ANDREW SULLIVAN: Remembering the day-to-day psychodramas of [the 90s] still floods my frontal cortex with waves of loathing and anxiety. The further away you are from them, the easier it is to think they’re fine. Up close they are an intolerable, endless, soul-sapping soap opera. The media are marvelling at the Clintons’ several near-death political experiences in this campaign. Hasn’t it occurred to them how creepily familiar all this is? The Clintons live off psychodrama. They both love to push themselves to the brink of catastrophe and then accomplish the last-minute, nail-biting self-rescue. Before too long the entire story becomes about them, their ability to triumph through crisis, even though the crises are so often manufactured by themselves. That is what last week brought back for me. The 1990s – with a war on.
They endure all sorts of humiliation because they know no other way to live. They have been thinking of this moment since they were in college and being a senator or an ex-president or having two terms in the White House are not sufficient to satiate their sense of entitlement. Even if they have to put their own party through a divisive, bitter, possibly fatal death match, they will never give up. Their country, their party . . . none of this matters compared with them. When you look at the electoral map if the Clintons run again, you also see a reversion to the old patterns of the 1990s – the patterns that cynical political strategists such as Karl Rove and Dick Morris have been exploiting for two decades. The country – scrambled by the post-baby-boomer pragmatism of Obama – snaps back into classic red-blue mode, with the blue areas denoting Democratic-leaning states around the edge and true red Republican states in the heartlands.
The Clintons are comfortable with this polarisation. They need it. Even when running against a fellow Democrat, they instinctively reach for it. Last week, in response to the Obama camp’s request that they release their tax returns, Clinton’s spokesman called Obama a new Ken Starr. For the Clintons, all Democrats who oppose them are . . . Republicans. And all Republicans are evil. And evil means that anything the Clintons do in self-defence is excusable – even playing the race card, and the Muslim card, and the gender card, and every sleazy gambit that the politics of fear can come up with. This is how they have arrested the Obama juggernaut. It’s the only game they know how to play. MORE