I'm tired of being snarky about Hillary Clinton. I don't like being mean to people, and I think that once she puts her Presidential ambitions behind her and settles into being a Senator (and a liberal one, instead of constantly voting for the war, bankruptcy "reform", and other conservative causes as part of her triangulation for the Presidency), she'll do a great job for New York.
In the meantime, though, her previously inexorable campaign continues to sag, and her appearance tonight on Saturday Night Live -- which explains her mysterious disappearance from the campaign trail earlier today -- is yet another example of judgment that's just half a bubble off of level.
I'm not trying to be a wet blanket. The SNL skit is a fun little piece. Clinton came across as pleasant, lighthearted, likable. It's always endearing when people who are supposed to be above such things have sufficient humor and humility to laugh at themselves, like Richard Nixon did when he deadpanned "Sock it to me!" on Rowan & Martin's "Laugh In." And on a personal level, after eleven straight losses to Obama, it had to be refreshing for her to get back in front of a friendly, home-town NYC audience.
Early in the primary season, a SNL appearance would have been a great tactical move (as Obama's November 2007 SNL appearance was). And after the primary was over, win or lose, it would have been simply fun (as ex-contender Rudy Giuliani's appearance later on tonight's show was). But was it smart doing this right now, with her candidacy on the ropes and the decisive primaries coming up in three days? Eh, not so much. It took her off the campaign trail for over half a day, and reminded everyone how she whined in the last debate about getting disparate treatment from the press (reinforced by a SNL skit making fun of that incident).
It doesn't help, either, that most of the press so far -- including media outlets in upcoming primary-election markets ranging from Cleveland and Dayton, OH to Houston, New Braunfels, and the Rio Grande Valley, TX to Carlisle and Pittsburgh, PA to Casper, WY, as well as NPR and USA Today nationwide -- is emphasizing the negative facts that Clinton's campaign isn't going well and that SNL is "absolutely not" endorsing Clinton. The skit made jokes out of these issues, but those facts were still reinforced.
Bottom line: her SNL detour was the right move at the wrong time, which makes it the wrong move. And poor timing is not the mark of the experienced, savvy campaigner Clinton claims to be.
Was it fun, both for viewers and for her? Sure. Does it demonstrate that HRC actually has a sense of humor, a human side? Absolutely, if we give her the benefit of the doubt and don't assume it was a purely calculated move by Harold Ickes (and we ignore the facts that while she was being oh-so-likable on-air, her campaign was simultaneously distributing negative ads about Obama and continuing to complain about getting negative treatment from the media).
Most imortantly, from her perspective: will appearing on SNL give her a boost with younger voters who currently are flocking to Barack Obama? I'm sure it will -- about as much of a boost as Mike Huckabee got from his SNL appearance just last week and his multiple Colbert Report appearances: specifically, a "bump" from back-bencher all the way up to second place.
The problem is, Hillary's not a back-bencher, she's not angling for a VP slot like Huckabee may be, and she's already in second place, so she doesn't have as much to gain from a good-natured detour like this as someone like Huckabee does. Tonight's bit of good fun was yet another error of judgment on Clinton's part, probably costing her more than it gains, which again underscores that she's not the sophisticated pol she claims to be. Hillary, no matter how hard she pretends otherwise, isn't Bill, and never will be.
But she'll be a great Senator, hopefully for a long time, once the primaries are over and she settles into the realization that being a great Senator from a great state is, after all, a tremendous honor, and more than enough. And, living in New York, it won't take her the best part of a critically important day to go play on Saturday Night Live.
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