Joan Walsh at Salon mentions this ridiculous defense of Clinton, this attempt to frame Tuesday's debate as men beating up on a woman, and ultimately rejects it. I agree with her (obviously). Alternatively, there's a lot of dissing Obama et al. for insinuating that Clinton "played the gender card," as well, but I think they're wrong as well.
This is a very stupid time for Hillary's campaign and supporters to play the gender card (and yes, Mark Penn, her campaign manager, most certainly played the card, and coincidentally on the same day as her speech about the "all-boys' club" of Washington politics), because it's patently bullshit here. The other candidates piled on her for one reason, and one reason alone: she is winning. They're not scared of a woman running the government, they're scared of themselves not winning. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. How many people would have found it appropriate for Obama, if it were him instead, to play the race card as soon as he got attacked?
And as far as li'l Russ goes, yes, yes he did lay an ambush for Hillary. Yes, he was gunning for her and not the other candidates. No, it wasn't very professional, and yes, he is a douchebag for doing it, but there's a much simpler, more obvious explanation than sexism or anti-Hillaryism for why he targetted Clinton yesterday: ratings. Russ is moderating the 827th Democratic debate on the the least-watched cable news channel in a Democratic primary that's looking increasingly like a cage match between Bruce Lee and Dr. Stephen Hawking; he needed to up the ante here to get some people talking about this one. Meanwhile, Obama's been promising all week that he'll finally start bringing in the heavy artillery, giving Russ a shot to draw out some real fireworks from the candidates, so he does what any irresponsible, ratings-driven pundit would do: he eggs them on.
There's nothing new about this: the primary candidates and media ganged up on Howard Dean just as badly (even worse, in my opinion) once he threatened to sow up the nomination before they'd gotten enough of their precious horse race. Again, it didn't hurt that they actually didn't like him, either, but this is business. And more importantly for this post, it worked. So why wouldn't they try it again?
And look, as far as I'm concerned, a lot of the criticisms leveled at her were absolutely accurate and deserving. The ambush by Russert is thus, in a way, irrelevant, because Obama, Edwards, and Dodd walked into the room intending to beat up on her, and they would have no matter what Russert had asked.