In John F. Kennedy’s first political race, he faced about nine opponents for a House seat. One of them was named Joe Russo, and he supposedly had the ethnic Italian vote locked up until someone else jumped into the race. By the sheerest coincidence, his name was also Joe Russo. According to “The Patriarch,” David Nasaw’s wonderful book, some cynical types wondered if this hadn’t been arranged by JFK’s rich and highly pragmatic father. Whatever the case, this is a precedent Hillary Clinton ought to consider. She desperately needs a Russo.
Of course, her Russo would not be called Russo. But whatever the name, she needs someone else in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination — someone to divert the news media. At the moment, as countless observers have observed (that’s what they do), Clinton’s chief opponent is the press. It covers her like the proverbial cheap suit, if only because it has no one else to cover.
So currently, the media are obsessing about Clinton’s e-mails as secretary of state. This is because she did not use the State Department server, as was either required or customary, and instead used one based out of her New York residence in leafy Chappaqua. All sorts of questions have been raised as a result, the most substantive ones being related to security: How protected was her private account? Could the North Koreans read her e-mails? How about Rupert Murdoch and his merry band of Peeping Toms?
Clinton says she did not send classified e-mail on her personal account. What a relief! But if that’s the only account she used, then her critics are right: She did very little as secretary of state except fly around the world hundreds of times. Her explanation doesn’t add up, but given most of the Republicans now in the race, it wouldn’t matter to me if she used two tin cans attached to a string to communicate. Better her than, say, the pandering provincial from Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker.
I do not airily dismiss e-mailgate because, once again, we were treated to Clinton’s raw sense of victimization, which, you have to admit, has been well earned over the years. The woman has lived a long lie, which is her marriage, and she never knew, from step to step, where the next land mine was buried. It is, however, her marriage, not yours or mine, and so she can do what she wants. Still, she knows that I know — and that you do, too.
Clinton personifies what I call the Israel Dilemma. Israel is a tiny country, about the size of New Jersey with a population a bit smaller than New York City’s. Nonetheless, because of its importance and a keenly interested audience in the United States and elsewhere, little Israel is inundated with foreign correspondents. And because, for the longest time, these reporters could not easily travel to neighboring countries, they were forced to cover Israel — and Israel only. Since good news is nice but not news, they covered bad news. They had no choice. Like political reporters covering the Democratic presidential race, they had only one story.
So what Clinton needs is an opponent. Several come to mind — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for instance, although she insists she’s not running. I take her at her word. I also take it with a grain of salt. Joe Biden drops the occasional hint that he might run, but I take that with a mound of salt that a herd of deer couldn’t finish off. Who’s left? Bernie Sanders, the Jewish socialist from Vermont? He would sweep the Jewish socialist vote, but from there on out the going would be rough.
My candidate for Clinton’s Russo is Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland. With the possible exception of Martin O’Malley, I can’t think of anyone clamoring for Martin O’Malley to be president. But that’s not the point. As a Russo for Hillary Clinton, he’s perfect. He’s experienced, but almost no one knows anything about him. The media can do story after story about his marriage, his old girlfriends, his weird or not dietary habits, his exercise routine — all the things we really need to know about a presidential candidate.
On a slow day, stories could even be done on his positions — NAFTA, NATO, the Islamic State, Common Core, immigration, same-sex marriage, no-sex marriage — and whether he would take a Kardashian as a running mate. You see, the possibilities are endless and these stories would take the heat off of Clinton. Run, Martin, run.
Hillary needs you.
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