Hillary Rodham Clinton would have a better chance of becoming President if 9/11 had never happened.
That trauma stalled, at least temporarily, American readiness for a woman in the Oval Office, and what Bush’s people did in 2004 pushed her problem to ugly extremes.
The swift-boating of John Kerry was less an assault on his character than his manhood. In the bizarre universe of Karl Rove & Co., the wounded war veteran was pictured as softer than the privileged rich boy who evaded combat--and as a flip-flopper to boot.
By now, voters have seen where Bush’s so-called “toughness” can lead, but his minions’ campaign to tar Kerry as weak and indecisive worked well enough to win. The pressure to appear steadfast may have something to do with Senator Clinton’s stubborn refusal now to admit her 2002 vote on Iraq was a mistake.
The unspoken “Daddy will protect us” canard goes back a long way in American politics: In the 1950s Eisenhower, the war hero, had no trouble twice defeating Adlai Stevenson, who projected more wit than machismo in those first days of nuclear fear.
Lyndon Johnson once summed it up in describing Nixon. “Not much here,” he said, pointing to his head. “Even less here,” with his hand over his heart. Then he lowered it below his belt: “But enough down there.”
We had been evolving from that kind of schoolyard stupidity--until 9/11. Without his TV exposure as a strong leader back then, would Rudy Giuliani now be heading for the nomination of a party that loathes his politics?
Republicans always try to portray Democrats as soft-hearted “weak sisters.” The terrorists have helped them make that devious strategy work, at least for a while. But they can't play on our fears forever.