Ever since this campaign shifted into overdrive, I've been wishing it was like some sort of Time Traveler's Checkerboard. If we could plug some dynamics of this year into 2000, or 2004, imagine how much less glum we'd all be now, as Americans, and how much less grim our circumstances would be
I've watched as Hillary Clinton has fought like a tiger throughout the primary season. She and her staffers have at times been ruthless and heavy-handed. Prominent reporters and commentators have been smacked upside the head for perceived transgressions. MSNBC's David Shuster was yanked off the air for a couple of weeks for daring to say something unseemly in reference to Chelsea Clinton. His on-air colleague, Chris Matthews, was deluged with "how DARE you's" from viewers who perceived him as sexist in general and anti-Hillary in particular. Randi Rhodes was pulled from Air America for daring to say unflattering things about Hillary and supporter Geraldine Ferraro during an off-the-air stand-up comedy routine.
I thought that kind of thing only happened to media people who didn't fall in line and stay in line about George W. Bush.
It makes me wonder what might have happened, back in 2000, if the ferociousness of the Hillary movement had been in play against Junior, instead of the gentile adult Al Gore. He took the high road, and a rather thoughtful, professorial one at that, rather than fighting tooth and nail, and throwing a few sucker punches. Hillary wouldn't have been so kind. She's proven she's willing to mud-wrestle. What if we'd had some of that back then?
And in 2004, would she have allowed herself to be swiftboated the way John Kerry did? Would she have let that stand without an instant smack-back -- and probably a fairly nasty one? Would she have decided "not to dignify those charges with a response," and let the toxins seep all the way in before she had a change of heart? I seriously doubt it.
Let's go back farther. What if the Clinton Offense Juggernaut that we've seen throttle the likes of Shuster, Matthews, and Rhodes for perceived transgressions had gone after Lucianne Goldberg, Ken Starr, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the Clinton-hating Lewinsky-obsessed? What if there had been a cyclone of outrage roaring back at them, outshouting them, sucking the oxygen out of their rooms, putting their jobs in jeopardy, and returning insinuation for insinuation? What if there'd been a campaign of aggressive, relentless counter-strikes, imposing consequences, (more than Newt's resignation from the Speakership), and changing the subject so they were suddenly playing defense?
I've often wished I could lift the blood-thirsty, hit-'em-below-the-belt Clinton machine from this year and drop it in one of those earlier years. We needed her style of guts and gumption then, back when too many Democrats and liberals were muted, or cowed, or joined the pile-on against Bill Clinton. Anyone anywhere could say ratty things about him, and her, and even Chelsea -- with impunity. You had to scrounge for the Lanny Davises and a rag-tag band of lesser lights to find anybody willing to stick up for them in public against the pack of talking-head jackals.
What if there had, indeed, been consequences for that? What if there'd been a backlash, a push-back, by the Clintons, where there was a price to be paid for striking at them, rather than a bonus to be enjoyed if you ate them for lunch?
What if? How about eight years not lost -- in the pursuit of an economy that benefits those at the bottom as well as those at the top, or an energy policy that doesn't involve overseas bloodshed and bleeding wallets at every visit to the gas pump, or perhaps a head start on heading off the momentum of global warming, or a government that was still based on the Constitution, separation of powers, separation of church and state, and the moral high ground rather than the perversion of all four? Some of the madness we've seen overtaking this country since the Republicans gained the low ground might have been circumvented if we'd had Hillary-style hardball played against them more often.
She's said she'll work her heart out for the Democratic nominee. I hope so, because we need that, especially if Barack Obama becomes the Good Cop at the top. We still need her, and the Bad Cop role is one she obviously relishes.
But, man! What we might have accomplished, and what nightmares might have been avoided, if she'd been firing on all cylinders like this -- during a few campaigns past...