All is not well at inevitability camp. Exasperated at the manner in which their charge is perceived, Hillary Clinton’s confidantes have decided that it is time for yet another reboot of the campaign. Per Amy Chozick, writing in today’s New York Times, Clinton’s champions hope that by shaking things up, they will be able to “show her humor” and her “heart” — to focus in, that is, on those sides of Hillary’s personality “that are often obscured by the noise and distractions of modern campaigning.” “There will be no more flip jokes about her private email server,” Chozick reports. “There will be no rope lines to wall off crowds.” Moreover, “there will be new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes seems wooden and overly cautious.” From now on then, things will be different: The schedule will call for routine improvisation; the scripts will be crafted to convey ineffability; the audiences will be expected to react viscerally to the latest plan du jour.
If Clinton is to enjoy the fruits of this alteration, there will be little time to lose. In New Hampshire and in Iowa, her rival Bernie Sanders is ascendant, in no small part because he is regarded as an authentic voice. In Washington, D.C., the perpetually extemporaneous Joe Biden is debating his future amid seductive voices that are calling, increasingly loudly, for his entry. On the Republican side of things, meanwhile, Donald Trump is doing his best to re-popularize aleatory free verse. For months now, the Clinton team has heard a faint ticking sound beyond the blue horizon; day in, day out, it has grown ever louder. Should they wish to forestall its progress by installing and debugging the Joy! Module, they had better act fast.
In both her mien and in her efforts to alter it, Mrs. Clinton cannot help but remind one of a famous Douglas Adams character, Praxibetel Ix. One of the stars of the
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
series, Ix is an alien from the planet Betelgeuse who is masquerading on Earth as a human being. Ix’s disguise isn’t too
bad, but, having “skimped a bit on his preparatory research,” he doesn’t quite manage to pull off the ruse without leaving a few tell-tale clues. Attempting to contrive an “everyday” English name, he calls himself Ford Prefect; hoping to convey friendliness, he issues forth smiles that tend to “send hitherto sane men scampering into the trees.” It’s not, you will note, that Ix is obviously
not human; it’s that he is so close to being so that it sets your teeth on edge. As Robotics professor Masahiro Mori noticed in 1970
, “almost-human” is often considerably more alarming than is “noticeably different.” Why are Hillary’s laugh sequences so bone-jarringly awful? Because they’re nearly
The attempt to get Hillary to the 100 percent human mark has been a challenge of extraordinary complexity.
Given that the venture was supposed to begin in earnest in the late 1990s, the answer may well be a resounding “Yes.” At Buzzfeed
earlier this year, Ruby Cramer and Megan Apper attempted to chronicle the ups and downs of what they described as the “20-year Hillary Clinton Humanization project
.” They were helped in their investigation by the release of 4,000 previously sealed documents from the Clinton Presidential Library
— documents which show, among other things, that Hillary’s reputation for humorlessness, penchant for stern censoriousness, and tendency toward a “defensive” “bunker mentality” have been vexing confidantes since the Spice Girls were showing us how it’s done. When running for office for the first time in 1999, Reuters records
, Clinton was instructed repeatedly to be “chatty, intimate, informal,” and, above all, “real.” Four Manhattan Projects later, and she still hasn’t got close to this goal. Time to hope that one of those insurgent OFA kids has been working on a patch.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.