Monday, November 26, 2007

The Lazio Effect

Some talking points never die. Ann Althouse (who Molly Ivors sees as a Dowd-manque) is resurrecting the kerfuffle over Rick Lazio harassing Hillary in a debate during the Senate campaign. Maureen Dowd briefly alluded to it earlier this month when she said:

If the gender game worked when Rick Lazio muscled into her space, why shouldn’t it work when Obama and Edwards muster some mettle? If she could become a senator by playing the victim after Monica, surely she can become president by playing the victim now.
Althouse claims that Lazio was never anything but a complete gentleman and then unearths a video that she claims proves her point. It actually does the opposite. In the video, Lazio crosses the center of the stage twice and harangues Hillary for over twenty seconds (an eternity in YouTube time) before returning to his podium.

Maureen Dowd who was covering that race closely, predicted that it would be a turning point in the campaign by making the aspiring Senator a sympathetic figure, no small task considering both her baggage and Bill's that she was carrying.

From "Her Brute Strength" on September 17, 2000:
After the Buffalo debate Wednesday night, a woman in the audience came up to Tim Russert, the moderator. She said she had liked Rick Lazio until he stalked Hillary Clinton, pestering her to sign his soft-money pledge.

At that moment, she confided, the Long Island congressman suddenly conjured up the image of her husband, waving a credit card receipt in her face, yelling at her that she had overcharged, his eyes bulging, his veins popping, screaming at her to return everything to the store.

Little Ricky reminds every woman of her husband on a peevish tear about expenses, just like those classic scenes from ''I Love Lucy,'' when Big Ricky's eyes would pop and veins would bulge as he waved a bill at Lucy and ordered her to stop spending the household money on hats.

Hillary got into the New York race because of one badly behaved man. Now she may win it because of another badly behaved man.

One more brute slapping her around and she may be home free.
Three days later in "A Man and a Woman", Dowd further elucidates:
…the Senate race may turn on a wagging finger.

Many of the women who had liked the glowing Long Island congressman recoiled from his glowering performance in Buffalo.

Speaking at a women's lunch on Monday, Mrs. Clinton mocked Mr. Lazio's alpha bits: ''I knew I was going to share a stage. I didn't think I was going to have to share a podium.''

Mr. Lazio Just Doesn't Get It. His race is charged with gender, but his problem at the debate was more a matter of sense and manners.

A man who felt confident of his own masculinity, of course, would never have marched over to bluster at the first lady. It's impossible to imagine Ronald Reagan trying to cow a female opponent with such muscular histrionics.
Upon reviewing the tape, I have to side with Dowd’s assessment of Lazio’s actions. They were meant to intimidate and by behaving calmly and rationally in the face of a ranting bully, Hillary won herself a senatorial stepping stone. If the next president is named Clinton, we may have Little Ricky and his wagging finger to thank or blame as the case may be.

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