Steve Chapman

Going into the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton implored voters to keep a level head and not get carried away with a passing crush. Unable to match Barack Obama's inspiring oratory, she sniped, "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose." But after winning Tuesday, she was all gooey sentiment: "I felt like we all spoke from our hearts, and I'm so gratified you responded."

Head, heart -- what does it matter, as long as she wins? If it took a show of tears to elicit sympathy from New Hampshirites, Sister Frigidaire (as she was known in her youth) was prepared to engineer a melting thaw. And it worked. The only thing sufficient to summon a wave of emotion, though, was the prospect of losing.

The Clintons often manufacture shows of feeling -- remember when Bill, caught smiling after the death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, feigned tears when he noticed a TV camera? Or when Hillary, after coming in third in Iowa, gave a victory speech sporting an eerily immovable smile? But they're always completely sincere in their self-pity or anger, both of which were on display after the Iowa debacle.

During last weekend's New Hampshire debate, Hillary Clinton fumed that she was not getting credit for all her accomplishments. "I want to make change, but I've already made change!" she exclaimed. "I'm running on 35 years of change."

Meanwhile, her husband scorned Obama's campaign as a "fairy tale," in which his countless horrible flaws were being covered up by the news media, or the vast right-wing conspiracy, or someone else who has resisted the appeal of the Clintons. When they fall short, someone else is always to blame.

Even that moment when her eyes welled up gave way to a flash of her rigid us vs. them mentality. "Some of us are right, and some of us are wrong," she insisted. "Some of us are ready, and some of us are not."

Like the tears, her victory speech suggested that Clinton is resolved to inhabit a new persona, at least as long as she needs to. Instead of her usual power suit, she wore a flowery brocade jacket that oozed femininity. She gushed about her "full heart," and how she had "found my own voice."

Sixty years old, with all that massive experience in the work of transforming the nation, and she's just now finding her voice? More likely, she's just found a new way to disguise her essential self.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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