Hillary Clinton should probably spend a little more time boning up on her husband’s trade record than watching NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
That might have helped her to figure out that no good was going to come from trying to be funny, biting and substantive at the same time.
But, as she did last week with her “change you can Xerox” line about Barack Obama’s borrowing of speech lines, Clinton tried to take a swing at Obama and hit herself in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate.
It was a hit she couldn’t afford to take.
With the criticial Ohio and Texas primaries less than a week away, Clinton needed to get everything right Tuesday night.
Instead, she created one of the more cringe-worthy moments of the 20 Democratic presidential debates in which the pair have participated.
Recalling last Saturday night’s spoof of Obama-friendly media – which saw faux journalists asking an actor playing Obama if he was comfortable and then demanding that an actor playing Clinton answer probing questions – the senator from New York suggested that MSNBC debate moderators Brian Williams and Tim Russert were going easy on the senator from Illinois while giving her a hard time.
“Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don’t mind. I — you know, I’ll be happy to field them,” Clinton said after taking a perfectly legitimate question about the trade policy issues that are so central to the Ohio primary fight that will be decided March 4. “But I do find it curious, and if anybody saw ‘Saturday Night Live,’ you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow. I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I’m happy to answer it.”
Judging by the audience’s reaction, Clinton struck precisely the wrong note.
As with the “change you can Xerox” line, Clinton’s jab was greeted with boos.
On a night when she needed to turn in the best performance of her political career, the former frontrunner instead seemed petulant, even desperate.
Obama, in contrast, was able to suggest that his campaign “doesn’t whine.”
And in so doing he prevailed.
In a debate that failed to reveal fundamental differences between the candidates on the health care and trade issues that tended to dominate the night, he came across better: smoother, less easily ruffled, more in control.