Sleep deprivation and false memories

Peggy Noonan looks at how Hillary Clinton "misspoke" about her adventures in Bosnia.

I think we've reached a signal point in the campaign. This is the point where, with Hillary Clinton, either you get it or you don't. There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.

That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual).

But either you get it now or you never will. That's the importance of the Bosnia tape.

Many in the press get it, to their dismay, and it makes them uncomfortable, for it sours life to have a person whose character you feel you cannot admire play such a large daily role in your work. But I think it's fair to say of the establishment media at this point that it is well populated by people who feel such a lack of faith in Mrs. Clinton's words and ways that it amounts to an aversion. They are offended by how she and her staff operate. They try hard to be fair. They constantly have to police themselves.


The other day a bookseller told me he'd been reading the opinion pages of the papers and noting the anti-Hillary feeling. Two weeks ago he realized he wasn't for her anymore. It wasn't one incident, just an accumulation of things. His experience tracks this week's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mrs. Clinton's disapproval numbers have risen to the highest level ever in the campaign, her highest in fact in seven years.


What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)

She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she's doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder. So that she ups the ante every day. She helped Ireland achieve peace. She tried to stop Nafta. She's been a leader for 35 years. She landed in Bosnia under siege and bravely dodged bullets. It was as if she'd watched the movie "Wag the Dog," with its fake footage of a terrified refugee woman running frantically from mortar fire, and found it not a cautionary tale about manipulation and politics, but an inspiration.


She had to be telling herself a lot of things that were not true to stay with Bill Clinton all these years and she probably has started to believe some of the things she has been telling herself about her "accomplishments" as first lady. Bill was just much more gifted at creating a political wonderland where deceit was possible.

Her path to the nomination is now through pulling down Obama, whether it is a revelation from the Rezko trial or hate and bigotry of his church. It is the latter that gives her the best chance.

Much of the focus has been on the goofy statements of Rev. Wright and his black liberation theology. Obama has correctly condemned and rejected these statements. What he has not done is what he has been promising in his campaign of hope and change. The members of that congregation have been backing the former ministers hate speech and theology and not only has Obama not been able to change their minds get them to reconcile with the rest of America, he continues to have fellowship with them. It is like Robert Byrd not wanting to offend his old KKK buddies even though he "rejects" their message.

The facts show Obama is just as dishonest as Clinton in this regard, but he is much more effective at getting people distracted by changing the subject. There is no hope that Obama can change his congregation he has been meeting with for 20 years. Only the cynical can think he has a hope of changing Washington.


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