Here's one sign that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential frontrunner. Reporters are tripping over themselves to convince us how likable and human she is -- strong and yet nurturing. It's the same playbook the media used for Al Gore and John Kerry, both just as stiff, robotic and unlikable then as Hillary is now. So they're portraying Hillary not only as strong and invincible, but also as warm as a down comforter and as sweet as Mrs. Butterworth.
The New York Times stands out as a primary transmission belt for the Clinton campaign's effort to melt the ice-queen image. On the July 29 front page, Times political writer Mark Leibovich lavished his awe on personal correspondence Hillary wrote as a Wellesley co-ed to her high school friend John Peavoy at Princeton. The headline was, "In the '60s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters."
Leibovich stressed how missives from this "unformed and vulnerable striver" were a revelation. Young Hillary was "by turns angst-ridden and prosaic, glib and brooding, anguished and ebullient," her letters a "rare unfiltered look" into her head and heart. But how do we know this correspondence is "unfiltered"? The letters are intact, but can we be sure they are the only letters Hillary sent to Peavoy? Did Hillary instruct Peavoy to share some, and not all? We don't know. Peavoy says he hasn't talked to Hillary for years, but the Clinton campaign declined comment when asked. That's its usual way of wiping away fingerprints.
As for "rare," The New York Times takes a while to admit the letters are actually nothing of the sort. As the Clintons always say, this is old news, if ever it was news. In paragraph 21, Leibovich acknowledges that Peavoy shared the letters with author Gail Sheehy, who quoted a number of the same passages in her 1999 biography, "Hillary's Choice." So these "rare" letters have been in the public domain for eight years now.
Included in that pile is the line that perfectly encapsulates Hillary's smug brand of nanny-statism. "Can you be a misanthrope and still love or enjoy some individuals. ... How about a compassionate misanthrope?" If the media loved Hillary less, those telltale words would ring through the campaign like George W. Bush's insulting "compassionate conservative" mantra in 2000.
But most of Leibovich's quotes from the Peavoy letters focused on her uncertainty about her destiny and her inspiring evolution away from her "rigid conservative" father to the (liberated) role of a "liberal antiwar activist." The letters show a young Hillary who "skates earnestly on the surface of life, raising more questions than answers."