Everyone has a storyline in which she plays the starring role, and in which she is the heroine. What is little noted about Hillary Clinton’s increasingly aggressive determination to stay in the Democratic race come what may is that she believes she is doing something heroic. Last week, Bill said he was “so proud” of her because they keep coming at her and she keeps on going. This is very reminiscent of the story John Harris tells in his book The Survivor, as recounted by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times:
Do you know who I am?” Bill Clinton asked his adversary Newt Gingrich during the government shutdown of 1995-96. He answered the question himself: “I’m the big rubber clown doll you had as a kid, and every time you hit it, it bounces back.” The harder you hit me, he added, “the faster I come back up.”
That was not bravado. It was a warning, and an accurate one. The Clintons are without shame, and therefore we all believe they are without honor and cannot possibly imagine themselves as heroes. But Bill very much believed, and believes, that he is a hero because he would not allow himself to be defeated, no matter what — and that part of his eventual victory would be that he could use the virulence of his foes to his advantage.
That is the core belief of the Clintons, the one example of the way in which they are both very, very tough. Hillary is emulating him in this respect, is my guess. She remembers when it was said he was through after the 1994 elections, but he would not give up, and when he saw an opportunity to climb back up, he took it, weathered the storm, and won reelection. And did the same thing throughout the Year of Lewinsky.
So when people wonder what on earth could be motivating her, when they see the poll results of the last two weeks and see that the Jeremiah Wright scandal hasn’t hurt Obama at all with Democrats, the answer is: She thinks she’s a hero. She wants to be like Bill, to take the blows and come back stronger from them. This was fine with Democrats as long as the Clinton foe was a Republican. Now that it’s a Democrat, they don’t like it one bit. But it doesn’t change the Clinton perception.