2024-06-18 11:09 PM

Maureen Dowd: To Catch a Theif

WASHINGTON — Lenny and Squiggy were nowhere in sight.

But Hillary was doing her best to come across as a "Laverne & Shirley" factory girl as she headed away from not-a-chance Wisconsin and on to gotta-have Ohio.

She was drinking red wine and talking up the virtues of imported Blue Moon beer with a slice of citrus on her plane and putting up an ad in Ohio about how she works the night shift, too, just like the waitresses, hairdressers, hospital workers and other blue-collar constituents that she's hoping to attract.

And she doesn't mean that being married to Bill Clinton is what keeps her up all hours. She's talking about burning the midnight oil in her Senate office.

 At any minute, she might break out into the "schlemiel, schlemazel" "Laverne & Shirley" theme:

"Give us any chance, we'll take it.

Give us any rule, we'll break it.

We're gonna make our dreams come true.

Doin' it our way."

Doin' it her way, Hillary huffed to reporters on her plane: "If your whole candidacy is about words, they should be your own words."

I guess that means if your whole candidacy is anti-words, you don't have to use your own words.

The Clintons are known political cat burglars. They pilfered Republican jewels in the '90s, and Hillary has purloined as much as she can stuff in her pantsuit from her husband and Barack Obama.

She changed to Change. She co-opted "It's time to turn the page" and "Fired up and ready to go." She couldn't wait to shoplift the words "yes" and "can" from Obama's trademark "Yes, we can!" — (which he appropriated from Cesar Chavez) — even though she was cagey enough to put them in separate slogans, "Yes, we will!" and "Americans still have that can-do spirit."

Bill, master thief, got in on the act, too. After Obama said that his election would tell the world that America is back, Bill said that Hillary's election would tell the world that America is back.

Although the only solid voting bloc in Wisconsin that Hillary seemed to get was women over 60 years old, she did seem happy that the press had "finally," as she put it, scrutinized him. America's pretty boy is getting muddied up.

The Clinton camp has spent days trying to undermine Obama's chief asset, the elegant language that has sparked a generational boom.

"We're seeing a pattern here," Hillary enforcer Howard Wolfson said, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. Yeah, we are. She's losing, and looking for anything to bruise Obama.

Obama swiped a couple distinctive riffs about words and aspirations — his supposed specialty — from his pal Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, thereby violating the new cardinal rule not only of politics but of life: Don't do anything you don't want to see on the top favorites of YouTube.

He had credited Patrick in the past, and Patrick had channeled Obama when he ran for governor in '06, so basically they're like two roommates sharing clothes. Or two politicians sharing a strategist. Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, worked for Patrick in the gubernatorial bid.

“You may know that both Deval Patrick and Sen. Obama have the same consultant and adviser," Hillary told reporters, "who is apparently putting words in both of their mouths."

It wasn't campaign shredding, as when Joe Biden absorbed Neil Kinnock's Welsh inflection and life experiences in '88. But it was sloppy. If you're going to be hailed as the messiah and sermonize about offering a "hymn that will heal this nation," you should come up with your own lyrics.

Obama is basing his campaign on his freshness and integrity and honesty, so he shouldn't cut corners, as he seems to have done with crediting Patrick and explaining the extent of his relationship with his sleazy former fundraiser, Tony Rezko.

The attribution problem might be small beer compared with Michelle Obama's comment in Milwaukee on Monday: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change."

It's a discordant note for the stylish, brainy 44-year-old Princeton and Harvard Law School grad. Cindy McCain showed that Republicans would jump right on a line like that, and twist it into something that sounded extremist and unpatriotic.

Michelle made another of these aggrieved pronouncements at a rally in Los Angeles before the California primary: "Things have gotten progressively worse, throughout my lifetime, through Democratic and Republican administrations, it hasn't gotten better for regular folks."

Given the way the Clintons unfairly turn the tables, we're only moments away from Hillary asking Obama: "Can't you control your spouse?" …


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