“I’m baaack!” With those two words, delivered Arnold-style, Hillary Clinton revealed a lot about what’s wrong with her probable candidacy.
“Hello, Iowa!” she beamed from a stage at the Tom Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola over the weekend. Then, raising her arms, she delivered the Terminator’s catchphrase, showing herself to be tone deaf to the negative perception of her as an indestructible robot, as “inevitable,” the same presumption that hamstringed her campaign in 2008.
Not to mention the annoying factor. “I’m baaack!” is the greeting from people whose return is at best tiresome.
Watch the video:
Maybe Clinton used the phrase to evince a get-back-up-on-your-feet gumption. That’s what it seemed to mean to her many fans, who cheered wildly at her return to Iowa, where she came in third place in the ’08 Democratic primary in a defeat she’s called “excruciating.”
But for the rest of us, quoting a cyborg is yet another sign (like her disingenuous comments about her wealth) that she’d make a poor candidate who can’t help but step on her own feet.
Most of the press didn’t mention this awkward moment. They were abuzz instead with their usual, insufferable will-she-won’t-she game, marveling at how adept she was at teasing them.
“I’ve got a few things on my mind these days,” Hillary told the Iowa crowd, bringing up Chelsea’s pregnancy and adding slyly, “Then, of course, there’s that other thing.”
But voters also have other things on their minds. When NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked some twentysomethings at a Des Moines coffeehouse the rah-rah question—“When you look at Hillary Clinton, what do you see first—a politician, a woman, a president?”—they didn’t respond in kind.
“I think people see kind of the cronyism on Wall Street,” a woman named Carla told Mitchell.
“I’d love to see the first woman president, but it doesn’t matter more to me than my progressive values.”
UPDATE: After a movie-quote geek-out in the comments section below–was Hillary channeling The Terminator or Poltergeist II or maybe even The Shining?–The Colbert Report nailed an absolute doppelganger Monday night. It’s in the first two minutes:
Pop phrases migrate and mutate over time, as they’re used and re-used, and fused. The Schwarzenegger catchphrase “I’ll be back” was born in the first Terminator, in 1984; when “Poltergeist II” came out two years later, there was some sense even then that “They’re baaack!” was conversing not only with the 1982 Poltergeist’s “They’re heeeere!” but with “I’ll be back.” Randy Quaid’s tauntingly defiant “I’m baaack!” in 1996’s Independence Day was likely a child of both by-then classic movie catchphrases. Schwarzenegger’s cyborg clipped it to “I’m back” in Terminator III (2003), and variations of the “[pronoun] [verb] back” formula have been interchangeable in popular usage ever since.
But all this misses the larger point. For years, Hillary has been called, charitably, too studied, or, as Joe Scarborough said Monday, “a robot.” Many people cringed when she reached for “I’m back” even without pegging it to a specific movie. That’s because, whether the reference was to Arnold, a little girl in a ghost movie, or a guy seriously pissed-off at his alien abduction, the phrase suggests horror, revenge, and/or a threat. Jon Stewart picked up on that Tuesday night, showing Hillary’s arm-raised “I’m back!” and finishing the thought for her: “…even though you fucked me over!”