IN RE UNITAS—AND CLINTON: In response to popular demand, here’s the anecdote about Johnny Unitas which we mentioned yesterday. Why have candidates sometimes fought to the death? We suggested a basic fact: They’re often very competitive people. Bill Bradley, for example, was a world-class athlete. Often, these people don’t like to lose.
Which brings us back to Johnny U, in the last years of his career.
By now, Unitas was no longer a great NFL quarterback. He wasn’t even especially good—and he’d become a pain in the keister because he refused to accept or admit it. Fans were starting to get annoyed. Finally, a Balitmore sportscaster said:
Stop complaining about this! He gave you all those thrills through the years because he had supreme self-confidence. Have a little appreciation for the traits that got us all here. He won all those games because he's like this. The trait you’re complaining about today is the trait you adored in the past.
While recommending this post by Digby, we’ll offer a similar thought about Hillary Clinton. And about Bill Clinton. And about Robert Kennedy, Gene McCarthy—Hubert Humphrey.
Some people wanted a concession on Tuesday. That’s fine, but historically, people don’t do that. By the way: It would be weird to spend all day Tuesday asking people to vote for you—then to show up at 8:30 PM and say, “I’m out of here—please vote for the other guy.” Whatever you think of Clinton’s speech, it would be somewhat odd to endorse on the night you ran in two primaries, trying to win. Historically, people don’t do that.
(There’s one other point to consider here: For ourselves, we weren’t heart-broken by this campaign’s outcome—but a great many Dem voters were. Historically, pols don’t kick voters to the curb on the night their dream has died. They give them some time to adjust to what happened. But then, this is basic human relations, a subject the life-forms comprising our pundit corps tend to know little about.)
But let’s get back to Johnny Unitas. And to Bill Bradley; and Jerry Brown; and Ted Kennedy and John McCain. And let’s understand the kinds of competitors both the Clintons are.
Hillary Clinton has gotten this far because she doesn’t quit real quickly. By the way: When’s the last time you saw a Big Dem who didn’t quit at the very first chance? The roll-over for the October 02 war resolution vote was the most gruesome example. (“Let get the resolution out of the way so we can talk about health care for a few weeks.”) For our money, Clinton’s refusal to quit in the past few months makes her a remarkable role model. We hope other Dems will recall her approach and learn to roll over less quickly.
But as pundits bellow and wail, saying she hung on too long this week, we’ll suggest you remember the tons of pure horse-sh*t this person has fought through over the years. Typically, she did this while receiving no help at all from the famous front-runners who whined and complained this week.
Hillary Clinton tends not to quit. That’s how she persisted through so much sh*t with so little help from “career liberals.” Just consider three events from 1999 alone:
In June, the cowards and clowns of your “mainstream press corps” invented that ludicrous Cubs-Yankees scandal. They called her every name in the book. But go ahead! Search the work of your favorite “career liberal.” You’ll find him hiding under his desk, too frightened to complain about this—or about the pseudo-lies being invented about Candidate Gore.
In August, they dragged out Gennifer Flowers to inform us about Hillary Clinton’s murders. (And about the fact that she’s the world’s biggest lesbo.) Yes, that’s right—about her murders! Flowers clowned about this for a half-hour on Hardball—then was rewarded with the full hour on Hannity. (Fox re-broadcast the program that weekend.) Go ahead! Search the work of your favorite “career liberal.” Give us the name of even one person who complained about this assault on everything decent people should hold dear.
But anyway, Hillary Clinton, like Gore, was the world’s biggest liar—and she’d committed a long string of murders! And not only that! She had been funny-looking in the 70s! In August, Bill Clinton made a major mistake; he described how he fell in love with his wife when they were students in law school. In response, Brit Hume posted a photo of a young Mrs. Clinton—a photo he plainly found unattractive. For the next several minutes, Hume’s pundit panel on Special Report staged the kind of discussion that was increasingly a stain on the cartel described as a “press corps:”
HUME (8/23/99): The picture he paints of Mrs. Clinton is of a sort of a femme fatale. Now [posting the picture] that’s about what she looked like then.
And one—one can’t help but wonder about this.
Apparently, the photo didn’t evoke Pamela Anderson, so Hume’s all-male panel treated itself to a good solid laugh. After speculating about the Clintons’ marriage, they returned to that decades-old photo:
JUAN WILLIAMS: The problem...is that nobody can believe, one, that she was this beautiful woman in college—anyone who’s seen the pictures. And two, who can believe that she didn’t know that this guy was a skirt-chaser all along?
JEFF BIRNBAUM: Well, I should point out, about the love-in-college part, that love is blind.
But that also—
HUME: Well, he never said she was beautiful. He said she was “compelling looking.” And that she may well have been!
Go ahead! List this week’s nit-picking “career liberal” pundits. And then, spend your weekend searching for anyone who said one word about this.
What happened as the press corps’ war against both Clintons, then Gore, rolled on? Gene Lyons spoke up. Joe Conason spoke. Eric Boehlert arrived on the scene; Robert Parry got mad. But you’ll have to search under many desks to find other major-name pundits. Some played an active role in the warfare (Robinson); some simply kept their lovely traps shut (Dionne). Of course, they’re all full of front-running brilliance this week. This week, they’re founts of Group Wisdom.
Simple story: Both Clintons have fought through astounding misconduct, with almost no help from the “career liberal” firmament. For ourselves, we don’t know why Bill Clinton lost the ability to keep his thoughts about the press to himself. But does anyone really not understand why he loathes the press corps so much? Do we really not understand the press corps’ role in this campaign? Bill Clinton made a giant personal blunder during his time in the White House. But this lunacy had been directed at both Clintons for years by the time that incident broke—by the time the press corps amazed itself by getting a scandal-claim right.
Why didn’t Clinton endorse Tuesday night? We’re not sure, but we’ll take a guess: In part, because—unlike the bulk of “career liberal” players—she doesn’t roll over and die real good. The career kids are whining, nit-picking, eye-rolling. And of course, they all ran off and hid in tall grass during the history-changing wars against both Clintons and Gore.
Final note: Robert Kennedy is being remembered this week. We recommend this piece by his daughter Kerry; she recalls a warm, loving father—and two tree houses, in the same tree. But back in 1968, many High Liberals were criticizing Kennedy as the opportunist in that race. (Then, they proceeded to wring their hands about vile Hubert Humphrey.) In this piece, Harold Meyerson recalls the enmities inside the McCarthy camp against the man we now remember so warmly: “[M]ost of us, despite our unspoken misgivings about McCarthy's staying in the race, were so entrenched in our loyalties and enmities that going over to Kennedy seemed beyond the pale.”
But guess what? McCarthy, Kennedy and Humphrey were all decent people—and none was the sun god returned to earth. That has also been true of the Major Dem hopefuls in this campaign. This week, Meyerson offered his recollection as a way of urging Clinton’s supporters to join with Obama. So typical! It’s just like this cohort to withhold their wisdom until it will service their preference.
But then, these folk have always been like this. Go ahead! Look back and see how hard Meyerson fought during the wars against the Clintons and Gore. Hillary Clinton persisted through that—but Meyerson? The one good thing about making that search is it won’t take you real long.