February 22, 2008
Imiss Hillary Clinton already. Not her creepy laugh, or the way she tried to bring back the pantsuit, or that point-clap-nod thing she does at rallies as if she's Chris Penn learning to dance in "Footloose."
Hillary is fading so fast in the Democratic primary -- losing 11 straight contests -- that I'm suffering from pre-nostalgia. Having her around made me feel comfortable. I need to know the world is full of Hillaries -- detail-obsessed, rule-following grinders. People who will clean up the messes created by people like me, who will do the hard detail work and, most important, who will get really upset whenever the rest of us do anything fun. Basically, copy editors.
I'm going to miss watching Hillary doing everything right, willing herself into perfection. She never slipped and said something dumb during the campaign. She had the perfect, pre-debated healthcare plan. The woman even managed to get better looking as she aged.
Yes, she voted for the war, but that was back when Americans liked going to war. You wanted cookies, and she whipped up an oatmeal chocolate chip recipe. When people said she wasn't funny last spring, she made that spot-on "Sopranos" Web video. This month she even mocked her past outfits for US Weekly's Fashion Police feature. As the mean kids figured out in high school, you can make the smart girl do anything.
Hillary's problem is that she was too good. Americans actually might be religious and hardworking, but those aren't the stories we tell about ourselves. We self-identify as the goofy, slacker underdogs, full of entrepreneurial risk and ingenuity, succeeding on charm and optimism: Bill Murray in "Stripes," Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke," Bill Maher at the Playboy mansion. Which means, of course, that we triumph over the hardworking, earnest people, the kind who stand on the podium expounding on their 35 years of experience and how they're ready to work from day one. The ones who deserve it.
Remember your class valedictorians? Search Facebook to find out what they are doing now. They didn't turn out to be the most successful ones you graduated with. Instead, they're accountants, lawyers, doctors, middle managers, senators from New York. They're the ones who complain about how they don't get what they deserve. Which they don't -- because we figured out long before Reese Witherspoon starred in "Election" that such personalities are far less annoying whiny than self-satisfied.
The night of the Nevada caucuses, I was walking down the hall at the Bellagio hotel when I looked up and saw Hillary and a few bodyguards coming toward me. I introduced myself and asked her if this was the swankiest caucus ever. She laughed and refused to answer and then, suddenly, the surrealness of the moment ended and she was swarmed by cellphone photo takers just like she was supposed to be.
But all day that awful burst of cackle stayed with me. It was a laugh that said, "You idiot, this is important." It was the laugh of everyone who has worked hard to no avail because they are surrounded by people who believe change occurs in a moment of magic instead of slow stages of improvement. It was a laugh that made me want to come up with more stupid questions to ask her. Which is exactly what I'm going to miss.
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