Hillary in Meltdown


Dana Milbank's report from a Clinton spin session for bigfoot media personalities is the read of the day: The scene resembles less Harold Ickes and Phil Singer explaining what they're up to and more the closing scenes of Terminator 2.

Ickes could suspend reality for only so long. He referred to Clinton's opponent at one point as "Senator Barack," swapped 1992 for 1972 and Michigan for Vermont, and said of the Pennsylvania primary: "Um, what month is it?" Eventually, Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News drew a confession out of Ickes: "I think if we lose in Texas and Ohio, Mrs. Clinton will have to make her decisions as to whether she goes forward or not."

Ickes's return to Earth seemed only to further outrage Singer.

When Amy Chozick of the Wall Street Journal asked about how combative Clinton would be in tonight's debate with Obama, Singer informed her that it was an "absurd" question. "I don't think . . . any of our senior people have the ESP skills that you all ascribe to us," he said.When Time's Jay Newton-Small inquired about the Obama photo on Drudge, Singer used the occasion to complain about the press's failure to examine Obama ties to violent radicals who were part of the Weathermen of the 1960s. "As far as I can tell there was absolutely no follow-up on the part of the Obama traveling press corps," he said.

Even Broder, asking about why Clinton had abandoned the North American Free Trade Agreement, was informed by Singer that "elections are about the future."

Cook, the host, got similar treatment when he asked why Clinton won't release her tax returns yet. "When she's the general-election nominee she'll release the tax returns," Singer said.

The Clintonites have a sensible complaint here: As John Heileman got a Democratic strategist to argue in New York, reporters have been writing the story of the Clintons' downfall and the story of Obama the Redeemer, not tales of two candidates slugging it out.

Citing the Times primary-beat reporters assigned to the candidates, a competitor of theirs observes, "Pat Healy's job is to challenge the Clinton myth and machine. Jeff Zeleny's is to write the epic rise of Barack Obama. That's generally the media's approach—Clinton and Obama are just at different points in their stories."

I'd add that the far right assisted Obama, too, by spooling seven years of stories (and at least five books) about the ruthless Clinton machine, which would mow down anyone who tried to prevent the Restoration. Obviously the Clintons wanted to come back, and obviously they were unusually good at destroying flawed opponents like Bob Dole and Jeanine Pirro (the Fox News personality and New York DA who Hillary made a monkey of in her brief Senate challenge), but the legend this created got out of hand. This is why I don't think the Clinton campaign's current spin about fighting on and on even if they lose Texas or Ohio is credible. People still believe them when they talk tough; donors believe it enough to keep sending in checks and limiting the debt Clinton will have when she quits.