She is like the smartest girl in the class who didn’t get into any college. The high-school senior who has always been told she is so smart, and has worked so hard to position herself exactly right — and only applied to the most prestigious schools. No safety options for a girl who is “in it to win it” and is certain she will. Besides, Daddy wanted only the very best for her.
But then she learns, to her horror, that Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Brown and Stanford have all turned her down. No wonder she is in denial; coping with the shock and the shame is hard to take at 17 and even harder at 60. Besides, everyone who always secretly hated “the smartest girl” for her hectoring manner and sense of entitlement is really enjoying her embarrassment. Politics is just like high school.
Trying to decide what to do next is really the challenge. Oh, sure, the parents (or husband) probably rage at the high-school guidance counselor. But the guidance counselor can’t really get anyone into Harvard after the fact, and it seems very unlikely that Bill will get Obama to agree that Hillary should be his vice president. And Hillary’s tactic of rewriting her application for the super-delegates doesn’t seem to be working either.
The teenager usually learns a lesson about life, licks her wounds, and gets on with it. Maybe it becomes the funny story she tells years later. But this long, difficult campaign will never be a joke to Hillary. And what she seems to have learned from it so far won’t help her get on with it. She and her husband are still playing the blame game, though they are not blaming themselves. And as calculating as they usually are, they don’t even seem to care that their biggest gaffes keep losing them the friends they will need.
Certainly this campaign has weakened them both. Will people keep paying big bucks for Bill’s words of wisdom, when so often his words during the past months seemed petty or ill-timed? And, yes, Hillary has proved to be a gritty fighter and an Energizer bunny of a campaigner. But she, who was always telling us how very smart and efficient she is, has displayed neither smarts nor efficiency. She had a problematic staff and was careless with her planning and her money. And it was just dumb to lie about being under sniper fire in Bosnia and even dumber to bring up Bobby Kennedy’s assassination to make a point about campaign timing.
So what will she do? Slink back to the Senate and stop being so gracious and respectful to Sen. Byrd, who backed her rival? Even though she keeps saying she will work for the Democratic nominee, does she really believe Obama can’t win and she will have another chance four years from now?
Maybe she doesn’t know what she will do and can’t even think about it, because she still can’t accept the rejection she is facing. Maybe part of the reason she keeps fighting so hard is so she will not have to consider what’s next. As she keeps making her case with the rules committee, she is not yet at the stage of the high-school girl, resigned and weeping into a Harvard sweatshirt. Hillary keeps fighting on because she cannot yet allow herself to feel the pain of such great disappointment.
– Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.