Civic Skinny

Hillary unloads on Iowa; McCain unloads on wife and other x-rated, unbelievable campaign stories

Gosh. It turns out Hillary Clinton wasn’t having a very good time in Iowa when she was running for the Democratic nomination.

“If Hillary was going to be competitive in Iowa, she would need to go all out. The problem was, she hated it there. Every day felt like she was stuck in a Mobius strip: another barn, another living room, another set of questions about immigration (from people who were anti-) and the war (ditto). She’d get back on the plane, slump into her seat, heave a deep sigh, and grunt, ‘Ugh.’”

So it says in “Game Change,” the hot new book about the campaign by reporters John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. They go on: “She found the Iowans diffident and presumptuous; she felt they were making her grovel.” And: “I can’t believe this. How many times am I going to have to meet the same people?” And: “Over and over she complained about the system that gave Iowa so much power in selecting the nominee. ‘This is so stupid,’ she would say. ‘So unfair.’ She bitched about Iowa’s scruffy hotels and looked for excuses to avoid staying overnight... ‘I don’t have a good feeling about this, guys,’ she told her staff on the plane. ‘I just don’t have a good feeling about this place.’”

The book is jam-packed with good stuff about the campaign. And Skinny, ever trying to be helpful, underlined the good parts. Here are some:

“‘FUCK YOU! FUCK, FUCK, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!!!’ McCain let out the stream of sharp epithets, both middle fingers raised and extended, barking in his wife’s face. He was angry; she had interrupted him....”


“Hillary nodded and puffed out her chest. ‘I get really tough when people fuck with me,’ she said.”


“‘Unfuckingbelievable!’ Clinton said, and shook with fury.”


“John and Elizabeth [Edwards] were fighting all the time, sometimes all night long. More than once, she announced to the staff that she could no longer speak in public on her husband’s behalf or stay in the same hotel with him. Once, in the middle of the night, she woke up a trip director and commanded, Get me out of here! I’m not campaigning for this asshole another day!”


“What the world saw in Elizabeth: a valiant, determined, heroic everywoman. What the Edwards insiders saw: an abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending crazywoman.”


“At the [airport] terminal, the couple fought in the passenger waiting area. They fought outside in the private parking lot. Elizabeth was sobbing, out of control, incoherent. As their aides tried to look away, she tore off her blouse, exposing herself. ‘Look at me!’ she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.”


“The truth was, [Obama] was ready to stir the pot. Going to the [Harkin] steak fry [in Indianola] didn’t commit him to anything. The media might whip itself up, but attending the event would let him take the temperature of Iowa activists — another important data point for decision time after the midterms. Obama was intent on not being sloppy about it, not showing too much or too little leg. ‘If we’re gonna do this, we have to do it right,’ he said, then glanced around the room. In case he wasn’t being sufficiently clear, he added, ‘Don’t fuck this up.’”

And, when looking back:

“Clinton then raised the subject of her original sin: Iowa. ‘If we had gone after Obama on the paid media, I just am not sure,’ she said, ‘If we could have avoided Iowa, which I think would have been very difficult — I was the front-runner, blah blah blah. I had to prove my bona fides. I don’t see how we could have, frankly. But I never felt good about Iowa, never felt good about it.’ Clinton shook her head in wonder at the Obama phenomenon in the cornfields. ‘You know, the Oprah thing,’ she said. ‘There was such a sort of a cultlike, peer group pressure.... They had drunk the Kool-Aid. And I am convinced they also imported people into those caucuses, which we will never prove.’”

Tom Vilsack, an early and strong supporter of Clinton, shows up here and there.

“Bill [Clinton] studied the available options, then polled the room: Should they go negative (against Obama) or not? Penn, McAuliffe, and Vilsack said yes. Everyone else said no.”


“And Vilsack and [Teresa] Vilmain assured [Clinton] that come caucus night, if history was any guide, the non-Democrats would remain at home and the college kids, lazy or unserious, would stay in their rooms and on their Wiis.”


“For the rest of (the January night the Iowa Poll accurately put Obama way ahead), the wails of Clinton and Edwards operatives could be heard above the clink of champagne flutes all over Des Moines. At the 801 Grand steak house, [Clinton operative Joe] Trippi piled into the booth of every journalist in sight and explained in numbing detail the glaring flaws in the poll’s methodology: too many first-time voters, too many independents, a turnout model that defied the laws of caucus physics.... And Vilsack, who knew the caucuses like the back of his hand, took one look at the numbers and said, ‘That can’t be right.’”


“When [Clinton’s] aides asked who would be at the top of her VP short list, she mentioned Bayh, Biden, Vilsack, and Ohio governor Ted Strickland.”

Educational component of Skinny: A Mobius strip is a twisted, never-ending loop shaped in such a way as to have just one side and one edge. “Unfuckingbelievable” is a literary device known as a tmesis. Tmesis comes from a Greek word that means “cutting,” so a tmesis is the cutting of one word to insert another. Cleaner versions are “unbloodylikely” or “absoyoubetlutely.”

At any rate, the book with all this stuff in it is “Game Change.” It’s 436 pages long and costs $27.99. If you like politics, you won’t be able to put it down. But don’t read it to the children.

Next week: fewer fucks, more facts. CV

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