It Takes a Potemkin Village

Peggy Noonan on Ms. Hillary’s “Potemkin village”:

This thought occurs that Hillary Clinton’s entire campaign is, and always was, a Potemkin village, a giant head fake, a haughty facade hollow at the core. That she is disorganized on the ground in Iowa, taken aback by a challenge to her invincibility, that she doesn’t actually have an A team, that her advisers have always been chosen more for proven loyalty than talent, that her supporters don’t feel deep affection for her. That she’s scrambling chaotically to catch up, with surrogates saying scuzzy things about Barack Obama and drug use, and her following up with apologies that will, as always, keep the story alive. That her guru-pollster, the almost universally disliked Mark Penn, has, according to Newsday, become the focus of charges that he has “mistakenly run Clinton as a de facto incumbent” and that the top officials on the campaign have never had a real understanding of Iowa.

This is true of Mrs. Clinton and her Iowa campaign: They thought it was a queenly procession, not a brawl. Now they’re reduced to spinning the idea that expectations are on Mr. Obama, that he’d better win big or it’s a loss. They’ve been reduced too to worrying about the weather. If there’s a blizzard on caucus day, her supporters, who skew old, may not turn out. The defining picture of the caucuses may be a 78-year-old woman being dragged from her home by young volunteers in a tinted-window SUV.

This is, still, an amazing thing to see. It is a delight of democracy that now and then assumptions are confounded, that all the conventional wisdom of the past year is compressed and about to blow. It takes a Potemkin village.

A thought on the presence of Bill Clinton. He is showing up all over in Iowa and New Hampshire, speaking, shaking hands, drawing crowds. But when he speaks, he has a tendency to speak about himself. It’s all, always, me-me-me in his gigantic bullying neediness. Still, he’s there, and he’s a draw, and the plan was that his presence would boost his wife’s fortunes. The way it was supposed to work, the logic, was this: People miss Bill. They miss the ’90s. They miss the pre-9/11 world. So they’ll love seeing him back in the White House. So they’ll vote for Hillary. Because she’ll bring him. “Two for the price of one.”

It appears not to be working. Might it be that they don’t miss Bill as much as everyone thought? That they don’t actually want Bill back in the White House?

Maybe. But maybe it’s this. Maybe they’d love to have him back in the White House. Maybe they just don’t want him to bring her. Maybe they miss the Cuckoo’s Nest and they’d love having Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy running through the halls. Maybe they just don’t miss Nurse Ratched. Does she have to come?

And on immigration hypocrisy:

It is clear in Iowa that immigration is the great issue that won’t go away. Members of the American elite, including U.S. senators, continue to do damage to the public debate on immigration. They do not view it as a crucial question of America’s continuance. They view it as an onerous issue that might upset their personal plans, an issue dominated by pro-immigration groups and power centers on the one hand, and the pesky American people, with their limited and quasi-racist concerns, on the other.

Because politicians see immigration as just another issue in “the game,” they feel compelled to speak of it not with honest indifference but with hot words and images. With a lack of sympathy. This is in contrast to normal Americans, who do not use hot words, and just want the problem handled and the rule of law returned to the borders.

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