwhile, ask any Republican if they like what's happening to the Democratic Party and they're sure to answer:

Hell, yeah.

1(Forget Bob Dylan: That Pulitzer should've gone to ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, if only for rhyming "De Niro" with "pistolero.")

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