Battle of the Clinton Campaign Metaphors: 'Scorched Earth' vs 'Tonya Harding Option'

Until recently the most popular metaphor to describe the Hillary Clinton campaign was Scorched Earth. This metaphor implies that Hillary is willing to destroy the entire Democrat party in an effort to win the nomination. However, there is a new metaphor on the block which is a bit more precise in its description: the Tonya Harding Option. This new metaphor was supposedly introduced yesterday by Jake Tapper in his ABC News 'Political Punch' posting, Democratic Party Official: Clinton Pursuing 'The Tonya Harding Option':

l just spoke with a Democratic Party official, who asked for anonymity so as to speak candidly, who said we in the media are all missing the point of this Democratic fight.

The delegate math is difficult for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, the official said. But it's not a question of CAN she achieve it. Of course she can, the official said.

The question is -- what will Clinton have to do in order to achieve it?

What will she have to do to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in order to eke out her improbable victory?

She will have to "break his back," the official said. She will have to destroy Obama, make Obama completely unacceptable.

"Her securing the nomination is certainly possible - but it will require exercising the 'Tonya Harding option.'" the official said. "Is that really what we Democrats want?"

The Tonya Harding Option -- the first time I've heard it put that way.

It implies that Clinton is so set on ensuring that Obama doesn't get the nomination, not only is she willing to take extra-ruthless steps, but in the end neither she nor Obama win the gold.

In case you are unfamiliar with Tonya Harding, she was skater who encouraged her ex-husband and a group of thugs to bash the knee of rival Nancy Kerrigan in January 1994 in an attempt to take her out of the competition at a practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. In this metaphor, Hillary Clinton would be Tonya Harding trying to kneecap Barack Obama in the role of Nancy Kerrigan.

Apparently this new metaphor has gained instant popularity and is now sweeping the Web from the NY Daily News to Yahoo! News to Maureen Dowd. Giving added momentum to the Tonya Harding Option metaphor is its rapid adoption in the blogosphere.

The widespread use of this supposed one-day metaphor caused me to put on my web archaeologist hat in search for the origins of the Tonya Harding Option. After deep research of about 3 minutes I discovered that Jake Tapper and his Democrat official source were not the ones to come up with the use of Tonya Harding in a political metaphor. My web search took me way back to ancient times to a Vibe blog post of March 8:

...After he lost New Hampshire, it was my contention that Obama should go the Tonya Harding route and kneecap former president Clinton for belligerently going around and distorting his record like a drunken frat-boy - he more or less did that, and we haven't seen much of Bubba since South Carolina...

Ironically this first known use of the Tonya Harding metaphor in a political sense was to urge Barack Obama to go the Tonya Harding route by kneecaping Bill Clinton. Jake Tapper's later contribution was to replace "route" with "option" and to turn it around to apply the metaphor to Hillary.

Meanwhile political analysts and pundits will be busy deciding which of these metaphors is the best description of the Hillary campaign. Traditionalists will probably support "Scorched Earth" but those most interested in surgical precision would probably opt for the "Tonya Harding Option."

In the interest of accurate reporting a new metaphor will probably be needed to describe the end game when Hillary will likely lose the nomination. Your humble correspondent recommends the metaphor "Monopoly Game Loser" to describe this possibly Hillary implosion. This metaphor was inspired by the actions of a childhood friend of mine down in Puerto Rico, Monkey Moses. Whenever we kids played Monopoly and it appeared that he was sure to lose, Monkey Moses would angrily shove the entire game board off the table. His attitude was that if he was going to lose, then none of us were going to win. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences with sore Monopoly or other game losers. Sometimes, when Monkey Moses was particularly enraged, he would turn bright red in the face and bite down on the Monopoly board as he proceeded to chew on it while grunting angrily. Hopefully Hillary will react to her loss with a bit more dignity but we should hold the "Monopoly Game Loser" metaphor in ready reserve just in case.

UPDATE: Great minds must think alike. While I was busy preparing this blog, Mark Finkelstein also posted Hillary Down to the 'Tonya Harding Option' just a little bit ahead of me. However, I am leaving this blog posting up since it is more about the background of of this metaphor. Oh, and I just now heard Mika on Morning Joe using the "Tonya Harding Option" metaphor.


2008 Presidential

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