Personal story #2 today.
I talked to my mom this evening, who still lives in Pennsylvania, and she told me that the local news stations have been all over Hillary Clinton this week for what is now being widely regarded– even in the most cautious journalistic circles– as a flat-out lie: her tale of running from sniper fire during a 1996 trip to Bosnia. Even Jay Leno joked about it last night, mom told me. And Leno is typically the first sign that a story has hit the mainstream American conscience– and has officially become a problem for a candidate.
Yesterday, the AP’s Ron Fournier explained why the Tuzla Tale may be especially damaging for Clinton:
What makes Clinton’s situation unique– and the Bosnia embellishments so damaging– is the fact that the New York senator has built her candidacy on the illusion of experience. Any attack on her credentials is a potential Achilles heel.
As first lady, she did not attend National Security Council meetings, did not receive the presidential daily briefing on terrorism and other threats and did not have a top level security clearance. Her foreign trips were glorified goodwill tours, a collection of photo opportunities and sightseeing trips.
And this week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll show that while Obama has largely rebounded from the Reverend Wright controversy, Clinton’s approval ratings have bottomed out:
As expected, one of the two major Democratic candidates saw a downturn in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, but it’s not the candidate that you think. Hillary Clinton is sporting the lowest personal ratings of the campaign. Moreover, her 37 percent positive rating is the lowest the NBC/WSJ poll has recorded since March 2001, two months after she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.
Which brings me back to the conversation with my mom. Because a week and a half ago, we could have switched Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s names. A week and a half ago, it was Barack Obama who was taking flak from the local news and getting roasted in late-night monologues. A week and a half ago, a different 30 seconds of video were spreading on YouTube like a virus– Reverend Wright’s greatest hits, as opposed to the 1996 news footage of Hillary and Chelsea calmly strolling an airport runway. But the historic speech Barack Obama delivered last Tuesday on American race relations repaired the leak that was threatening to sink his candidacy.
But there is no speech that can fix Hillary’s Tuzla problem. What can she possibly say? For over a year, she has run almost exclusively on, as Fournier put it, “the illusion of experience.” And now that the illusion is being shattered by both irrefutable news footage and newly-released White House schedules filled with tea parties and ceremonial brunches, what more does she have to offer?
In December, Mitt Romney, in order to connect with skeptical voters, decided to give what was dubbed “the religion speech.” Obama, in a similar situation, gave “the race speech.” Is there such a thing for Hillary as “the resume padding speech”?