It’s a little amazing how journalists will swoon over the Clintons’ remarkable ability to survive in politics, failing to recognize that they survive with a huge scoop of assistance from mouth-breathing reporters who love them.
This New York Times headline caught my eye on Twitter on Wednesday: “You Don’t Have to Tell a Clinton Twice.” Jonathan Martin explained that when Gov. Bill Clinton lost his re-election bid in 1980, he told the voters in Arkansas “My daddy never had to whip me twice.” They changed the headline, but it’s preserved in the tweet I saw:
Naturally, I tweeted back: If you never had to whip Bill Clinton twice to fix his behavior, what explains all the shameless adultery, and the sex harassment and rape charges?
Nevertheless, Martin swooned:
An almost otherworldly resilience has characterized the 40-year arc of the Clintons’ political lives, a well-documented pattern of dazzling success, shattering setback and inevitable recovery. But what their admirers call grit and critics deem shamelessness can overshadow another essential element of the Clinton school: a willingness to put on the hair shirt of humility to regain power.
That's energetic spin, since Martin acknowledged Mrs. Clinton made "no explicit mea culpa" that would suggest she had made an error in her last presidential campaign (or an error anywhere else). The headline in the newspaper was "For a Clinton, It’s Not Hard to Be Humble in an Effort to Regain Power."
Martin suggested the New Hillary is more agreeable to the media – so why is she granting no interviews?
Her first campaign was characterized by a contentious relationship with the news media; she recently spoke at a banquet celebrating political journalism and brought on a new cadre of news-media-friendly aides who held olive-branch get-togethers for reporters days before Mrs. Clinton declared her candidacy.
That’s a funny summary. The banquet celebrated the late New York Times reporter Robin Toner, and Mrs. Clinton drew a standing ovation and laughs for suggesting she had to get a new e-mail and new openness to the press. Then she added this rib-tickler: "Before I go any further, if you look under your chairs, you'll find a simple non-disclosure agreement. My attorneys drew it up."
Somehow, Martin connected Hillary's willingness to sail with today's liberal political winds (like her "unapologetic embrace of such modern cultural markers as same-sex marriage, single parenthood and bilingualism") with a demonstration of humility:
She asked what she had done wrong in 2008 and how politics had changed in the years since, and solicited suggestions for the best books on the changes. If this latest reinvention seems forced, that could be beside the point. The line between genuine regret and conveying contrition for the purposes of political rehabilitation may be blurred for the Clintons. But the impulse is unmistakable: Do what it takes to correct flaws, real or perceived.
Martin concluded with another Hillary-boosting flourish:
But her 2008 setback would only prove, once again, the Clinton capacity for self-enforced humility. After putting Mr. Obama’s name in nomination at the convention that year, she agreed to become his secretary of state, traveling 956,733 miles and reinventing herself as a stateswoman in the process.
Now she is seeking a reintroduction in Iowa, the state that so harshly rejected her approach last time — mingling in coffee shops and leaving little doubt that she will not tempt being lashed for making the same mistake twice.