03/15/2007 07:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Judging Hillary's Judgment

I heard something on NPR this morning that I'd rather not believe. But I'd better believe it.

I find it hard to listen to Morning Edition these days. It's so full of hints, audible to me as an actress, that the correspondents feel sorry for the Republican contacts they've relied on in six years of career-building at public radio under the watchfulness of private sponsors and GOP loyalists like Ken Tomlinson and friends of the Administration who brook no perceived slights to their ruling Party. The chirpiness of voices reporting even horrific events in Iraq, the syrupy, crocodile-tear voices telling stories of officially-sanctioned, politically-correct suffering (not, for instance, court-martialed military dissenters) and the blithely dismissive voices interviewing guests providing an occasional "other side" to the official story are by now, to me, repugnant.

But, odiousness of perceived audible bias at NPR notwithstanding, the Morning Edition segment on the presidential candidates' forum at the Firefighters Union convention astounded me. Hillary Clinton was featured in a clip in which she cooed, suggestively, "Thank you for last night" to her audience in what was apparently an attempt at rhetorical humor. It was probably another attempt to "soften" her strident tone, as consultants are no doubt coaching her to do. There seemed to be a shocked silence-- the Ann Coulter effect? -- before anyone laughed.

Perhaps it's just another example of NPR anti-Democratic bias that they would publicize this ill-considered moment. But it happened, and must be weighed on its own demerit. When Democrats plead with the party leaders not to saddle voters with Clinton baggage in '08, this is what we mean. Regardless of the contributions either Clinton has made to our country, that the lone woman presidential candidate, a woman who endured a sex scandal that traumatized a nation (rightly or wrongly) would think it funny to play the seductress before an audience judging her presidential aptitude, defies belief. But we'd better believe it before it's too late.

I would help Hillary carry her baggage -- support her in a leadership role -- if she'd stop insisting that role be as president, which means she must pander to war hawks and expect the whole country to forgive and forget a history that cost us two honest elections and a bloody war. Past poor judgment and glimmers of present poor judgment provide fair warning that Democrats can't afford Hillary in '08 no matter how much money she brings to the table. We'd better believe it - before the nomination is bought and the White House lost, again. This time it could cost us our republic.