Watching the Town Hall in Nevada tonight, it finally crystallized in my foggy brain what Hillary's problem is: She simply does not get how to present herself.
Where Bernie seems to care nothing about his own ego, where he seems totally wrapped up in the righteousness of his cause, in the enormity of the evil he faces, in the pathos of the problems of people he seeks to help, Hillary utters scarcely a sentence without the word "I."
For Bernie, it's all about them and us. For Hillary, it's all about me.
She may think it sounds forceful and confident, that she is confronting the problem of being a woman who might be thought insufficiently combative or strong, but instead she looks self serving and self absorbed, rather than genuinely invested in the plight of others.
She often does not answer the question asked, which is a deep problem in the Town Hall setting because it looks as if she does not actually hear ordinary people.
So, when a young Sanders supporter who had asked her why she would not release her transcripts, added, "And I'm sorely disappointed that in 2007 you said marriage was between a man and a woman," Hillary blew both questions.
She actually had a good answer to the first question: "I'll release my transcripts when everyone else, including Bernie Sanders releases theirs, because they all have talked to the same people I have."
But that was lost in applause and she didn't dwell long enough on that question. She should have said, "Yes, I spoke with Goldman Saks, and they may have thought they bought me, and they may have put my picture up on their brag walls, shaking the hands of the CEO's. But who is naive enough to believe that a grip and grin session means you are in bed with the guy paying to have his picture taken with you?
Yeah, I took the money! I was broke when I left the White House and that's the way you make yourself solvent. You go out and talk to people. And you would too, if they offered to pay you what they paid me. You say: What? Sure, I'll come give a speech if you pay me that much! I'm not going to sleep with you, but I'll give the speech! Maybe I'll give three, if you are that foolish.
But you never stopped fighting for the hard working guys who can't pay those fees. You never forget who sends you to the Senate or the White House.
And you know why? Because all the rich guys have is money. It's the poor guys who have the votes!"
Maybe Hillary should ask Chris Rock to coach her.
And, in answer to that question about her statement in 2007. "Yes, you are right. I said that in 2007, eight years ago. But who here among us today was fully evolved in 2007? Maybe you were, and I congratulate you for that. But you were ahead of me. That was eight years ago. The whole country turned on a dime with respect to gay marriage. Even the gay community was stunned by the alacrity with which opinions changed, mine among them.
For many of us, part of the reason we opposed gay marriage was we thought it would never be widely accepted, and after all the whole question was whether people would accept this new normal.
So I don't apologize for not having been a prophet or a leader on this one. I'm just happy to say today, like so many others, I'm all for gay marriage."
One of her best lines in the last debate was almost lost because she rushed past it in her summation, but she accused Scott Walker of trying to cut the heart out of the middle class by trying to crush unions in Wisconsin. She should have elaborated, pounded that point home, built her outrage into a fulminating volcano of righteousness, embraced the union movement, talked about the history of unions and how the rich and powerful tried to crush unions with private police forces, bludgeons and guns.
In her answer to why she would not raise the Social Security retirement she missed the vivid for the statistical. What she should have said was: "The guy who works 30 years on the assembly line, or on the power line or in the steel mill or coal mine reaches age 65 as a much older man than the guy who sat behind a desk or went to Congress. He has, in actuarial terms, maybe 5, maybe 7 more years to draw his Social Security benefits. The CEO, the accountant likely has 15 years. So, for the office worker, raising the age to 67 doesn't make all that much difference, but for the beat down guy who worked physically hard all his life, raising the age of retirement to 67 might mean he dies two years earlier and never really benefits much from all those years paying in."
And Hillary, stop talking about programs, and start talking about right and wrong. Nobody cares about your white papers or your plans. It's all government speak and pie in the sky. What they care about is what makes your blood boil, who you think is ripping us off and who the bad guys are.
Roosevelt famously demonized the fat cat capitalists, (un-named) and said, accurately enough, they hated him and beaming with a great grin he said, "And I welcome their hatred." This from an American aristocrat, a traitor to his class. But it worked, and it was believable because you could see he knew these guys and he knew them well enough to hold them in contempt.
Bernie is an encyclopedia of historical outrages, which he uses to great effect. He points to American concentration camps for Japanese citizens, to American government overthrow of the duly elected Iranian president, to Henry Kissinger and Cambodia. He doesn't care if half his audience has no idea about these things--they'll go Google it and they'll be outraged. But for now, they just know what he tells them and they swell with rage along with him.
The wonder is, Hillary doesn't have someone in her inner circle who can talk her down from her current approach, someone who can play back her performances, provide her with alternative answers. Even in "West Wing" they did that sort of rehearsal and theater, so the candidate could get to a better place.
Right now, I'd say the smart money is on Bernie Sanders. Hillary would probably make a better President, and would be more likely to survive the next four years--Bernie does not look to be a vigorous 74--but she is simply tone deaf to what has stirred the hearts and minds of the masses.
Recommended viewing for Ms. Clinton: Look at Martin Luther King, look at Bernie Sanders, look at Franklin Roosevelt, as they exhort the masses. You don't see the author of their words in what they say--you see only the images of the world they depict.
It does not matter Bernie is stooped and bald and gray: He has you seeing a world where nobody sits home and dies because he's too poor to get to the doctor; he has you seeing a world where the masses rise up and claim their rightful place in the green pastures of public parks and bathe in the clear waters of public beaches and drink clean water from public water systems. It's not because "I" did it; it's going to happen because righteousness will reign when the people can find their voice.
And right now, at least, that voice sounds like it comes from the hoarse, winter voice of an elderly grandfather from Brooklyn, who sounds as if he couldn't utter an insincere word if he tried.